It's been well discussed how poor the Yankees' offense has been this season. After following a promising fourteen-run three-game sweep of Cincinnati - an offensive outpouring by their standards - with a total dud vs. Texas, they're sitting tenth in the American League in runs-per-game and eleventh on on-base percentage and slugging. While they've battled hard to overcome injuries in the starting rotation, the lineup has been mostly intact, making the team's inability to score runs consistently all the more maddening. As they continue to piece things together on the mound, it's an absolute necessity for the Yankees to get a better showing from their bats over the next two plus months. Particularly, they need a whole lot more from their two most egregious under-performers, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.
Brought in on big money, multi-year deals to revitalize a Yankee attack that finished tenth in the AL in offense a year ago - then lost its best hitter to free agency - McCann and Beltran have failed to fulfill their intended role as two thirds of the team's main power supply. Thanks in part to a bone spur in his right elbow that may ultimately require surgery, Beltran's .300 wOBA and 85 wRC+ are his worst marks since his sophomore 2000 campaign. McCann has no apparent injury to blame his struggles on, but he's managed to reach career lows in wOBA - .298, wRC+ - 83, OPS - .672 and walk rate - 6.1 percent. His 9.1 percent home run to fly ball ratio and his .135 ISO have also been major let-downs for a left-handed pull hitter who was expected to take full advantage of Yankee Stadium's short porch in right. As they idle only a few games behind the AL East leading Orioles and the second Wildcard holding Mariners, it's not hard to imagine where the Yankees would be if McCann and Beltran were hitting like - well, McCann and Beltran.
Thankfully there are some hopeful signs to report for both players. Through Monday, in 55 plate appearances in July, McCann was hitting .345/.362/.455 with a wRC+ of 124. That's fueled by a .409 BABIP, but McCann was due for some positive regression on that front after puny totals of .229, .237 and .221 during Apil, May and June respectively. McCann's getting the ball in the air a lot more this month, lowering his ground ball rate to 28.9 percent, which has helped neutralize defensive shifts used against him. ZiPS projects a .252/.324/.425 line the rest of the way for the Yankees' catcher while the more optimistic Steamer chimes in with .258/.327/.450. Those numbers, though wholly unspectacular, would be a huge improvement over what we've seen so far.
Also through Monday, Beltran had slashed .261/.300/.478 over 50 plate appearances dating back to June 28th. He hit three home runs in that stretch and drove in seven. Those numbers aren't stellar either, but he at least looks like a major league hitter again, a sharp contrast to what he was before getting shelved mid-May and during the 4-32 stretch he endured when he was first reactivated in June. Beltran, too, has been buried by an absurdly low BABIP - .228, so he gets a .255/.315/.462 outlook from ZiPS for the remainder of the season and a .272/.336/.474 projection from Steamer. Like with McCann, that kind of production, even if it's not what many envisioned going into the year, would be a huge boost to the heart of the Yankee order - a boost they probably can't find on the trade market.
As of Monday morning, Baseball Prospectus had the Yankees' probability of making the playoffs at 28.9 percent. That mark is seventh best in the AL and third in the East, so they certainly have their work cut out for them, but we're not talking about pigs flying, lottery winning, throw up your hands and do your best Jim Mora Sr. impression territory either. The Yankees currently have about as good a shot at playing in October as Jacoby Ellsbury has of getting a hit in a typical at bat this season. Those odds don't seem so bad when you think of it that way, and if McCann and Beltran start playing to the backs of their baseball cards, they'll seem a whole lot better. In Chase Headley the Yankees now have yet another hitter in their lineup who is due for some positive regression.
36 of the 64 games the Yankees have left will be played at home. While the team has struggled in the Bronx so far, a return to form by their power bats capable of mashing from the left side would go a long way toward reversing that.