It's true the Yankees find themselves bogged in the offensive doldrums, but what we've witnessed over the past month hasn't been the team collapsing. Their second half looks positively heinous in comparison to Toronto's surge, but the reality is they've been more or less average. They're 14-12 in September, and they've scored 112 runs on the month and allowed 102. That's about as close to being the definition of .500 ball as it's possible to be.
Despite the team treading water until they finally and inevitably secure a playoff berth and then the top Wild Card spot, they've achieved their blistering .500 pace in curious (and in some cases alarming) fashion. It's true some players just aren't hitting; it's also the case that rookies and part-timers are papering over the gaps. Consider the following.
1. Four important everyday players have been the Yankees' worst hitters
Who has been the Yankees' worst hitter in the past thirty days? Jacoby Ellsbury. He's spent this stretch of his life cultivating a 43 wRC+. Based on FanGraphs' calculation of offensive value, Ellsbury ranks dead last. Keeping him company is Chase Headley, the team's second worst hitter in this time, who has managed a .301 OBP and a 70 wRC+. Brian McCann comes in as third worst; Brett Gardner as fourth.
Headley and Ellsbury's struggles are well documented; McCann has reached base at a good rate but has seemingly had all the power drained from his bat, while Gardner fares the best of this bizarro Murderer's Row though is still doing poorly—all the more disappointing considering his heroics earlier in the season.
Given these four have lost the capacity to hit, it's no wonder the offense isn't the vibrant thing it was in June and July. That sentence is no revelation; rather it's a deadpan statement of fact: these four aren't good, and they're in the lineup everyday, and they're still hitting first and second and fourth and fifth, and the team is hurting for it. Perhaps Ellsbury and Gardner are unmovable—speed needs to be at the top of the lineup; fine—but in three games against the Chicago White Sox this past week, Chase Headley hit second. This is bad.
2. Greg Bird has been the team's best hitter, and Dustin Ackley has been good too
Greg Bird, who has been in the Majors for about a month and a half, has been the team's main source of power. This may come as no surprise. Bird was widely praised before making his debut, and plenty of us were looking forward to him showing his skills. But in a team packed with star names, Bird wasn't (and shouldn't have been) expected to play the role of the team's Atlas—more or less carrying the team on his shoulders. Yet as the older players tire, Bird has glided along with a .333 OBP and a 149 wRC+ in the past thirty days. In that time he's hit eight home runs.
In his forty plate appearances this month, Dustin Ackley has been even better. He's slugged .703 to Bird's .591; he's managed a 179 wRC+ to Bird's 149 wRC+. He's had much less playing time, which is why it would be a little dishonest to get too hyped about this; nonetheless, he's doing exceedingly well right now, and is providing much needed production while Headley generates the gravity of a black hole in the lineup's two-spot and sweats about what one-liners Bob Costas may brew up about him.
3. The eye test is failing us...
...which is a convoluted way of saying the good-looking have been average and the bad-looking have been good, which is in itself a convoluted way of saying the players everyone thinks are doing well aren't actually doing that well, and the players everyone thinks are slumping are actually doing kind of okay.
Carlos Beltran, who certainly carried the team in August with a positively insane stint at the plate, has more or less sat on the team in September. (This is a hypothetical scenario where sitting on a team is the polar opposite of carrying it.) He has a .310 OBP and a 99 wRC+ in the past thirty days, which is average.
According to the common narrative, September has seen Alex Rodriguez slump and hit an offensive slide. Meanwhile, in real life, he's been the team's third-best hitter by FanGraphs' estimation (behind Bird and Ackley), has reached base at almost the same pace as Bird—Rodriguez with a .323 OBP—and has produced a 123 wRC+. Of those playing regularly, Rodriguez has without question been the team's second-best hitter, behind only Bird.
And who has had the best win probability added in the past thirty days? Who has contributed to the team's efforts the most when it's mattered? Alex Rodriguez.
Bonus fun: Branden Pinder has been the team's ninth-best hitter
You may recall Branden Pinder dished up a double in one plate appearance in Atlanta. With that act he's said to have provided the team more offensive value than some of his more experienced colleagues. Yes, it's one plate appearance, but of course that's not the point—by standing at in the batter's box once and managing to hack a ball into a gap in the outfield, Pinder has done less damage to the team's cause these past thirty days than Jacoby Ellsbury and his -6.3 offensive value.