We are now three weeks into the season, and the Yankees are a disappointing 8-8 so far. After a projected 94-win campaign, FanGraphs now has them finishing with just 85 wins according to Rest of Season projections. It’s still very early and this team can certainly turn it around quickly, but it’s just been so bad to this point. Most of the time it feels like they don’t hit when they need to, can’t keep the other team off the board, and lack a functioning bullpen. You’d be surprised to learn that they are better than that, but they still have some things to work on. Here is what the Yankees must do to get back on track.
Fix Giancarlo Stanton
This is an obvious one. Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge are both off to a great start, and Aaron Hicks is healthy and hitting again. The team’s offense actually ranks third in the league. It’s just Stanton that needs to figure out how to get it going this year. Right now his plate discipline is completely out of whack, with a strikeout rate hovering near 40% and a walk rate at an all-time low. This is not a trend that will continue forever. He just needs to figure out how to right the ship.
Stanton has been struggling to make consistent contact in the early goings, and he’s swinging through more offerings with an 18.3% swinging strike rate. When he does make contact, he’s hitting the ball on the ground and creating fewer fly balls. As the YES booth has alluded to before, it appears that Stanton is a bit mixed up right now. He’s swinging when he should be holding up and taking when he should be swinging. When you’re that off on the mental side of the game, it shouldn’t be surprising to see mechanics and timing take a hit too.
Whatever reason, whether it’s the weather (it’s been cold as hell) or something about him not being ready for New York (which is pure crap), the Yankees just need to ride this out until he resets himself. Maybe they give him an extra day off in the near future to give him a break, but they have to figure out a way to make him right. Once he’s hitting again, the middle of the order will fall into place.
Get the Infield Hitting
This goes for everyone other than Didi Gregorius, who is doing extremely well so far. Injury has done quite the number on this group of guys with Greg Bird and Brandon Drury on the disabled list, though it’s only fair to point out that Drury wasn’t doing much before he couldn’t see. Tyler Austin may be holding his own for now, but there’s no telling if he’s for real or if his numbers will fade away in the next few weeks. The Yankees need the likes of Neil Walker, Miguel Andujar, and Tyler Wade to start hitting.
The biggest problem is Walker, who is supposed to be the team’s starting second baseman. As things are shaping up right now, he is the team’s worst hitter and there doesn’t seem to be anything specific that makes it obvious as to why that is. Wade, meanwhile, has been abysmal so far, and the thing about him is that he has no power. If he’s not making contact, he’s not going to be very helpful. The good news is that Andujar could be heating up with three straight games of at least one extra-base hit, but it’s too early to tell.
Since so much of the lineup has been ravaged by injury already, it’s hard to say who the team’s starters really are. We don’t know when Drury or Bird are coming back, so the replacements are going to have to find a way to figure it out. It’s too early to start thinking about trades and there isn’t anyone other than Gleyber Torres to call up.
Figure Out the Pitching Staff
The Yankees had a solid pitching staff heading into the season, but the problem was that it was basically the same group of guys from last year. In a surprise turn, the entire rotation returned to the Bronx and the bullpen has been set since the summer. As good as this group is supposed to be, regression exists and now it feels like the Yankees are getting hit pretty hard by it.
The team’s rotation right now is a complete question mark behind Luis Severino. Masahiro Tanaka is inconsistent, Sonny Gray has been consistently bad, and Jordan Montgomery doesn’t seem to be holding up right now. The Yankees have the 10th-best FIP in baseball, but rank 22nd according to ERA with a 4.84 mark. They have shown the ability to strike out batters, but they are getting killed where it matters.
Now that CC Sabathia has already visited the disabled list, it also shows just how ill-prepared this team was in terms of pitching depth. Unless Chance Adams suddenly becomes an option, if feel like the Yankees will try to piece it together until the trade deadline, but that doesn’t put them in the best position for a bargain.
Things are hopefully less dire for the bullpen. As much as they may be suffering from regression, it’s also possible that they have been running into some bad luck. The two biggest culprits so far are Dellin Betances and Tommy Kahnle. Since Kahnle is now on the DL, a solution may have already been found. Now they just have to work on Dellin. As a group they know how to strike out batters (surprise!), but they need to limit damage. The problem is that the Yankees have a weak rotation, so if they rely on the bullpen too much, it could have dire consequences down the stretch.
That’s not too much to ask for is it? Let us know in the comments who needs to figure themselves out for this team to get back on track.