This past weekend may well rank as one of the worst all-time for the New York Yankees. The Yankees had a chance to go into Boston and take back some momentum in the race for the AL East. However, things went completely wrong and the Red Sox swept the Yankees 4-0. The Yankees weekend was summed up Sunday. Leading 4-1 in the bottom of the ninth it looked like they may salvage some respect. However, the Sox rallied, scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth before winning it in the bottom of the 10th. The Yankees now sit nine games back with just 50 games remaining. Can the Yankees make a run for the division? If not can they recover from this beating for a potential playoff matchup with their rivals?
It has been a weird year for the Yankees lineup. This was expected to be the strength of their team this year and it has, just not in the way they or others expected. Aaron Judge has continued hitting well, .285/.398/.548 with 26 home runs. However, he is now on the 10-day disabled list and likely out until the end of August. His return should be a massive boost for the Yankees into September and the playoffs. Their superstar acquisition this offseason was Giancarlo Stanton. After a slow start he has turned it around, with 25 home runs and a .278/.343/.508 line.
They have also had good contributions from rookies Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, who have 32 home runs between them. Didi Gregorius has cooled off after his hot start and they have got what they expected from Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks. Their biggest issue have come at first base and catcher. They started with Neil Walker and Tyler Austin splitting time at first base. Austin is now on a new team and Walker is a utility player. The hope was that Greg Bird would come back from injury and kick start his career. That has not happened. Bird is hitting .218/.307/.416 with nine home runs in 228 plate appearances. The Yankees need more from than that from their first base position.
The Sanchez Shaped Problem
The biggest disappointment however has been the catcher Gary Sanchez. Currently on the 10-day DL Sanchez has failed to live up to expectations. After following up his whirlwind 2016 with a good 2017, it was expected he would take the next step this year. However, Sanchez is hitting just .188/.283/.416 with 14 home runs in 2018. Like Judge he is expected back towards the August. The Yankees can likely make the playoffs without anything more from Sanchez, but to go deep in the playoffs they will need to see significant improvement over the last couple of months of the season.
Right now this pitching staff breaks down as an incredible bullpen and a shaky rotation. The Yankees bullpen has so many options that they should never give up a lead. Of course from time to time it will happen, such as Sunday. However, if they manage their guys right and keep them all firing then they should have a bullpen capable of shutting anyone down.
The rotation is their biggest problem and they did not do enough to address it through trades. Their problem was that everyone was holding starting pitching to ransom. The best they could do was to add J.A. Happ, who is a nice addition but they needed him and more. Luis Severino has been incredible but he has only handled 190 innings once in his career. He is going to have to blow through that this year if they are to have much chance of winning a World Series. How he fares through September in October will go a long way towards determining their chances of success.
Masahiro Tanaka is their other big pitcher and he seems to perform well under pressure. They will need him to be a solid 1-2 punch with Severino and they may need him to be ace-like if Severino tires.
The Back End of the Rotation
So we have a 1-2-3 of Severino, Tanaka and Happ, but the four and five are concerning. C.C. Sabathia will likely make up one of those spots, at least through September. I also fully expect them to lean on his experience in the playoffs. If Sabathia can get them four or five innings and hand over to that bullpen it could be enough. However, Boston demonstrated what teams can do to Sabathia if they line him up right.
Lance Lynn should make up the fifth spot, but again his best asset is experience rather than lights out stuff. Chase Adams could make a case for a regular role in September but it is unlikely he adds anything significant this season. The Sonny Gray experiment, with his 5.56 ERA appears to be over, but if he has a renaissance of sorts in the bullen he could make some spot starts late in the year.
The Final Word
In any other year the Yankees and their 69-42 record would not be a cause for concern. But with Boston riding high and a strong Houston Astros team their fans are panicking. The Yankees are more than likely going to make the Wildcard game. I fully expect them to be able to overcome the Seattle Mariners or Oakland Athletics, but in those one game shootouts anything can happen. It is after that where they will almost certainly have to face Boston again. They will need that offense, including Sanchez firing at all form and they will need solid starting pitching to stand a chance. Severino and Tanaka need to at least win a game, if not two.
The problem is that Severino or Tanaka will likely be burned in the Wildcard game meaning they cannot pitch until game four against Boston. If the other one does not win their matchup it could be all over before they see the mound again in game four. It is going to be tough for the Yankees but with that lineup and that bullpen they only need to get hot at the plate for a month and they could easily be walking away with a World Series in 2018.