Even with 13 players on the disabled list, the New York Yankees have zero reasons to hit the panic button over Aaron Judge’s injury.
Friends, Romans, New York Yankees fans, lend me your ears!
Stop building those doomsday shelters. Don’t put your jerseys, caps, and other gear away for the season. Selling your season tickets can wait because the situation is not as bad as it seems!
Sorry, let me explain. The Bronx Bombers sent their 13th player to the injured list on Sunday after star slugger Aaron Judge strained his oblique on Saturday. He joins an already crowded injured field which includes Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, and Gary Sanchez among others.
Those are a lot of key bats missing from the lineup, but that didn’t stop the Yankees on Sunday. They came back after blowing a 5-0 lead to win 7-6 in ten innings on Austin Romine’s walk-off single.
It’s just one game, but it’s a good sign. The Yankees went 4-6 in their first ten games following Judge breaking his wrist last season and were a noticeably different squad. The depth wasn’t the same and there was just a general feeling of something missing, even though New York went 16-8 the rest of the month.
This time, however, things are different, and not just because it’s April instead of July.
The Yankees have no reason to panic while Judge recovers. In fact, the following five reasons should explain why.
The upcoming schedule
Injuries aside, the Yankees have played excellent baseball as of late. They have won five of their last six, including a two-game sweep of the hated Boston Red Sox. Looking at the upcoming schedule, fans should expect more of the same.
New York now embarks on a nine-game trip out west, and the teams they’re facing aren’t exactly threatening. The Los Angeles Angels, Arizona Diamondbacks, and San Francisco Giants lost a combined 251 games last year.
Granted, Arizona is second in the NL West but ranks 22nd in MLB in pitching with a staff ERA of 4.90. The Angels and Giants, meanwhile, rank last and fourth in their respective divisions.
The Yankees are banged up and without some important pieces, but going up against these inconsistent teams should give the reinforcements time to figure things out.
And speaking of reinforcements …
Big bats returning
Aaron Judge may be out for a while, but some of his teammates will be back in the lineup this week. Sanchez, who had six home runs early before suffering a calf strain in Houston, will be back this week.
Similarly, Hicks has upped his baseball activities and should soon return from a sore back. In terms of Stanton’s strained biceps, it could be a matter of days.
Make no mistake, fans. The cavalry will be here sooner than you think. If the team can keep playing at a high level until that point, just imagine what could be once the lineup is restocked!
A strong pitching staff
YES Network’s broadcasting team made a great point during Sunday’s game. While the big bats are out, the pitching needs to be great.
Well, the pitching has not just been great. It’s been borderline phenomenal. The Yankees’ starters have posted a 1.12 ERA in the Bronx Bombers’ last five wins. Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton might as well be pitchers Nos. 1 and 1A. CC Sabathia has brought his fun personality back to the clubhouse and strong pitching to the mound. Paxton alone has a 2.50 ERA with 29 strikeouts in his last three starts.
The lineup has taken a lot of damage, but the pitching staff might as well be Han Solo and Chewie flying in The Millenium Falcon for the save. If the Yankees can weather the storm, expect the following results soon:
Clint Frazier's hot streak
Giancarlo Stanton kept New York on the right path while Judge was out last year, but the Yankees don’t have that luxury this time. Under normal circumstances, the loss of Aaron Judge would equal panic mode.
But these are not normal circumstances. Clint Frazier, who missed most of 2018 with concussion symptoms, has been back with a vengeance. He was called up when Stanton hit the IL earlier this month and has become a prominent lineup fixture.
Frazier is batting .339 with six home runs and 17 RBI. He does a great job hitting the ball to all fields and has a hard contact rate of 37.5 percent. The former top prospect can also play both corner outfield positions.
More importantly, however, Frazier has started sounding like a leader in his own right. When asked about Judge’s injury, he expressed everything but panic:
“Like we keep saying, next guy up,” Frazier said. “Everyone has been in this situation where they probably weren’t starters when they went into it. Some of them are now. One of those things now where, which guy’s going to be the hero tonight? Who’s going to be the one that steps up?”
The lineup is hurting, but Frazier’s play has been an excellent spark plug keeping everyone locked in while the regular starters get well.
It was easy to go into panic mode when Aaron Judge got hurt. On top of being a dangerous hitter, he is the unquestioned clubhouse leader; the rock of the team. The Yankees should have the depth and talent to play well without him, but there is still a big difference between leading on the field and leading while recovering from injury. It just isn’t the same if the general isn’t in battle with everyone else.
But the Yankees are structured to be strong from top to bottom, and in several ways. There was no negativity when Judge went down Saturday. Rather, the fighting spirit remained. Brett Gardner, the longest-tenured Yankee, offered an important take after Saturday’s 9-2 win:
Stanton also expressed an optimistic fighting spirit to reporters, including Dan Martin of The New York Post:
Asked if he’d ever been a part of a run of injuries like the Yankees have endured this season, Stanton said, “Nothing like this. No stretch like this that I’ve seen, but if anyone can get out of it, it’s us. We’ll weather the storm for a little bit and we’ll be fine.”
This is exactly the type of leadership the Yankees need until guys start coming back from injury. Judge is a great leader and so is Stanton when he wants to be, but the team needs someone to rally them on the field in the meantime.
Enter Gardner, who has been with the Yankees in good times and bad. He may not be as quick with the bat anymore, but assigning a value to his leadership is like trying to replicate the sound of Brian May’s guitar. It’s simply impossible.
The point is while these key players are out, the Yankees’ lineup will be quite young and inexperienced. With Gardner there to guide everyone’s collective hands, surviving without Judge won’t be as scary as it seems!