After plenty of fans were writing off the New York Yankees, they are rounding into form at the perfect time.
Not too long ago, Aaron Boone deserved to be fired, Gerrit Cole was an overpaid bum, and the New York Yankees were going to miss the postseason. Well, that was what the most reactionary fans and pundits would lead you to believe.
One week later, the Yankees are riding a six-game winning streak and are back in second place in the American League East. According to ESPN, the Yankees have a 99.9% chance to make the postseason.
In truth, there were plenty of reasons to be concerned about the Yankees. The injuries were piling up, Cole couldn’t keep the ball in the ballpark, the bullpen couldn’t hold a lead, and the offense was anemic.
But these problems are magnified in a 60-game season. In a normal year, a 5-12 stretch would be concerning, but would easily be forgotten over the course of a 162-game schedule. It’s tougher to overcome in this particular season, but the Yankees have done just that.
Let’s look at all the issues one by one to see how the Yankees have fixed things. Sidenote: Boone was never an issue, but when things go wrong, fans always want to blame someone. It’s important to remember that Boone has the best win percentage of any manager in MLB history according to Baseball-Reference.
Giancarlo Stanton and Gio Urshela were back in the lineup on Tuesday night. Aaron Judge is on his way back too. Of course, every Yankees fan knows that it’s almost a given that someone important will go down before the postseason, but it’s clear the Yankees will have some of their horses back for October.
And one silver lining to the injury woes this season has been the emergence of Clint Frazier in the outfield. He’s playing exceptional defense and has an OPS of .968. The enigmatic outfielder has cemented himself as an everyday player after riding the Scranton shuttle for the last few years.
He’s the future in left field and without the string of unfortunate injuries to the Bronx Bombers this year, he may have never had the chance to prove himself.
Gerrit Cole and the Starters
Sure, it’s fair to say that Cole hasn’t lived up to his $324-million contract yet, but he hasn’t been bad. Despite posting a 4.25 FIP, he has a 3.20 ERA and a 5.20 K/BB rate. And let’s be real, if he shows up in the postseason, no one will care about a string of bad outings in August.
Cole was filthy in his last start and that’s been par for the course for Yankees starters over the last week. Deivi Garcia is emerging as a legitimate difference-maker, J.A. Happ is doing his best to stick it to Brian Cashman, Masahiro Tanaka is still a gamer, and Jordan Montgomery bounced back over the weekend.
It took a little while, but the bullpen seems to be figuring it out. In his last four outings, Aroldis Chapman has struck out nine batters, only allowed one walk, and held opponents hitless. If he’s dominant, the Yankees are going to feel much better about the bullpen as a whole.
Similarly, Zack Britton has gone five consecutive innings without allowing a run. Adam Ottavino and Chad Green bounced back in their latest outings after a disastrous night in Buffalo against the Blue Jays last week.
Jonathan Holder is flying under the radar, but he’s been the team’s most consistent reliever this year. If those five guys are right, the bullpen will be just fine.
Getting healthy is a big part of fixing the offense. That’s indisputable. Still, the Yankees have big bats in the lineup even without Judge and Stanton. DJ LeMahieu missed a short stint with a wrist injury, but he picked up right where he left off in 2019. The aforementioned Frazier is as consistent as they come.
But Luke Voit’s emergence as a bonafide MVP candidate is the story on offense. The imposing first baseman is leading MLB in home runs (18) and he’s fourth in RBIs (42) with an impressive slash line of .280/.343/.634. His current OPS of .977 isn’t a career-high, but that’s only because of 39-game stretch in the 2018 season where he put together an OPS of 1.095 after he was traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Yankees.
The bottom line is simple—there were valid reasons to be concerned about how the Yankees were playing, but the sky was never falling.
With the expanded playoffs and the bubble format of the postseason, the regular season is kind of meaningless for teams like the Yankees. It would be nice to play the Wild Card Series in the Bronx, but it’s not a death knell for the Yanks.
The overreaction to a string of bad losses was always silly.