The New York Yankees aren’t exactly on the honor roll after a stumbly, streaky start to their 2021 season.
The All-Star Break is a time of reflection for everyone from star players to fans to even baseball writers. It’s about taking a few days to step back from the greatest game ever played, relaxing with the simpler things in life, and then looking towards the second half of the season.
Yours truly knows from experience. Currently, I write sitting on a faux-velvet couch in an AirBnB condo in Killington, Vermont, craft beer in hand, and a cool New England breeze in the background. My brother-in-law is waxing poetic about his mountain biking students while my wife teases him for his graying hair.
Yet, I have a harder time staying in vacation mode. I should be relaxing, but the New York Yankees haunt my mind still. All-Star Break aside, the New York Yankees begin their second half in just a few days.
And if anyone’s been paying attention, the New York Yankees need an epic second half to even be in the Wild Card conversation. Forget the AL East crown, the New York Yankees are lucky to be above .500 at all.
The Bronx Bombers have not lived up to expectations and are shockingly underachieving. The fact that Aaron Boone hasn’t gone full Principal Vernon on one or more of his players is astounding.
Yet, I won’t make like Principal Skinner and give the Yankees 300 days’ detention. Nor will I go Ed Rooney-level cuckoo and personally hunt down the team for answers.
Instead, let’s just keep it simple with midseason grades.
Before the season, I said Gary Sanchez’s 2020 season was so bad to the point where he had to be absolutely fantastic in 2021. Otherwise, the Yankees might need to acquire a catcher, and I even suggested a potential deal for Willson Contreras.
The Kraken is currently batting .218, which isn’t pretty, but the good news is he’s doing everything else right. He has 15 home runs and 35 RBI to go with his .328 OBP and .785 OPS. Since my modest proposal for Contreras went up on May 13, Sanchez is batting .237 with an .819 OPS.
Sanchez also hit .289 in June and even though his batting average isn’t where most would like it, he’s working good at-bats and hitting home runs. Improved defense also bumps his marks accordingly.
Thank god for DJ LeMahieu. Were it not for his versatility, first base would have been a literal nightmare for the New York Yankees. Just look at Mike Ford being traded to the Rays and Jay Bruce being retired. It was that bad.
Luke Voit is finally back from knee and oblique injuries and has played well as of late, batting .417 in July. But again, without LeMahieu playing 41 games at the position already this season, the grade is a lot different.
Speaking of DJ LeMahieu, he hasn’t been performing at the level New York Yankees fans are used to seeing from him. He hit .336 his first two years with the Yankees and is the reigning AL batting champ. Cue a new six-year contract, and LeMahieu is batting a modest .270 with seven homers and 36 RBI.
Pitchers using substances on the ball had a lot to with his early struggles, but LeMahieu has looked much better as of late. He hit .292 in June and despite slowing down a bit this month, the hitter who became an accidental Yankees favorite is on the way back.
Poor, poor Gleyber Torres. He hit 38 homers in 2019, was out of shape for half of the shortened 2020 season, and now looks more like my avatar in Road To The Show than he does a New York Yankees star.
Let’s be clear. Torres has been an utter disappointment this season. He’s batting .240 with just three home runs and 29 RBI. Devan Fink of Fangraphs did a great job of explaining how the 24-year-old is pulling the ball less compared to his first two seasons.
He’s batting .263 since July 7 but it’s too late. A strong second half would have to be video game-like to erase the disappointment of the first.
Gio Urshela can be frustrating with his free swinging, but he’s easily one of the most consistent players on the New York Yankees. Batting .275 isn’t necessarily 2019’s mark of .314, or even last year’s .298, but Urshela continues grinding. The stellar third base defense is just an added bonus.
Could Urshela do better? Yes, but with this Yankees team, we can only be so nitpicky.
Remember the original Sim City for Apple and you could sic disasters ranging from earthquakes and literal monster attacks on your city? “2021 New York Yankees outfield” should have been an option.
Where do we even begin? Aaron Hicks has a wrist injury and is out for the season. Clint Frazier is dealing with some vision problems, Brett Gardner is a shell of himself, and Miguel Andujar is still learning the position. Forget Giancarlo Stanton playing the field with his glass legs.
Thank the gods Aaron Judge has been relatively healthy because as of now, he’s the only one keeping this outfield from looking absolutely pathetic.
Gerrit Cole must be lonely on Ace Island because, like Aaron Judge, he’s the only one keeping his department afloat. Forget his rough June. That was erased by his gem against the Houston Astros on Saturday.
But behind Cole, the New York Yankees have a truly sorry rotation. Corey Kluber is probably out for the season and his no-hitter seems so long ago. Jameson Taillon has looked good lately, but his injury history makes him a ticking time bomb. Jordan Montgomery and Domingo German are both streaky, and Luis Severino won’t be back until August.
Clarke Schmidt isn’t ready and Deivi Garcia can’t shake the walks in the minors. Barring a trade, no help is on the way and Brian Cashman failed in gambling on upside. Cole is the only one keeping this from being an F.
Once a safety valve, the New York Yankees bullpen has turned into roulette. Spin the wheel any given night, and see where it lands. To add insult to injury, the drinks aren’t even free.
Granted, injuries are a big reason behind the struggles. Zack Britton missed time recovering from elbow surgery and wasn’t back long before straining his hamstring. Aroldis Chapman’s ongoing fingernail issues have him out of the closer’s role. Even worse, everyone is overtaxed because the starting pitching is so unreliable.
Simply put, if Brian Cashman doesn’t trade for an outfielder or bullpen help at the deadline, he’s playing with fire.