The New York Yankees looked to be cruising to another AL East title in the early stages of the 2017 season, but a prolonged slump has seen the Bombers fall to second-place at the All-Star break. Here’s a breakdown of where the Yankees have excelled and where they’ve faltered:
Despite Masahiro Tanaka’s struggles (7-8, 5.47 ERA), the Yankees’ starters have the fifth-best ERA in the American League and are fourth in batting average allowed. Luis Severino has been pitching to his potential (5-4, 3.54 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 124 strikeouts), while grizzled vet CC Sabathia continues to be effective when healthy (7-3, 3.81 ERA). Michael Pineda (8-4, 4.39 ERA) has had trouble keeping the ball in the park (20 HR allowed) but was carrying a sub-four ERA through 14 starts. Perhaps the break will rejuvenate him.
The Yankees have the third-best bullpen ERA in the American League, but the relief core has been dreadful of late. Tyler Clippard has allowed 15 earned runs in his last 10 appearances, sending his ERA soaring to 5.24. Dellin Betances’ once-microscopic 0.40 ERA is now 3.18 after some “Jekyll-and-Hyde” performances in his last eight outings. Aroldis Chapman carries a mediocre 3.48 ERA but is 8-of-10 in save opportunities.
First base production has been hard to come by for the Bombers, as Greg Bird and Tyler Austin have been unable to stay healthy. Free-agent pickup Chris Carter was flat-out bad and was released. But beyond that, the infielders have been respectable. Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius boast strong batting averages (.313 and .291, respectively) despite hitting the skids in early July, while Chase Headley continues to try his April form.
Aaron Judge has taken baseball by storm, batting .329 with an AL-leading 30 homers and 66 RBI. Jacoby Ellsbury has been good for a hit a game in nine of 11 starts since returning from the DL on June 26 (with five walks). Brett Gardner continues to hit with regularity (.256, 15 HR, 40 RBI) while flashing some speed on the basepaths (12 stolen bases). The Yankees’ newest phenom, Clint Frazier, has a 1.183 OPS through seven games. Aaron Hicks, hitting .290 with 10 homers and 37 RBI, will be a welcome addition to the roster when he returns from the DL.
Gary Sanchez hasn’t lived up to the hype from last year but has been more than serviceable in 2017. Despite a 2-for-20 slump to end the first half, Sanchez sports a .276 average with 13 home runs and 40 RBI. Austin Romine, who is seeing more time as a first baseman, is holding the line, batting .231 with a pair of homers and 17 RBI.
Matt Holliday was cruising along with 15 homers and 47 RBI before landing on the DL with an illness.
There’s only so much moving and shaking Joe Girardi can do when everything falls apart at once, but the Yankees’ 45-41 record at the break is a solid one. Girardi’s modus operandi has always been “don’t panic,” but if things don’t turn around soon after the break, he’ll have to take action. He could try letting his starters go deeper into games while relying less on a suddenly shaky bullpen.
General Manager: A-
Brian Cashman’s moves have been logical and well-timed this year. Clint Frazier has been a spark plug after getting promoted, and the DL has been utilized appropriately when needed. Cashman also deserves credit for putting Luis Severino and Aaron Judge on the Opening Day roster despite plenty of skepticism surrounding them after discouraging 2016 performances.