With the first 16 games of the 2022 MLB regular season completed, it’s safe to say that the New York Yankees have not looked as resilient and appealing as many fans might have hoped for, casting ripples of skepticism and nervousness throughout their fanbase as a result.
The first thing that might come to mind when thinking about this inconsistent start is the Yankees’ pitching. Prior to receiving his first win last Sunday (where he threw 6.2 scoreless innings and collected 9 strikeouts), Yankees ace Gerrit Cole has looked very shaky with his control and efficiency. Up until Sunday, Cole had the second-worst ERA on the team (6.35).
To make matters worse, he still leads the team in earned runs (8), home runs allowed (3), and walks (8). And along with Jonathan Loaisiga and Chad Green (who are both off to rough starts), it’s understandable why some might be blaming the pitching as the main culprit.
But believe it or not, outside of these three players, the Yankees’ pitching is not to blame for their rollercoaster start. In fact, the Yankees not only boast the third-best team ERA in the league (2.53), but they also rank fourth in strikeouts (159) and fifth in batting average against (.208). From their starters to their deep set of relievers, the Yankees have one of the best pitching staffs in the league and have been able to stay alive in various games this season as a result.
So if it’s not the pitching, what’s to blame then? If you haven’t guessed it already, it’s nothing but the Yankees hitting. That’s right! That stacked cast of power and contact hitters the Yankees have assembled has struggled mightily to find a way to get in a groove and get on base. Although guys like D.J. LeMahieu, Aaron Hicks, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Aaron Judge, and Anthony Rizzo have all looked much sharper as the season has progressed, everyone throughout their lineup (including these five players) has endured their fair share of lows, and it’s not looked pretty.
Despite it being early in the season, the Yankees are currently 14th in the league in batting average (.235), OBP (.314), and slugging percentage (.380). From their inability to consistently hit the ball well to finding it difficult to even get on base, the Yankees have to sharpen up their discipline at the plate, work counts, and find ways to score runs on a much more consistent basis if they want to straighten out this rickety start and gain a good lead in the division.
However, even with all of these shortcomings on offense, the greatest crux of the Yankees’ hitting woes really comes down to their ongoing struggle with taking advantage of having runners on base or in scoring position. If you thought some of those numbers were bad, the Yankees rank 26th in batting average when runners are on base (.208) and 26th with runners in scoring position (.195).
Every missed opportunity to score is yet another chance out the window for the Yankees to take a lead or accumulate the runs they need to win games. And if the Yankees plan on securing first-place honors in the AL East this year, they need to be able to deliver when they have runners on base or in the position to score.
That said, Yankee fans shouldn’t get worked up or panic with this inconsistent start and for a couple of reasons. To begin with, we’re not even 20 games into the regular season, and with well over 130 games left to go, a small hiccup to start their campaign shouldn’t be something to get worried about.
In addition, the AL East as a whole has been off to a sluggish start, and no team has definitively been able to secure the upper hand. As of right now, all five AL East teams are only split apart by four and a half games or less, and the Yankees just so happen to be half a game out from first place. At 10-6, the Yankees have won five of their last six games and have been building momentum offensively. Should they get red hot and continue to string along wins, they could be sitting comfortably in first come mid-May.
But in order to see that through, the Yankees have to improve their consistency level with getting on base and providing the run support their pitchers deserve. Until they do, their inconsistencies could persist and lead them to struggle with securing the division title they’re after.