New York Yankees Analysis: Is a 28th World Championship now out of the question?

New York Yankees, Gerrit Cole, James Paxton

I’ll answer that question right up front. The New York Yankees still can win a 28th World Championship this season. However, that being said, the reasons that is unlikely, are piling up pretty quickly. Let’s take a look at the areas that have to be improved for that to happen.

Someone once said its the pitching stupid!

Gerrit Cole: During the offseason, the Yankees spent the big bucks to get the best available pitcher in baseball. Hopefully, the Yankees didn’t waste their money, because as it turns out, the Yankees did not get the pitcher they saw pitching for the Houston Astros last year. What they did get, is a pitcher that has struggled in every game he has started, even the ones he has won. Cole has now pitched in eight games, he is 4-2. Using the importance factor of 2.7, he has as many losses this year that he had all of last year.  His 2.50 ERA of last season has also risen to 3.91. The whiff rate and put away rates against the four-seamer have each dropped by more than 12 percentage points.

It appears that his biggest problem other than laboring with a high pitch count, not going deep into games, is that he gives up home runs, lot’s of them. In his first five games, he gave up five home runs.  Many thought that he would resolve this, but the fact is, that it has only gotten worse. In his last three games, he has given up seven long balls. With only 23 games left to play in the season, he will likely only get four more starts. There are some observers that feel he may be tipping his pitches.  If true, Cole will have to resolve that issue.

James Paxton:  During the offseason, Paxton had back surgery, which was likely to cause him to miss the first few months of the season.  But due to the coronavirus late start of the season, he was able to recover and start on time. Whether it was the back surgery or not, when he pitched his fastball was ineffective, due to the reduced velocity of three or more miles per hour.  That type of velocity reduction is significant, giving hitters much more time to see the ball.  About two weeks ago, Paxton went on the IL with forearm soreness.  When he comes back, it is unlikely that his velocity problem will be solved.

Masahiro Tanaka: Tanaka has had a rough start this year. After getting hit in the head by a comebacker in summer camp, he missed his first start of the year. Tanaka always a workhorse is just 1-1 in six starts with an EAR of 3.38. He hasn’t gone deep into games. He doesn’t seem to be as susceptible to the long ball so far this season. Tanaka’s last outing was his most successful one, when he went six innings, 88 pitches, giving up three hits and only two earned runs.  If Tanaka has turned the corner, he just might end up being the Yankee’s savior.

J.A. Happ: Happ started the season poorly, mostly by not going deep into games. He also pitched inconsistently.  He improved in his last two games, and in his last outing against the Mets, he pitched 7.1 innings of scoreless ball while striking out seven.  If Happ can continue that performance, he will be a huge help in the rotation.

Jordan Montgomery:  The New York Yankees went into the season expected a bit more from Montgomery. So far he is in five games started 2-2 with an ERA of 5.76. He has only gone onto the sixth inning once, putting a strain on the Yankee bullpen. In his last outing, he gave up four earned runs in just 2/3 of an inning.  If the Yankees are to compete, Montgomery is going to have to improve.

Offense: The New York Yankees started the season going 8-1, with a healthy lineup. Since then with injured players, they have slipped into mediocrity. The play well against sub .500 teams, but when they play better teams they are 6-11. This season the Yankees are scoring 1.2 fewer runs per game.  They have two players in the regular lineup that are hitting south of .200, and five bench players faring as badly. Gary Sanchez in the middle of the lineup is batting just .130 and has struck out leaving a multitude of players in scoring position. The Yankee offense can only hope that Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton return to the lineup sooner than later, however, that does not seem likely.

A big difference this season compared to last, when the New York Yankees won 103 games with a multitude of injuries, just like this season, is that last year the bench rose to the occasion, something that outside of Clint Frazier, hasn’t happened this year.  Brett Gardner after a break out season last year has come up empty. The same is true for Mike Ford.

In the best-case scenario, the injured players come back and the pitching improves, easily having them take a spot as one of the sixteen postseason teams.  At this point, it is not likely that they will win the East Division.  In the worst-case scenario, they lose the eighth spot in the AL postseason to the Detroit Tigers, which have been playing really good ball in the last 12 days.