New York Yankees Analysis: The season in review: Management, Analytics, Gut, and what went wrong

William Parlee
New York Yankees, Aaron Boone
Feb 16, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone (17) during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s easy right now for New York Yankees fans to throw mud. Throw it at the pitchers, throw it at the players, and most especially throw it that the Yankee manager Aaron Boone and General Manager Brian Cashman. After all, the Yankees had the most expensive payroll in baseball and were beaten in the division and the ALCS by a team with the third-lowest payroll in all of baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays. Fans have a right to know why the Yankees lost and lost badly. Unfortunately, I can’t give you the reason but can point to areas that were a problem.

Considering that the buck ends at the top, we have to look at manager Aaron Boone and General Manager Brian Cashman. Boone has been the manager now for three years, and although he has been in the postseason all three years, he has not brought the team to the World Series. So, what’s up with that. Didi Gregorius, the former Yankee, pointed out the differences between Joe Girardi and Aaron Boone. He reserved the statement “great manager” for Joe Girardi. Gregorius has played under both managers. When referring to Aaron Boone, he said:

“The biggest difference? Let’s see,” Gregorius said. “They’re both good managers. For me, the only thing I see different is Joe goes more with his instincts – that’s what I think – and Boone goes more with analytics.”

That brings up the subject of Analytics.  Boone has no experience with managing, and Joe has years under his belt. Girardi was a savant when it came to using his pitchers and his bullpen. Boone relies on analytics. As a writer, I agree that analytics are crucial to how the game is played today, but the manager’s gut also must be considered.  When analytics tell you to do one thing, but a good manager’s gut tells him the opposite, I will take the manager’s gut to any book that predicts the outcome.

Obviously, neither approach guarantees an outcome. But a manager’s gut should overrule the analytics when those say to do one thing, but the manager says “wait a moment,” so in so is really hot the last two days, I am going to go with him.  Aaron Boone doesn’t do that; he follows the analytics sheet regardless of what it says. Many believe this is because the front office tells him to do that. Boone and Cashman both have said that Boone has the final say.  Quite frankly, that is hard to believe.

Looking at the season as a whole, you could say that the Yankees were greatly hampered by injuries again this year. There is no question that that was true, but they weren’t injured when it counted most, in the postseason. This is where Brian Cashman comes in.  The Yankees at the trade deadline knew that they had holes to fill, yet Cashman did nothing. He said it was too costly. Well, in one respect, he was correct; it cost them a World Series appearance.

The facts differ from Cashman’s explanation; names like Archie Bradley, Kevin Pillar, Jonathan Villar, Robbie Ray, Ross Stripling, Starling Marte, Mike Minor, and Taijuan Walker were dealt for either a player to be named later,  cash, or fledgling MLB-ready prospects/back-end roster players – half of them alone to the Toronto Blue Jays. One must keep in mind that the New York Yankees have the lowest payroll to revenue ratio than any baseball team.

In my opinion manager, Boone made several management mistakes regardless of where they came from. Throughout the year, his pitching decisions were suspect. He either took pitchers out too soon when they were pitching well or let pitchers stay in too long, and let the game get out of reach in several cases. Probably his biggest mistake came in Game 2 of the ALCS when he had Deivi Garcia pitch only one inning in a game the Yankees eventually lost.

Another mistake came when after 15 lousy pitching performances, why did it take the Yankee so long to give Deivi Garcia his major league debut. Where did that decision come from? You have to remember that Cashman did nothing at the trade deadline.

Another place where you could throw mud is at the New York Yankee’s coaching staff. Many who blame the poor season on the pitching could look to the new pitching coach Matt Blake. Why couldn’t he fix the problems some of the pitching staff were suffering from? Another area to look at is with one of the most powerful lineups in baseball. Why did they fall flat so often, even in the postseason?  Marcus Thames is the pitching coach, he had all season to tweak each player’s hitting problems, but there was no positive result.

Maybe the biggest area to be adressed is the entire team philosophy being wrong. The Yankees depend on the long ball to win games; when those homers aren’t there, they generally lose. They lost this year, to a team that is smarter and manufactures runs. When they get a home run, they are more likely to have runners on base. It’s called small ball. Maybe the New York Yankees need to tweak that philosophy to include more players like DJ LeMahieu who can hit the long ball, but when he doesn’t, he gets on base anyway.

To wrap up this article, the bottom line all season was that when the hitting failed, the pitchers pitched well; the lineup hit when the pitching suffered. Very seldom during the season did the two come together at the same time. This brings us back to management. This article gave you few answers but provided much for discussion and many future articles about what went wrong.’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.