It’s no secret for New York Yankee fans that Yankees need pitching help after Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J. A Happ all walking into free agency.Â It only leaves ace Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, and a host of young, untested arms with those departures. Montgomery himself has never pitched a 162 game season. The Yankees also have bullpen problems with Tommy Kahnle going to the Dodgers after having Tommy John surgery and the Yankees allowing him to become a free agent.
Even with all these losses, the New York Yankees don’t seem likely to spend big for any substantial improvements. Both owner Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman have said they are satisfied with their pitchers. The Yankees could re-sign Masahiro Tanaka to a short term deal, but that in itself will not do much to improve the starting rotation.
Even with these pitching deficiencies, there is still a path to victory for the Yankees. Last year the Yankees came an out short of continuing in the postseason with less than perfect pitching, both from the starting rotation and from the bullpen. Here’s the deal… last year, the Yankees recorded an average of 5.3 runs per game. They reached that feat with both Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres struggling mightily. They also didn’t have the services of sluggers Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton that spent lengthy periods on the Injured list.
Aaron Judge was on a path to the best home run hitter in baseball when he became injured. He started the season hitting the most homers in MLB with 9 home runs in just 18 games. When he returned, judge’s problem was that he never regained his stride and hit no more homers until the postseason when he hit 3 in seven postseason games. Giancarlo Stanton, due to a prolonged period on the IL, only played in 23 games. He got 4 homers in the regular season. In the postseason, he exploded to show what he can do when healthy; he got 6 homers in seven games driving in 13 Yankees.
Both Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres had hitting troubles all season. Sanchez hit just .147 on the season, Torres only hit at the .247 level with only three home runs in the regular season. He did get two more in the postseason, but this is after hitting 38 long balls during the 2019 season. So with a lineup of nine Yankees, four of them didn’t do their jobs, but the Yankees still averaged 5.3 home runs a game. They also suffered from long stretches when no one hit well.
Generally speaking, many players suffered poor seasons with all teams, mostly caused by the broken-up spring training and the coronavirus. Many industry experts say you can’t use the 2020 season as an accurate measure of a player’s ability.
All the players mentioned have had seasons with more than 30 home runs; Stanton in 2018 (38), Judge in 2017 (57), Sanchez 2019 (34), and Gleyber Torres 2019 (38). And we can’t forget to mention this year’s baseball home run leader Luke Voit who hit 22 long balls. In a regular 162 game season, that is the equivalent of 59.4 homers, just two short of Roger Maris’s total in 1961.
If all these players can stay healthy and hit just 75% of the homers from their best years, the Yankees can easily add 1 run per game. The difference from 5.3 to 6.3 runs per game is huge. It means the Yankees should win far more games than in 2018 or 2019. And that’s if they can just achieve 75% of their best performance. If they can achieve even closer to those best years, they will have an easy path to the postseason and beyond.
But make no mistake, the New York Yankee pitchers have to keep the opposing teams to a minimum of runs scored. They can only do that with good pitching and a bullpen that can close out games. Manager Aaron Boone should think seriously of mix and matching closers to the opponent. No matter the team problems, the Yankees can find a path to another World Series win.