Yankees: Good news and bad news following 3-2 loss to Red Sox

New York Yankees, Clarke Schmidt
May 24, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Clarke Schmidt pitches against the Baltimore Orioles during the tenth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Despite not being a dramatic blown lead like the one to the Baltimore Orioles when the Yankees held a 5-1 lead before a nightmare inning ruined the night, this is one of their worst losses of the year.

After holding the Red Sox to just two runs in the regulation nine innings, the Yankees’ offense put up a pathetic display of offense, failing to score a third run. Their two runs came on a lucky bounce off the second base bag, which only further supports the idea that this offense is simply unacceptable.

Yes, Aaron Judge and Harrison Bader are massive subtractions for the offense, but not enough was done to support this lineup.

There were some positives mixed in with the plethora of negatives, as the Yankees dropped their first series of the season against their rival Red Sox.

Good News: Yankees Are Seeing Clarke Schmidt Find His Groove

clarke schmidt, yankees
May 25, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Clarke Schmidt (36) pitches against the Baltimore Orioles during the first inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After starting the season with an ugly 8.79 ERA, Schmidt’s completely turned his season around. Over his last 10 starts, Schmidt has a 3.59 ERA and 3.86 FIP while pitching into the 5th inning eight of those 10 times.

With a five-start streak of quality starts, Clarke Schmidt is quietly becoming one of the Yankees’ more reliable starters. The brilliance of Domingo German will likely spell the end of Schmidt’s time as a starter barring a massive regression from German and Schmidt continuing to be stellar, but he’s proving to be a capable starter who can provide value as a starter and reliever.

He tossed 5.1 IP of one-run baseball, with the only blemish coming off of the bat of Justin Turner, who hit a solo shot in the 2nd inning. Schmidt was facing a potent Red Sox lineup and was able to get the job done, continuing to show his growth as a pitcher throughout the season.

This raises questions about how the Yankees may use Schmidt in the future, especially with both Luis Severino and Frankie Montas hitting free agency. Could the Yankees leverage Schmidt’s recent success as a starter and high-upside in a trade to acquire a controllable bat?

There are certainly interesting scenarios to think of when looking at Schmidt, but for now, he’s giving the Yankees what they need.

A big reason for Schmidt’s success as of late stems from his sweeper adding over two inches of horizontal sweep, as in his first four starts, he only got 7.6″ of horizontal sweep, while in his past 10, he’s averaged 9.7″ of sweep, meaning fewer hanging sliders and more out-of-zone ones for chases out of the strike zone. He’s also added glove-side movement to his curveball and cutter, and while it’s hurt the arm-side run on his sinker, it’s overall a positive as Schmidt is able to generate more swings and misses and stay effective despite a slightly worsened sinker.

The Yankees are in a great spot with Clarke Schmidt, who can continue to develop while turning in strong starts for the Bronx Bombers, but the next step in his development is remaining effective the third time through the order. If Schmidt can consistently get into the 6th inning, he’ll have an even better chance of sticking in the future as a starter and also help give the bullpen a breather. It’s finally Clarke Schmidt time, and for those (such as myself) who bought lots of stock on Schmidt in the offseason, this is next-level vindication.

Bad News: The Entire Offense Is Horrible

anthony rizzo, yankees
Jul 29, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo (48) walks off the field after a rain delay is called after the bottom of the seventh inning against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton have been abysmal since returning from injury, being incapable of lifting this offense up as Aaron Judge is sidelined with his toe injury. It doesn’t help that Jose Trevino had the worst at-bat I’ve ever seen in the bottom of the 10th, swinging at multiple pitches that were nowhere near the strike zone. Had he just been a little more patient, it’s likely he would have worked a walk and could have reached base, setting up a different scenario in the bottom of the 10th where you now have two chances to drive a runner in from third instead of just relying on Anthony Volpe.

For those wondering just how bad Rizzo has been, he has a -56 wRC+ and .033 AVG in the month of June. The negative sign isn’t a typo; Anthony Rizzo is in fact just 156% worse than the league-average hitter right now. It’s a rough go of it for the former All-Star, and it doesn’t help that one of their rookie call-ups has been unacceptably bad. The Yankees messed up calling up Anthony Volpe this early, and that’s something they have to identify and handle now before it hurts them even more.

Oswald Peraza has a projected 103 wRC+, according to Steamer, and is an elite defensive shortstop with incredible numbers in Triple-A.

The time for Anthony Volpe to develop at the Major League level needs to come to an end; there are flashes of talent that I’m certainly excited for, but the kid needs to develop in Triple-A. Peraza, on the other hand, provides an MLB-ready alternative that can give you speed, contact, and power. If he’s a 95-100 wRC+ bat with his glove, he’ll be a welcome addition to this Yankee lineup, and it takes the pressure off of Volpe to succeed as he’s clearly pressing.

yankees, anthony volpe
Jun 9, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe (11) reacts after popping out against the Boston Red Sox during the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

In his last 29 games, he has a 43 wRC+ with a 35.1% Chase Rate and 13.2% Swinging Strike Rate, giving him a 4% walk rate and 35% strikeout rate in that timespan. He’s been unplayable at the plate, and it’s not going to serve the Yankees any good to continue to allow him to struggle at the Major League level. You’re only further damaging his confidence, and he’s only pressing more, and it’s not going to get much better from the looks of it. Send him down, and make the change that any modern organization with a pulse would make at the position.

It’s not all on Volpe, but changes have to be made to this offense now or else they’ll be on the outside looking in on a playoff spot.

With a team wRC+ of just 99, this offense is once again just not good enough. No additions were made via free agency or trade to significantly uplift the lineup, and the Yankees are going to have to answer for that soon enough. This is another year of Aaron Judge’s prime, another year of Gerrit Cole‘s prime, and another AL East race absolutely squandered as the Rays run away with the division.

Things have to get better now, or else the growing frustrations of another early playoff exit in the Baby Bomber Era will boil over.