Good news and bad news as Yankees ride Cole’s arm to victory over Orioles

Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees

Thanks to another stellar Gerrit Cole performance, the New York Yankees squeaked by the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday evening 3–2. The Bombers only had to use two pitchers in the contest, giving the majority of their bullpen the day off after Aroldis Chapman did his best to try and blow two saves in back-to-back games this week.

However, the offense has gone quiet against Baltimore, failing to score more than six runs over the past three games, slowly tapering off to three on Wednesday.

Good news and bad news in Yankees’ win over Orioles on Wednesday night:

Despite relying heavily on home runs, the Yankees have looked great in other facets, which have propelled them to wins. Against Baltimore, they utilized stellar defense and base-running to overcome their opponent. Josh Donaldson and Gleyber Torres scored on a wild pitch from Jordan Lyles and a throwing error by C Anthony Bemboom.

“Tonight we won on baserunning and defense,” Cole noted, “and we’re the Bronx Bombers.”

Cole was solid over 7.0 innings, allowing six hits and two earned runs. He only struck out five batters but carried the team along, tossing only 97 pitches. He took a lot of pressure off the bullpen.

Manager Aaron Boone has enjoyed his team’s great start to the season, also attesting to their ability to adapt and adjust when they’re not slugging at a normal rate.

“It’s been a great start, no question,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Just really pleased with how they’re doing it — in a lot of different ways. Tonight we leaned on the pitching and great baserunning.”

Offensively, the team recorded just six hits and struck out 10 times. Without Giancarlo Stanton in the game and Aaron Judge struggling to get on base, the team failed to produce.

However, Josh Donaldson has performed extremely well lately, posting two hits in the win and six hits in his last three games, including three runs and one homer.

The Yankees have found a great balance to their team, with the pitching picking up the slack when the hitting is cold and vice versa. If they can continue succeeding at this rate, they could have one of the best seasons in over a decade. They currently sit 5.5 games above the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East and host the best record in baseball with a three-game cushion.

Great news for the Yankees as they post double-digit runs against Chicago in a master-class performance

aaron judge, yankees

The New York Yankees won their second consecutive game against the Chicago White Sox on Friday evening, with a score of 10–4. Having scored 15 runs on Thursday night, the Yankees of now totaled 25 total in the past two games, showcasing elite offensive capabilities.

The Bombers haven’t only relied on their slugging, though, posting a total of 29 hits to provide contact support so their big bats can drive in runners in scoring position.

Good news for the Yankees:

In the win on Friday, Gerrit Cole earned the start, lasting 6.1 innings and giving up six hits and three earned runs. Cole absolutely dominated until the 4th inning when Cole balked, driving in Luis Robert at third base. However, it wasn’t until the 6th inning when designated hitter Gavin Sheets launched a homer to right field, driving in Robert and helping Chicago cut the deficit to four.

The Yankees’ offense has been far too potent to allow a measly comeback attempt to stifle their success. They recorded 14 total hits, four walks, and 10 RBIs. Aaron Judge recorded two hits and two walks with an RBI, elevating his batting average to .305. He has a team-best .661 slugging percentage this season.

Fellow slugger Giancarlo Stanton also contributed heavily, adding two hits and two RBIs to the Yankees’ offensive master-class. In fact, six Yankee batters recorded two hits, with Josh Donaldson also contributing three RBIs after smacking a two-run homer in the 9th inning to right field.

Currently, the Yankees have the best record in baseball and have maintained that pace over the past few days. They said 4.5 games above the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East and 2.5 above the Houston Astros in the entire league. The Yankees will face off against the White Sox on Saturday night at 7:10 PM in the third game of a four-game series. Jordan Montgomery will get the start, hosting a 2.90 ERA this season with a 48.3% ground ball rate and 3.69 xFIP.

Yankees News: Young starting pitcher sent down, Gerrit Cole toes the slab on Friday

yankees, gerrit cole

The New York Yankees executed an offensive master-class on Thursday night against the Chicago White Sox. With Chicago taking an early lead, the Yankees blew the game wide open in the 8th inning, scoring seven runs to bring the score to 14-7. In the 9th, Aaron Judge hit a sacrifice fly to right field, driving in Joey Gallo, putting the cherry on top of a 15-run performance.

However, starting pitcher Luis Gil struggled in his first major league action of the season. Over 4.0 innings pitched, he gave up five hits, four earned runs, two walks, and struck out five batters. The Yankees needed to supplement some fatigue within the starting rotation, so manager Aaron Boone called upon Gil to handle the load.

Gil finished with a 9.00 ERA but did record a 41.7% ground ball rate. His 42.9% left on-base percentage wasn’t exactly great, and his 41.7% hard-hit rate was also questionable. As for his pitches, he averaged out at 96.8 mph, with his fastball at 87.2 mph with a slider. His velocity is up quite a bit, which is an extremely optimistic sign for the Bombers.

Nonetheless, Boone sent Gil back down to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with Gerrit Cole taking the mound on Friday.

Cole is coming off multiple quality performances, having allowed just one earned run over his past three games, and 19 innings pitched. In fact, over that same sample size, he struck out 25 batters and walked just four.

This season, Cole hosts a 2.67 ERA, 10.98 strikeouts per nine, and 88.4% left on base rate. His hard-hit percentage is up to 40.8%, a bit higher than his 38.6% number from last year, but his barrel percentage allowed has dropped to 6.6% from 9.8% in 2021.

Overall, Cole has a few differing metrics, specifically his first-pitch strike percentage. That number is down about 14% this season, which is odd considering Cole loves to test batters early in the count. In fact, his first-pitch strike percentage is the lowest it’s been in his entire career at 54.4%. Cole has also incorporated a few different pitches into the mix, including a cutter, which he’s thrown 12.2% of the time, taking a bit of action away from his curveball and changeup.

Nonetheless, the Yankees have another favorable matchup against Chicago on Friday with Vince Velasquez on the mound opposite Cole. Velasquez has a 3.97 ERA this season over 22.2 innings, giving up 22 hits and striking out 21 batters.

Yankees News: Anthony Volpe development update, Yankees Vs Rangers preview

anthony volpe, yankees

The New York Yankees have been on an absolute tear the past few weeks, winning 11 of their last 12 games. It seems as if general manager Brian Cashman’s strategy worked to perfection, especially the acquisition of Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who has been tremendous offensively this year, hosting a .295 average with seven RBIs. The consensus is still that Kiner-Falefa will serve as a stopgap as a team waits for Anthony Volpe to develop.

Volpe started the 2022 season with Somerset in Double-A, hitting. 187 with three homers and 14 RBIs. While Volpe’s numbers aren’t exactly where the Yankees would like them to be, he still shows a ton of fight and will undoubtedly turn things around as he gets more at-bats and familiarity with the change in talent.

“He keeps grinding out at-bats,” Double-A Somerset Patriots manager Dan Fiorito told Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media. “Even some of the times where he wasn’t putting it all together, or when he wasn’t just crushing the ball like we saw all of last year, he’s still competitive.”

Volpe is a patient hitter that possesses a monstrous amount of power. He’s struck out 24 times over 75 at-bats this year, which is about on par with the Yankees average at the top level. Given his impeccable preparation, there’s no question he will begin to understand and adjust with more experience, but he has started the season in a bit of a slump offensively.

“The reassuring thing for Volpe and so many of these guys is that, once we get more consistent information, we get more quality information that we can trust in front of them, i think the guys on this team and in this clubhouse are as competitive as anyone else,” Hirst said.

Defensively, on the other hand, Volpe hosts a .966 fielding percentage with two errors over 170 innings. The Yankees will continue to develop him as a defensive player, especially since they project him as their future shortstop. He needs to be hovering around the .975 fielding percentage mark, but he has plenty of time to continue his development at just 21 years old.

New York Yankees Vs Texas Rangers Preview:

The Yankees are gearing up to face off against the Texas Rangers on Friday with ace Gerrit Cole on the mound. The Rangers host a 10–14 record, 4th in the AL West. The Yankees sit at 18–7, first in the AL East.

Cole features a 3.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 10.13 strikeouts per nine rate. His walk rate is up tremendously this year to 3.75, but he finally hit his stride against the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Guardians, pitching a combined 12.2 innings, allowing nine hits and zero runs.

With Cole finally settling into the season, the Yankees are the heavy favorites over Texas, and with Joey Gallo returning to the lineup, they are healthy as well.

The game will start at 7:05 PM at Yankee stadium.

Great New York Yankees News: Top spot secured, Gerrit Cole back to ace form

yankees, gerrit cole

The New York Yankees are currently on an eight-game winning streak after taking down the Kansas City Royals for the second consecutive game on Saturday night.

The Bombers are just one game away from completing three straight series wins before they travel to Toronto for a tough three-game series. However, the Yankees are clicking on all cylinders, ranging from their starting pitching to the batting order. In fact, over the last six games, the Yankees have scored 52 total runs.

On Saturday, though, ace Gerrit Cole got the job done. Cole, who featured a 4.00 ERA heading into the game, now hosts a 3.00 ERA after blanking Kansas City across 6.0 innings. He allowed five hits, two walks, and struck out six batters in the win over 91 pitches. After a tough start to the year, Cole has finally discovered his groove and is performing at a dominant level once again.

After a few disappointing starts to open the year, the starting rotation has picked up the slack tremendously, handing over fantastic performances to the bullpen in recent days. After Cole’s great outing on Saturday, he still hosts the third best ERA in the rotation, with Nestor Cortes sitting at 1.31 and Jordan Montgomery earning a 2.70 ERA.

Cortes has been on another planet lately, allowing only 15 hits and just three runs over 20.2 innings pitched. He’s struck out a team-high 28 batters and hosts a 1.97 SIERA and 2.09 xFIP.

With every section of the Yankees playing at peak performance, they have achieved an incredible mark to open the year, hosting the best record in baseball. Sitting at 15–6 and a .714 win percentage, the Yankees hold a slim lead over the Milwaukee Brewers and New York Mets, who are only 0.5 games behind. The Yankees, however, had elevated their run differential to +39 with multiple double-digit outings. They are 10–3 at home and 5–3 away, showcasing dominant play in Yankee stadium. Taking advantage of their short right porch has been a priority for general manager Brian Cashman.

Retaining first basemen, Anthony Rizzo seems to be one of Cashman‘s better moves. Rizzo has hit an MLB high nine homers through 21 games, with the second-place player recording seven. If Rizzo can continue to take advantage of the short-right porch in Yankee stadium, he could shatter his personal record of 32 homers back in 2017.

Nonetheless, the Yankees are off to a fantastic start, and a shift in health luck has been at the forefront.

Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole is rounding into form: “One of the best pitchers in the sport”

yankees, gerrit cole

After struggling somewhat in his first three starts this year (eight earned runs allowed in 11.1 innings), New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole had a vintage outing on Sunday, in the Bombers’ 10-2 victory over the Cleveland Guardians to complete a sweep.

The right-hander stayed on the mound for 6.2 innings, in which allowed just four hits and a walk, with no runs. He struck out nine Guardians, an impressive feat that suggests he may be back to his best version.

“He’s Gerrit Cole. He’s one of the best pitchers in the sport,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told after the game. “So he wants to do his thing, and there’s that pressure of breaking through and having this kind of outing. But I also feel like it’s been right there on the surface.”

He set the tone nicely from the first at-bat, striking out Myles Straw with a 99 mph four-seamer. He averaged 97.7 mph with his four-seamer and earned five strikeouts with it, plus two on his slider, one on his curveball and one on his new cutter.

The Yankees’ ace was “about to pop”

“I haven’t been kidding when I’ve said it’s about to pop,” the Yankees’ skipper said of Cole breaking out of his funk. “I feel like he knows he’s there. I think he’s frustrated and pissed a little bit that he hasn’t gone out and had that game yet. But I feel like mentally he knows he’s there. … That’s part of the reason I’ve been heartened even after these first few starts, is I feel like he knows this has been coming.”

Cole, according to Statcast Bombers, averaged 2,483 RPMs of spin on his fastball and sat at 97.2 mph with 6.5 feet of extension against on Sunday. He 2,530 RPMs of spin on his four-seamer and sat at 97.1 mph with 6.3 feet of extension in 2019, the best season of his career in which he deserved the Cy Young award. He’s back to form, even though he implied he was doubting himself after several mediocre outings in a row to start the year.

“I’m a human being, so …” he said after being asked if he was doubting himself. “But I don’t really have time to dwell on it. We’ve got bigger things to take care of.”

The Yankees appear to have their ace back.

Ranking the Yankees’ starting pitchers 16 games into the regular season

nestor cortes jr., yankees

The Yankees are coming off a series sweep against the Cleveland Guardians on Sunday, thanks to a stellar performance from Gerrit Cole after starting the regular season on a bad note. The Bombers now sit with a 10–6 record, boasting phenomenal pitching but inconsistent offensive play.

For the first time all season, the Yankees scored seven or more runs, thanks to a poor pitching performance from Aaron Civale, who gave up six runs over just three innings.

The Yankees have had trouble at times driving in runners in scoring position, but their pitching has picked up the slack tremendously. Cole recently called them out, indicating the need for support to help transfer the game over the bullpen.

“From a starting pitcher’s perspective, we want to keep going as long as we can,” Cole said. “We want to try to push our pitch count and our games as deep as we can go to keep [the relievers] as fresh as we can so they can continue to perform at their level. At the same time, from a team aspect, I think it’s important to get on the board early so that we can turn a lead over to those guys.”

Ranking the Yankees’ starting pitchers 16 games into the regular season:

1.) Nestor Cortes

The Bombers started the year with Nestor Cortes as their No. 5 starter of the rotation, but he has been far and away their most lethal arm. Cortes hosts a 1.15 ERA over just three games, a sample size of 15.2 innings. He’s only given up seven hits, whereas the other four starters have given up at least 10 hits. In fact, he gave up his first two runs of the entire season on Saturday after Josh Naylor belted a two-run shot in the 6th inning.

Cortes has been extremely effective at just 27 years old, and the Yankees might have themselves a long-term starter if he continues to play at this level.

So far this season, Cortes is allowing an 86.5 exit velocity and just a 3.6% barrel rate, two impressive numbers. His 1.29 SIERA and 1.46 xFIP are the best on the team. Interestingly, he’s changed his pitch usage a bit, utilizing his fastball and slider predominantly, seeing decreases with his curveball and change-up.

2.) Luis Severino

Luis Severino is the next on the list, who features a 2.08 ERA over 13 innings. Severino has given up three runs, most of which came in his first start against the Boston Red Sox.

Severino currently hosts a 90.9% left on base rate and 54.1% ground ball rate, two phenomenal numbers. In terms of velocity, he’s averaging out at 97.2 with his fastball, up significantly compared to a small sample sizes over the past two seasons. Severino is also utilizing a cutter this season, throwing it 16.1% of the time. He’s dipped into his slider usage, throwing it just 7.2% and re-allocating it significantly. With great velocity on his fastball and a solid repertoire of pitches, Severino is quickly regaining his 2018 form.

3.) Gerrit Cole

After three questionable outings for Gerrit Cole, he finally enjoyed his best performance of the season on Sunday in a win over Cleveland. Cole lasted 6.2 innings, giving up four hits and striking out nine batters. He tossed 92 pitches, lowering his ERA to 4.00. Cole was dotting the corners and utilizing a lethal slider to bait batters. He also began incorporating a cutter into the mix, something he hasn’t used since college. There’s no downward trend for his velocity, so he simply wasn’t getting the location he was looking for.

Thankfully, Cole seems to be back on track, and the starting rotation for the Yankees appears above average over the first three weeks of the campaign.

4.) Jordan Montgomery

Fourth on the list is Jordan Montgomery, who hosts a 2.51 ERA over 14.1 innings. Montgomery has given up 10 hits, and four earned runs but has otherwise looked great this season. Montgomery allowed one earned run over six innings in his most recent outing, striking out five batters. In fact, he’s pitched 11 innings over his last two games, giving up six hits and just one run, striking out seven batters combined.

If Montgomery continues to pitch at this level, he will be a dangerous mid-rotation arm for the Bombers.

5.) Jameson Taillon

It is great news that the last ranked pitcher in the Yankee starting rotation hosts a 3.07 ERA over 14.2 innings. Jameson Taillon has given up 15 hits and five earned runs, including three homers in that sample size. He’s been the worst of the bunch but has still been very effective for the most part.

Coming off of a 2021 season where he suffered several injuries, including torn ligaments in his ankle, Taillon has gotten off to a solid start. With his velocity hovering around 94.1 mph regarding his fastball, Taillon seems to be on par with his career averages. His pitch usage seems rather consistent compared to the past, so he hasn’t done anything significant to change up his game. The biggest factor for Taillon is simply health and building momentum.

The Yankees may have a serious problem brewing with their ace pitcher

Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees

The New York Yankees bullpen has been the strongest part of the roster up to this point. In fact, they currently host a collective 1.83 ERA, but their top guns are dominating. Michael King has earned a 1.17 ERA, Clay Holmes a 1.69 ERA, and Clarke Schmidt a 2.25 ERA, picking up the slack against the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday after Gerrit Cole was knocked out in just the 2nd inning with 68 pitches.

The starters, however, host a 3.11 ERA, which isn’t bad but is being dragged down by Cole’s bloated 6.35 ERA. Cole has struggled considerably this season over his first three starts against the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, and now Detroit Tigers.

On opening day, Cole lasted just 4.0 innings, giving up four hits, three earned runs and struck out three batters over 68 pitches. Against Toronto he lasted a bit longer at 5.2 innings with 85 pitches, giving up three runs and two homers to Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

However, he was looking to take a big step forward against Detroit on Tuesday, which unfortunately did not occur. Cole lasted 1.2 innings before being knocked out at 68 pitches, giving up two earned runs and five walks.

It is very odd to see Cole starting a season this poorly, as he showcased frustration on the mound, but managed to bottle up his anger enough to walk off quietly. His strikeout rate has dropped considerably to 8.38 and his home runs per 9 have ballooned to 2.79 from a career average of 0.96.

Looking at his advanced stats, he currently hosts a 3.44 SIERA, which is the highest it’s been since 2017, and a 3.87 xFIP. Interestingly, he hasn’t necessarily lost any velocity on his pitches, throwing his fastball at 97.9 mph, but has thrown his curveball far less such as 4.6% compared to 15.7% last year. He’s added a lot more reliance on his slider, tossing it 37.3% this year at 88.9 mph, which shows an increase in velocity.

The problem with Cole is that his pitches simply aren’t doting the corners as they usually are. It’s not a problem of velocity, it’s a problem of location, which could be confidence-related. When Cole is on top of his game, he’s easily one of the best pitchers, if not the best in baseball. When he’s clearly not feeling his best, he struggles considerably to get pitches across the plate and can give up homers if not careful.

Gerrit recently mentioned the addition of a cutter to his pitch repertoire, trying to give batters something they’ve never seen from him. In theory, that could be a beneficial strategy, but it hasn’t done any good thus far.

Interestingly, his “fastball runs above average” sits at -3.82 on the season, having never reached negative territory throughout his first nine years in baseball (via Fangraphs). Of course, that number will likely turn around rather quickly, but he recorded 12.1 runs above average last season using his fastball.

Another advanced metric that stands out is his Z-Contact, which represents the percentage of times a batter makes contact with the ball when pitches are inside the strike zone. That number is currently at 87.2%, up nearly 10% from last season. Clearly, batters are making better contact with thrown strikes.

In addition, his first-pitch strike percentage has dropped to a measly 38.5% from 66.8% last year. That has been one of Cole’s catalysts for success the past few years, throwing strikes early and often to keep batters on their toes.

There’s plenty of reason to believe that cole will turn things around quickly, but there are a few concerning metrics that stand out. Throwing more first-pitch strikes and an increase in the usage of his curveball might be beneficial moving forward.

Good news and bad news as Yankees’ bullpen carries team to victory

gerrit cole, yankees

On Tuesday afternoon, the New York Yankees faced off against the Detroit Tigers, coming off of disappointing series against the Baltimore Orioles. After losing two of three games to Baltimore, the Bombers needed a bounce-back win, which they thankfully got, despite Gerrit Cole doing his best Wild Card impression.

The Yankees narrowly squeaked by Detroit, thanks to a terrible 1st inning from the Tigers, featuring a pop fly between the catcher and pitcher that dropped to the ground, driving in two runs.

Nonetheless, let’s take a look at the good and bad news from the win on Tuesday.

Good news:

Right off the bat, the Yankees’ bullpen impressed significantly after Cole was knocked out of the game in just 1.2 innings. After an impressive first inning, collecting multiple strikeouts, Cole proceeded to walk three consecutive batters, five in total. He walked in a run, and a poor throw from Joey Gallo in left field provided another via a pop fly.

The bullpen, however, was phenomenal, as Clarke Schmidt lasted 3.1 innings and struck out six batters, giving up two hits. Along the rest of the way, the bullpen allowed just one hit over four innings, striking out two batters in the process.

Having relief pictures who can supplement poor starting pitching is a huge positive for a Yankees team that has struggled offensively this season.

There were a few individual batters who performed well, notably Aaron Hicks, who tallied one hit and two walks. Isiah Kiner-Falefa posted two hits and a walk in three at-bats.

Impressively, Anthony Rizzo recorded three walks on the afternoon, helping the Yankees get on the board early in the game after the error from Detroit in the first.

Overall, the Yankees record earned eight walks, which is an impressive number. They did strike out 13 times, but that is a discussion we will have momentarily.

Bad news:

The bad news ranges from Gerrit Cole to Joey Gallo, who performed poorly in the batter’s box and made a terrible throw from left field to a tagging runner at third base. As mentioned above, Cole was tortured in the 2nd inning, giving up multiple walks and two runs. He tossed just 68 pictures before Aaron Boone decided to make a change to Clarke Schmidt.

If the Yankees continue to rely on their bullpen at this rate, they will be burned out by the All-Star break, so general manager Brian Cashman may want to consider injecting a bit more starting talent. Otherwise, the players currently on the roster need to step up and last a bit longer, giving the bullpen adequate rest.

Shifting over to Gallo, who picked up four strikeouts on the day, lowering his average to. 121, also struggled in the outfield. His terrible throw had to be cut off by Cole, which ultimately ended his day.

There’s an argument to be made that Gallo is simply getting unlucky, making solid contact resulting in outs. However, there’s no dodging the poor numbers on his stat sheet, which must be considered when justifying his name in the lineup every day.

Yankees’ Gerrit Cole has message for team’s offense after early season struggles

Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees

The New York Yankees sit at .500 on the season through 10 games. The Bombers are preparing to face off against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday afternoon, a team that hosts a similar record and is coming off a loss against the Kansas City Royals in their most recent game.

So far this year, the Yankees’ offense has enjoyed 328 at-bats, tallying 75 hits and a collective .229 batting average. Despite GM Brian Cashman remaining confident in his roster, they’ve hit 10 homers and 28 RBIs, showcasing minimal production.

The pitching has been mostly fantastic, limiting opposing teams to six runs or less in every game this season. However, without proper run support, the Yankees once again find themselves in a tough spot.

Starting pitcher Gerrit Cole mentioned recently how impressed he’s been by the team’s pitching efficiency, but a bit of help from the offense would go a long way in handing over a comfortable lead to the bullpen.

“From a starting pitcher’s perspective, we want to keep going as long as we can,” Cole said. “We want to try to push our pitch count and our games as deep as we can go to keep [the relievers] as fresh as we can so they can continue to perform at their level. At the same time, from a team aspect, I think it’s important to get on the board early so that we can turn a lead over to those guys.”

Diving into the more detailed metrics for the Yankees lineup, they have been abysmal against left-handed pitching, hosting a .206 average with one homer over 68 at-bats. They’ve been a bit more efficient against right-handed pitching, but still nothing to write home about. The Yankees haven’t scored more than six runs in each of their first 10 games, being blanked by a terrible Baltimore Orioles team on Sunday.

At some point, the sluggers need to come to life since Cashman has invested so much of his time building a power-heavy lineup. The problem with this approach is that when the team goes cold, they are simply ineffective. They don’t have speedy base-runners, and they feature a small number of contact hitters. Despite DJ LeMahieu featuring a batting average above .300, everybody around him continues to strike out, which makes his production irrelevant.

From an objective standpoint, the Yankees seem to be the same exact team from 2021, if not worse, given they didn’t provide the starting pitching with any support, and shortstop is still a huge liability. Unless the sluggers can turn things around quickly, the team could be facing some increasingly real struggles.