The New York Yankees have certainly had a roller coaster 2021 season. It’s actually a tale of two different teams when you look at the first half and the last half. If the Yankees don’t make the postseason, they can look back on the first half of the season as the primary reason why.
The Yankees starting pitching other than ace Gerrit Cole was average, although the bullpen was stellar in the first half. The real culprit was the Yankees’ lineup itself. Outside of Aaron Judge trying to carry the team on his back, the rest of the lineup was awol for the most part. The games were boring as the Yankees seemed just to be going through the motions. Fans looked for who to blame, as no one seemed to be able to motivate the team.
Then in two series between the Red Sox and the Phillies in late July when they won four games in a row, a new team seemed to be emerging. So much so that in August, the Yankees were the winningest team in baseball. Since then, they have put themselves in jeopardy, possibly losing a place in the playoffs. But in the past week, the Yankees may be turning things around. But yet their last two games are a microcosm of the whole season; a shut out of the Indians only to be annihilated by them the following night. So here’s a look at how some of the Yankees are playing.
Gerrit Cole: A
Without question, Gerrit Cole has been the best Yankee starting pitcher all season long. He is actually much better than his 15-7 record would suggest. His ERA or 2.75 and 224 strikeouts show that. But suffering from only 3.81 runs of support in his games, he has lost or had no-decisions in games that could have been won.
Corey Kluber: B
After not pitching for nearly two years, Corey Kluber got off to a slow start with the Yankees but gradually got better to the point he had a no-hitter. But then Kluber went to the IL with a shoulder strain that would keep him out for three months. Since his return, he struggled. . Last night, he showed a huge improvement. He looked like an ace, pitching six full innings only allowing 4 hits in his scoreless outing.
Jordan Montgomery: B
Montgomery is not Gerrit Cole, and because of that, his lack of run support has been more impactful on his record. He has pitched better than his 5-6 record would suggest. He has a respectable 3.63 ERA with 149 strikeouts.
Nestor Cortes Jr.: B+
Cortes Jr. has been a Godsend for the Yankees; taking over for Kluber when he was on the IL, Cortes did nothing but impress. The Yankees have won 5 of his 8 starts since August. He has a 2.00 ERA for September.
Luis Gil: B-
The Yankee prospect Gil has been beneficial starting games that the Yankees had no one to start. In his first three starts, he was magnificent, not allowing a single run. But in his last two starts, he has stumbled. First, in a start against Toronto, he lasted only 3.1 innings giving up three runs. Then, against the Twins, he gave up 5 runs, but the Yankees won in extra innings. As Aaron Boone said, Gil may have a bright future, but right now he is not the finished product.
Chad Green: C –
Most recently, the wear and tear of a 162 game season and being overused Green has become undependable in the late going. The transition from a 60 game season to a 162 game season and being overused has been unkind to him through no fault of his own. (see Wandy Peralta).
Lucas Luetge: B
After not pitching in the bigs for nearly six years, the Yankees bet on Luetge to help the bullpen. He has done that and more. The Yankees hit gold in employing him. He has been one of the Yankees’ most dependable relievers, even finishing 13 games for them with one save. He has a .667 winning percentage.
Wandy Peralta: B+
On April 27, 2021, the Giants traded Peralta to the Yankees for outfielder Mike Tauctman. Peralta has been an asset replacing Justin Wilson and Zack Britton. He is the guy Boone goes to most frequently when Chapman fails. He has pitched in 51 games and has five saves. One has to wonder how much better he and Chad Green could have been had the Yankees not traded Luis Cessa away. Cessa was a workhorse and doing marvelously with the Reds with a 2.35 ERA in 48 games.
Aroldis Chapman: C
Aroldis Chapman has been one of the Yankee’s greatest disappointments this season, somewhat of an enigma for the Yankees. After starting the season stellar, his second half has been anything but. Fans cringe when he has to enter a close game. He has lost control of his firebrand fastball. C is not a very good rating for a supposed championship team’s closer.
Aaron Judge: A+
Aaron Judge, for the most part, has carried the team on his shoulders, he has been the best performer in the lineup all season with consistent hitting. He has a .288 batting average, is second in home runs, and leads with 85 RBIs.
Joey Gallo: A-
After being acquired before the trade deadline, Joey Gallo got off to a slow and spotty start with the Yankees. But, most recently, he has really heated up, leading the Yankees with 37 home runs. Last night he hit two home runs; it was the second time he managed the feat this month. He has 7 home runs in 13 games during September.
Giancarlo Stanton: A-
Outside of Aaron Judge, Stanton has been the most dependable hitter this season. He had a .327 average in August and .281 this month. He is third in home runs with 30 and, for a change, doesn’t lead the team in strikeouts. In addition, his excellent play in the outfield has given manager Boone more options.
Brett Gardner: B+
Gardner’s first half was disappointing, to say the least, making the Yankees wonder if resigning him was a wise decision. But his second half has been significantly better. More recently, he, as in past years, has really heated up in the postseason run. This month he has hit two multi-run homers. In addition, his baserunning and excellent defense have made him an everyday player.
Gleyber Torres: D-
Torres has been a disappointment all season long. He has never regained the power that he showed off in 2018 and 2019. But the biggest disappointment is his team-leading number of errors. The Yankees even rearranged the infield for him so he could return to second base. Unfortunately, that hasn’t worked out well either, and he has had two significant errors at second base.
Anthony Rizzo: B-
Anthony Rizzo has been hot and cold since joining the Yankees. He started gangbusters but then cooled off. He has had two home runs during September, but his biggest asset to the Yankees is his excellent defense at first base.
Gary Sanchez: C+
Gary Sanchez has had a somewhat better season than last year. Other than Gleyber Torres, Sanchez is the team’s most controversial player. Although he shows hints of greatness with the fireball arm and powerful home runs far into the stands, he also makes bone head plays, running mistakes, and passed balls. Sanchez has trouble staying focused at some critical times.
I hesitate to rate Luke Voit, mostly because he had had so many injuries that he could never regain the form he had in 2020 when he led all of baseball in home runs. Last night he hit a two-run homer in a failed effort to sustain a rally when the Yankees lost to the Indians. I also have not rated DJ LeMahieu mostly because I don’t know what to make of the second baseman that will be a Yankee for the next five years. His performance this year is certainly average but not close to what Yankee fans expected of him.
There are also several pitchers and relievers that have not been rated, mostly because their injuries have not allowed them to be impactful this season, one way or the other.