New York Yankees: 10 Reasons Bronx Bombers Won't Play Ball This Fall
Right now, the New York Yankees find themselves in a tie atop the AL East with a 35-25 record. But by the time October rolls around, they will not be so fortunate.
The Yankees are always expected to be in postseason contention, so it takes a little bit of digging to discover that the Bronx Bombers are playing over their heads.
Their elder statesmen are delivering uncharacteristically strong production that cannot be expected to hold up over a full season. When the run production starts to slip, there will be no one left to bail out the shoddy rotation. And to top it all off, the remaining schedule will be not be forgiving for New York, especially compared to the competition the rest of its division will face.
As well as the Yankees have played up to this point, here are 10 reasons they will be on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.
The Rotation Is Worse Than Its Record Shows
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You might think that Ivan Nova deserves some All-Star consideration with his 8-2 record. Rather, he is a perfect example that wins and losses are not everything in judging a pitcher.
With a 4.64 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP, Nova's percentage stats describe a mediocre pitcher rather than one of the best in the league. He is not alone in that reality within the Yankees rotation.
Andy Pettitte is the only Yankees starter with an ERA below 3.00. Even so, he has done so in just six starts, and at 40 years old, he is came into this season fresh after taking 2011 off. As the season goes on and the innings pile up, Pettitte should wear down in turn.
On the season so far, Yankees starters have a 3.98 ERA and a 30-19 record. This disparity will not hold up, especially if the bats do not keep up their production.
Mark Teixeira Can't Get on Base
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When you first look at Mark Teixeira's on-base percentage, it seems anomalously low.
The Yankees first baseman has a reputation as one of the best in the league at reaching base. But his current mark of .328 puts him at 94th in the league, amongst such distinguished company as Chris Johnson and Alcides Escobar.
Take a second look at Tex's recent numbers, however, and this substandard production seems less like an outlier and more like a continuation of a trend.
Teixeira was coming off consecutive seasons with OBPs above .400 when he arrived in New York, but his tenure in pinstripes has seen him get on base less and less. He has lost 20 points on his on-base percentage in each season with the Yankees; his batting average in the .250s has become the norm, and he has progressively walked less with each passing year.
Once one of the most feared first basemen in the league, Teixeira is not poised for a return to elite form anytime soon. When the hitters around him start to break down, the Yankees will miss the player they thought they were getting in 2009.
A-Rod Is Due for the DL
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There is nothing wrong with the way Alex Rodriguez is playing. While his slugging is down at .436 and he has only hit nine home runs on the year, these are below his career rates.
Whether he bounces back to the A-Rod of old is not the issue, though. With Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson in the middle of the lineup, the former MVP has some cushion to let his age show.
What is a potential concern down the road, however, is what will happen to the Yankees lineup when Rodriguez starts missing games. And make no mistake, he will.
Though he has played in all 61 of his team's games so far, Rodriguez has sat out 24 or more games in each of the past four seasons. At 36 and with multiple surgeries in the past few years, there is no reason to expect A-Rod to remain healthy for the rest of the season.
It wouldn't be a killer loss for the Yankees to have Rodriguez out of the lineup. The rest of the team just needs to keep up its production without him.
Raul Ibanez Can't Keep This Up
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At 40 years old, Raul Ibanez has 10 home runs in just 50 games this season. If there is any player primed for a regression to the mean, it is Ibanez.
There is no reasonable explanation for how Ibanez has been able to bounce back so strongly. He is three years removed from hitting 34 home runs and making his only career All-Star appearance at age 37. In the two seasons since then, Ibanez hit 36 home runs total, and his slugging percentage fell from .552 to .444 to .419.
The favorable dimensions of Yankee Stadium cannot even be credited for this resurgence, as Ibanez spent his peak season and the subsequent decline in the home run haven that is Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.
However the Yankees' eldest statesman is mustering this level of production, he cannot be expected to keep it up. Which is unfortunate for New York, since an even bigger name than Ibanez is about to fall off, too.
And Neither Can Jeter
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For years Derek Jeter was the Peter Pan of baseball, but not even he can play a kid's game forever.
Earlier this season, Jeter put that conclusion in doubt with his torrid start, ranking amongst the league leaders in batting average, on-base percentage, and on-base plus slugging. Even after his recent slump, in which he went 6-36 at the plate with just one extra-base hit, Jeter is still batting .315 with a .366 OBP.
But there is reason to believe that the past two months are the exception and the start to June the rule.
Over the past two seasons, the Yankee captain hit .270 and .297, respectively. On top of that, Jeter has already equaled his home run total from last season with six. These numbers are not indicative of a large dip to come for Jeter, but he should revert from his All-Star caliber numbers as the season goes on.
The Yankees have to hope their captain can hold up, because it doesn't look like they'll be getting any help at the top of the order.
No Timetable for Brett Gardner
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Brett Gardner's speed is an element the Yankees would benefit from in every facet of the game, if he could just get back on the field.
One of the league's best defensive center fielders and a terror on the basepaths, Gardner was off to a strong start as the Yankees' leadoff hitter before he went down with a strained right elbow.
That was on April 17th. Gardner has yet to return.
According to Newsday, Gardner suffered his second setback in his rehabilitation process recently, leading him to seek the opinion of Dr. James Andrews. While Dr. Andrews did not see anything that would prevent Gardner from returning before the end of the season, that is not exactly a ringing endorsement on the outfielder's health.
It was never supposed to come to this. A minor injury for Gardner has turned into something more. The Yankees need him to return sooner rather than later, because their schedule is not going to get any easier.
Too Many Divisional Games Ahead
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It is possible that the Yankees are the strongest team in the stacked AL East, but they also have the toughest path to the division title.
Not only does Grantland's Shane Ryan lay out the very real scenario that every team in the AL East could finish the year above .500, he also found this important statistic: the Yankees have the most remaining games against divisional rivals.
Now, it is perfectly feasible that New York could rip through their 36 divisional games en route to the division crown. However, the Rays are rolling, the Red Sox are rebounding, and the Orioles and Blue Jays do not seem to be flukes thus far.
The more likely outcome is that the Yankees will be worn down by the strength of their schedule, and the consequence would be the loss of precious playoff positioning.
Not Enough Home Games
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With their pitching floundering and their offense breaking down behind it, the Yankees would have a saving grace down the stretch in a home-field advantage.
Due to the New York's pitching woes this season, the team is better suited to play at Yankee Stadium. The short porches in the corners are a blessing to Yankees batters; it would be even more so should the offense start to sputter.
Unfortunately, the Bombers will play away from the Bronx for 51 of their remaining games. While the Yankees have been 17-13 on the road so far compared to 19-12 at home, the advantage Yankee Stadium gives this particular assemblage of players cannot be understated.
If and when those players start to deal with adversity, the importance of their home field would only grow. But with slightly more road games than home remaining, the schedule does not unfold in the Yankees' favor.
The Rays Will Win the Division
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Perhaps the biggest problem of all for the Yankees is that there is a better team in their division.
The Tampa Bay Rays sit a game back of New York in the AL East, but they pair a formidable pitching staff with a lineup that is actually bound to improve as the season goes on.
Led by Cy Young-candidate David Price, Tampa Bay is fifth in baseball in both team ERA and batting average against. Contrast that with their offense, which ranks 26th in batting average at .237, and it is a wonder the Rays are contending in this tough division.
But the Rays also have a number of guys who are suffering from slow starts. In particular, Carlos Pena is batting .191 thus far, low even by his free-swinging standards, and Ben Zobrist is hitting .223 on the year.
These guys will provide a boost to the middle of the Rays order when they start hitting again, and that offensive punch will put Tampa Bay over the top as the toast of the AL East.
Not Equipped to Win the Wild Card
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If Tampa Bay wins the division, the Yankees would fall into the uncertainty of the wild card race, where their style of play would not fare well.
New York would have some competition for the wild card from the other teams in the AL East, as well as from the surging Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. But the new playoff format with two wild card teams will actually be the Yankees' downfall.
The Yankees are just not well-suited to win a one-game playoff. Even if they play the game at Yankee Stadium, C.C. Sabathia has not pitched like an ace this season and would not inspire confidence in a must-win situation. If Sabathia were matched up with someone like the Angels' C.J. Wilson or the Blue Jays' Brandon Morrow, he would not be favored simply based on his reputation as a big-game pitcher.
Couple that with a Yankee lineup that could wear down over the course of the season, and the odds of New York making the postseason grow slimmer and slimmer.
They may find themselves in the division lead right now, but the Yankees will not survive the grind of the 162-game season. Come October, baseball will be over in the Bronx.