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Rating the Yankees Panic Meter amid Troubling 2nd-Half Stretch

Zachary D. RymerAugust 9, 2022

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

In a few weeks, the New York Yankees have gone from chasing after the best teams in Major League Baseball history to merely keeping pace with the other club within city limits.

Following a three-game sweep by the St. Louis Cardinals over the weekend, the Yankees went into Monday's contest against the Seattle Mariners on a season-high five-game losing streak. They ended that with a 9-4 victory, but it came at a cost as comeback slugger Matt Carpenter broke his foot on this foul ball in the first inning:

Talkin' Yanks @TalkinYanks

Matt Carpenter suffered a foot fracture on this first inning foul ball <a href="https://t.co/IiDZLTwRit">pic.twitter.com/IiDZLTwRit</a>

"I'm holding out hope that it'll be a situation where I could come back in the middle of September and can contribute towards the stretch run," Carpenter told reporters after the game. But at the least, he indeed figures to sit for a few weeks.

In the meantime, the Yankees are 10-16 in their last 26 games even with Monday's win. Though they remain on track to clear 100 wins, they're no longer keeping historic company. In winning 61 of their first 84 games, they went where only nine other teams had gone before. Now, their 71-39 record puts them in the company of 91 other teams, including the cross-town Mets just this season.

As such, we feel compelled to ask: How much panic about the Yankees is appropriate right now?


Panic Meter on the Offense

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

More than anything, the offense has sustained the Yankees this season. Led by American League MVP front-runner Aaron Judge and his 44 home runs, they lead all of baseball with 188 home runs and 588 runs scored.

Perhaps this obscures how hit-or-miss the Bronx Bombers have been throughout 2022, and so it has gone amid the team's struggles. Since July 9, the offense has had nine games in which it's produced three or fewer runs.

Far from being all bad, though, it's been mostly good. Better than good, even:

  • Through July 8: .770 OPS, 1.7 HR/G, 5.2 R/G
  • Since July 9: .806 OPS, 1.7 HR/G, 5.7 R/G

The main driver of this effort? Judge, of course. He's continued his assault on Roger Maris' AL-record 61 home runs from 1961 with a 1.352 OPS and 14 long balls in the last 25 games.

The day-to-day strength of the supporting cast around Judge has been a matter of some concern all season, and that surely remains true even now.

With Carpenter out, the Yankees have lost their best non-Judge hitter. Giancarlo Stanton has likewise been out with Achilles tendonitis since July 23, while Anthony Rizzo has missed the club's last four games with back spasms. Otherwise, Josh Donaldson continues to be inconsistent and Gleyber Torres and newcomer Andrew Benintendi are both cold right now.

But while the loss of Carpenter is going to sting for a while, healthy versions of Rizzo and Stanton and warmer versions of Donaldson, Torres and Benintendi would go a long way toward softening the blow.

This might come off as an overly optimistic take, but, hey, Rizzo and Stanton have 51 home runs between them this season and Torres and Benintendi, at least, have been impact hitters for the bulk of the season. As it is, the latter at least has more walks (9) than strikeouts (8) even as he's hit just .176 in his first 11 games as a Yankee.

Panic Meter: Low


Panic Meter on the Starting Rotation

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Even as the offense did its thing, the Yankees starting rotation grabbed just as many headlines through the first three months of 2022. It seemed like the fivesome of Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino, Jameson Taillon and Jordan Montgomery couldn't miss.

Cut to now, and Severino is on the injured list with a strained lat, and Montgomery is with St. Louis by way of a deadline-day trade for injured center fielder Harrison Bader. The latter was possible only because the Yankees had acquired Frankie Montas from the Oakland Athletics the day before, but he fell flat in his debut by allowing six runs in three innings on Sunday.

In Montas' defense, it's no fun to pitch a day game in St. Louis in August. It was 94 degrees at first pitch, and the heat index for the greater St. Louis area eventually climbed over 100.

Otherwise, there's no sugarcoating the derailment of the Yankees rotation:

  • Through July 8: 5.6 IP/GS, 3.14 ERA
  • Since July 9: 5.1 IP/GS, 4.92 ERA

Starting at the top, Cole has hardly been blameless in all this. The Yankees' $324 million ace has been lit up for 22 runs (21 earned) over 38 innings for his last six starts.

MLB @MLB

Seattle came out swinging this afternoon. ๐Ÿ’ช <a href="https://t.co/R3eV6MpDVU">pic.twitter.com/R3eV6MpDVU</a>

Cole's fastball velocity remains in good shape, but his slider just isn't effective right now. It had an elite minus-6.2 run value through his 16 starts. In his last six, it's been his worst pitch to the tune of a plus-4.5 run value.

Fixable? It should be. Yet the same has seemed to be true of all the hiccups that Cole has experienced since he signed with the Yankees, and the pattern in his results is nonetheless one of diminishing returns. Since 2019, his ERA+ has gone from 85 percent better than average to just eight percent better.

Jameson Taillon's struggles run even deeper. After posting a 2.70 ERA in 13 starts through June 18, his ERA for his last nine outings stands at 5.89. As his 97 ERA+ for the season now basically mirrors his 99 ERA+ for 2021, this isn't so much a slump as a regression.

The one Yankees starter who's doing fine right now is Nestor Cortes, whose 2.73 ERA since the start of July generally resembles his 2.57 ERA for the season.

Yet the Yankees haven't let him throw more than 100 pitches in a game since May to keep his workload in check. As he's only three innings away from his career high for a single season as a professional, Cortes will soon be in uncharted territory.

With Montgomery now out of the picture, Severino is really the only cavalry that the Yankees can hope for. This is a "good luck with that situation." Even before Severino went on the IL, his 86 innings were 68 more than he had thrown in the majors across 2019-21. No wonder his velocity was fading.

Panic Meter: High


Panic Meter on the Bullpen

Adam Hunger/Getty Images

With their starters suddenly not lasting as long in games, the Yankees have needed their bullpen to pick up more slack over the last month.

Alas, it's gotten butterfingers instead:

The Yankees' bullpen has suffered from two major calamities during its recent slide, with the first being the broken elbow that ended breakout reliever Michael King's season on July 22.

The other is the downfall of All-Star closer Clay Holmes. After allowing two earned runs through his first 38 appearances, he's allowed 10 earned runs in his last nine.

It's not so simple to deduce that Holmes' slide is due to bad luck and not just because he's walked eight of the last 47 batters he's faced. Formerly a Watson-like sidekick, his sinker has gone full Moriarty as hitters have pounced on it for more frequent hard contact:

Image courtesy of Baseball Savant

As Holmes was in the process of blowing a 3-2 lead to the Cardinals on Friday, Yankees manager Aaron Boone was warming up Aroldis Chapman to potentially close things out in the ninth. It was the clearest indication yet that the veteran fireballer has regained the Yankees trust after a disastrous start to the season.

There's nonetheless a question of whether the 34-year-old Chapman deserves it. His trademark fastball has been inconsistent lately, and he's struck out only a batter per inning even as he's allowed two hits and no runs over his last six outings.

Though the Yankees did well to acquire Scott Effross and Lou Trivino at the deadline, neither is a foolproof candidate to close games if neither Holmes nor Chapman is up to it. The former lacks swing-and-miss stuff, while the latter has been prone to home runs and walks.

Walks also plagued Miguel Castro before he landed on the IL with a shoulder strain in July. Zack Britton likewise had a problem with free passes before he underwent Tommy John surgery last September, and whether he'll return this year remains in the air.

For his part, Jonathan Loaisiga could emerge as a knight in shining armor if he can rediscover the form that made him the AL's most valuable reliever in 2021. But with his fastball simply not as explosive as it was last season, it's hard to count on that.

Panic Meter: High


The Final Verdict

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

If anyone out there thinks that the Yankees' recent skid has been blown out of proportion and that the team will be fine, well, you're not necessarily wrong.

Even their 10-16 slump comes paired with a positive plus-23 run differential, signifying that bad luck has played a role in the mounting defeats. Furthermore, the Yankees remain in position to coast the rest of the way. FanGraphs puts their odds of making the playoffs at 100 percent, with a 95.2 percent chance of doing so by way of the AL East title. As they lead the Toronto Blue Jays by 10.5 games, the latter might be conservative.

These being the Yankees, though, the idea is not to simply make the playoffs but rather to make it to the World Series and ultimately bring home the franchise's 28th championship.

And to these ends, it was simultaneously unbelievable and totally believable that the Yankees' chances of making and winning the Fall Classic remained relatively subdued even as they mounted their early charge on the record books.

There always was an air of unsustainability to it all, and not just on an individual level. There was also how they were winning games, including an initial 18-7 record in one-run games and an uncanny knack for coming from behind:

Katie Sharp @ktsharp

Yankees are 24-20 in games that they've trailed at any point in the game.<br><br>Every other team is at least 10 games under .500 in that situation.

Inevitably, both of these habits have hit a wall. The Yankees have come from behind to win only three times in their last 25 contests, in which they're also 3-8 in one-run games.

This doesn't mean they're suddenly a bad team or even merely a good one. It's more than likely that they'll get back to being great between now and the end of their season on Oct. 5. What they are right now is damaged, not broken beyond repair.

Rather than a singular one, however, the lesson of the last few weeks is that these Yankees are just another great team. And thus, a beatable one.

Overall Panic Meter: Medium


Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.

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