In Friday’s 8-2 loss against the Tampa Bay Rays, fans flooded the field with baseballs and other objects in the eighth inning, causing a brief delay. The New York Yankees couldn’t shake Tyler Glasnow on Saturday, and the Rays won 6-3. On Sunday, fans even mocked Jerritt Cole when he left the mound after giving up a double to a balky Yoshi Tsutsugo in the seventh inning; Ray won 4-2 and the Yankees left the field again to a chorus of boos, not in New York, NY.
First, give Tampa Bay credit. The Rays went 5-1 against the Yankees in 2021 and 8-2 last season, plus a win in the American League Divisional Series. Including this series, the Rays have now won seven consecutive series against the Yankees and return for their final showdown in 2019.
The Yankees’ current problems go beyond just having their number. The Yankees have the worst record in the American League at 5-10, the most games in a season since 9-17 in 1991. While the general rule in baseball is not to overdo the first few weeks of the season – remember the last time the Yankees started 5-10 in 1997, they finished 96-66 and made the playoffs – you can look for a pattern. It has to do with the fact that the Yankees are struggling in the rotation, on defense and in the field.
– Problems with the rotation have been documented. Starters have an ERA of 4.74; take Cole and his balls come in at 6.39. Consider that Cole has started four of the team’s 15 games, or 27%. By the end of the season, that ratio will drop to about 20%, assuming he starts 33 of 162 games.
– The current lineup in center by catcher Gary Sanchez, center fielders Gleyber Torres and Rugned Odor, and center fielder Aaron Hicks does not look like a championship caliber defense. The Yankees can get around this by bringing in Kyle Higashioka, and possibly DJ LeMahieu at second base after Luke Voit is back.
– The big surprise is that he’s hitting just .210/.296/.346. This is the lowest sub-15 batting average for the Yankees since 1968 and the lowest sub-15 OPS since 1973. The strength of a team is assumed, but the opponents have more home runs (21 against 16) and more doubles (22 against 19).
That slow start earned manager Aaron Boone an obvious embarrassment after Friday’s loss. Boone asked the question after the game and said it was about what’s out there.
But outfielder Clint Frazier said: He is so cold that when he speaks to us, everyone must listen to him.
Frazier said they would be ready Saturday; instead, the Yankees have now extended their losing streak to five in a row.
I’m disappointed, personally disappointed, said LeMahieu, the 2020 AL baseball champion who is hitting .288 with a home run. No one will feel sorry for us. No one is going to throw softer or easier for us. We have to find the strength within ourselves to get better and play the way we know we can.
While LeMahieu concluded that the team was tough and tenacious, Cole seemed a little more introspective, saying they’ve played this game long enough, they’ll get through some shit. We have to put on our boots and wade through the mud.
Indeed, the 1997 Yankees are an example to follow. After a 5-10 start to the season, they won eight of their next 10 games to reach the 500 mark by the end of April. Going back to 1996, here are the top five records for teams that started 5-10 or worse, courtesy of ESPN’s stats and information:
- 2001 A: 102-60 (start 4-11)
- 2002 Angels: 99-63 (5-10 start)
- 2000 Giants: 97-65 (pitched 4-11).
- 2018 A: 97-65 (pitched 5-10).
- Yankees 1997: 96-66 (start 5-10)
On the other hand… As you would expect, many more bad teams start at 5-10. I looked at all the teams that started exactly 5-10 between 1996 and 2019 and I was talking about 62 teams. His final average is 73-89. Besides the three teams above, only four teams win 90 games: the 2013 Indians (92-70) and Rays (92-71), the 2011 Red Sox (90-72) and the 2009 Rockies (92-70).
This Yankees team reminds me a bit of the 2019 Boston Red Sox. Prior to the World Series, the Red Sox had a slow start: 5-10 after 15 games and 9-15 after 24 games. Somehow, Boston never recovered from a slow start, falling behind by seven games at the end of April and never getting closer than three games behind until the final score of 84-78.
The Yankees, along with the Rangers, have the lowest OPS in the majors at .642. I’m sure the Yankees won’t be in that position at the end of the season. Giancarlo Stanton, Frazier, Torres and Hicks are hitting under .200. Voight, the 2020 autodidact, will help.
Torres is hard to fathom after hitting 38 home runs and looking like a future star in 2019 at the age of 22. In fact, he improved his runs in 2020 (from 31.3% to 20.1%) and 2021 (to 13.9%), and generally better plate discipline leads to better numbers; instead, he remains with zero home runs and one RBI. Maybe a more aggressive approach – hitting the first pitch more often in 2019 – would suit him better.
Either way, we’re 15 games into a very long season. Yankees fans are demanding that Boone be fired. The columnists joke that Jay Bruce shouldn’t have resigned because he could have cleaned up this week if Boone had wanted to shake things up. Twitter is full of comments like: The Yankees are 5-10, but they look worse, and I’ve literally waited my entire life for a bad Yankee season.
Put this in your back pocket: The last time the Yankees lost a season was in 1992.
(And while we’re at it, it’s now a lock, the Yankees won 12 of 14 and took first place on May 4. Thank me later, Yankees fans).
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