Looking Back and Looking Ahead
by Tim Kabel July 25, 2022 *** It was great to see the Yankees bounce back against the Orioles yesterday afternoon, shutting them out and winning the series. I have to state the obvious, things looked pretty bleak after Michael King left the mound with a fractured elbow on Friday night and the Yankees lost the game to the Orioles with their ace, Gerrit Cole on the mound on Saturday. The pitching, once a major strength of the 2022 Yankees, is now a question mark. The Yankees needed to make a statement yesterday, the right the ship (if you will) - and they did. They did it behind one of the players who has been one of the great stories of the team, an underdog, who is becoming a superhero (not unlike Underdog.)
Yesterday afternoon, Nestor Cortes pitched six shutout innings. (Keeping with the superhero theme) Clarke (Kent?) Schmidt closed the game out, earning the save with three scoreless innings of his own.
Thanks to these two pitchers, things look a lot better today than they did on Saturday night. I happen to believe that Clarke Schmidt just might be good enough to serve in the Michael King role. He has the stuff. Maybe King's injury won't hurt as much as we all fear. Last year, Michael King was a below average starter who was turned into a very solid relief pitcher. Many Yankee fans were complaining about the prospects the team gave up to acquire Clay Holmes, who was considered to be a mediocre relief pitcher. I doubt many of us remember the names of the players they traded for Holmes. Also, Wandy Peralta was acquired in a trade for Mike Tauchman. I believe Tauchman is currently playing overseas. There are replacements for King. The Yankees have the option of using their own talent to fill the void created by King's loss. That could be a combination of Ron Marinaccio, Domingo German, Clarke Schmidt, and J P Sears. They could also acquire David Robertson or another relief pitcher in a trade. Things sometimes look worse than they are. I think this is a case like that. This team has depth. The pitching will survive. I do still worry because before yesterday the Yankees had lost 8 of their last 12 games going into yesterday This was their first 4-8 streak of the season. Ther only two teams which do not have such a streak are the Mets and the Braves. When things start to look bad, you have to wonder if the team is playing at a new level. The Orioles have proven this year to be a tough team. Taking two of three from them is meaningful. My real concern is the lineup, not the pitching. The lack of production from the outfield and the bottom of the batting order, specifically, Joey Gallo, who is basically an automatic out. There are certain players, like Judge or Stanton, who when they come up, you will not get a snack or use the restroom, because you don't want to miss it. Gallo is the exact opposite. When you know he's coming up, you decide to go get a snack or walk the dog. If you don’t have a dog, you walk the neighbor’s dog just so you don’t have to watch Gallo strike out. He needs to go. Aaron Hicks is extremely inconsistent and even at his best, he is merely adequate. When you have a bottom of the lineup that has Jose Trevino, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Aaron Hicks, and Joey Gallo, that is not very inspiring. I don't mean that as a knock on either Kiner-Falefa or Trevino. Trevino has proven to be a very good hitter and is much better than advertised. The point is that when he is the best of your bottom four hitters in the lineup, that's a problem. It would be hard to win a World Series with that lineup. Kiner-Falefa has a 12-game hitting streak and is hitting over .270. The only problem is he has absolutely no power. He is not going to scare another team in the playoffs. He may be able to slap a single but, he can't do any more than that. Again, that is not a problem in and of itself. The problem is you have Hicks and Gallo dragging the lineup down. When you throw Marwin Gonzalez in, it is even worse.
If the Yankees acquire someone such as Andrew Benintendi, the lineup will become deeper and longer. I will repeat what I have written before. If the Yankees do not trade Oswald Peraza, they should bring him up at the beginning of August and make him the starting shortstop. If he struggles and is overmatched, they could shift Kiner-Falefa back into a starting role. However, Peraza would provide an upgrade defensively and has the potential to hit for some power, which Kiner- Falefa does not. Right now, the Yankees are going through a period of adjustment. I suspect that they will be just fine once they figure out how to fill King's role and strengthen the bullpen, and the outfield, and if necessary, the starting rotation. The trading deadline is less than 10 days away. So, I suspect the team will look different by then. The team just needs some fine-tuning for the playoff run. A few other fun facts and thoughts:
Anthony Rizzo entered the game without a home run in 13 games. That is his longest homerless stretch of the season.
Matt Carpenter has 14 home runs in his first 34 games as a Yankee, which is the most by any player on any team since 1901.
Yesterday Jose Trevino had his first career 4-hit game. (Where would the Yankees be without Trevino, Cortes, and Carpenter?)
The Yankees’ pitching staff now has 13 shutouts. That ties them for the MLB lead with the Mets.
Aaron Judge ranks first in the Major Leagues in home runs, RBI, and runs scored. He ranks third in WAR. I guess he’s a pacifist.
The Yankees and some other Major League teams apparently have a “mental skills” coach. Imagine the fun Yogi Berra would have had with such a person. “Ninety percent of this game is half-mental.”
Giancarlo Stanton was out of the lineup for the second straight day. Aaron Boone reported that he was exhausted. Apparently, that All-Star MVP trophy is heavier than it looks.
In the minor leagues, Jasson Dominguez went 2-5 with a stolen base in his second High-A game and Oswald Peraza went 2-3 with a double, two walks, and two stolen bases for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday. After a terrible start, he is now hitting .253 with 12 home runs, 35 RBI, and 22 stolen bases. I have to wonder if they will be the Yankees' organization after the trading deadline.
These are the times that try a general manager's soul. Do you give up a future talent to win today? How much do you give to get Juan Soto or Luis Castillo? Does the Championship (supposing they win it all) still feel great in 2018 if a player like Dominguez is traded and he becomes a huge star for another team?