September 13, 2022
This week we asked our writers:
Have the Yankees turned it around? Are they "back?"
Here are their responses:
Lincoln Mitchell - The Yankees have probably put enough distance between them and Tampa that they will win the division, but they are not back. The Yankees still don’t have a top notch offense. Additionally, while the pitching has been fine, I don’t see this team having an ace that can shut down the best offenses in October. Cole is a fine pitcher, but he is no longer at that level.
Tamar Chalker - I’m cautiously optimistic the Yankees are returning to form. What that means for the playoffs, your guess is as good as mine, but I think there are some hopeful signs right now.
Paul Semendinger - I'd love for the Yankees to be back. I hope they are. Are they? I'm not convinced. There are so many holes and poor decisions that becomes difficult to overcome.
I think the Yankees all but wrapped up the division. That's a good thing. It's great, in fact.
Will the Yankees roll through the playoffs? I'm not so sure.
I think the Yankees would be fortunate to play the Twins who they own. But, I think the Yankees will run into the Astros who feel about the Yankees the same way the Yankees feel about the Twins.
Mike Whiteman - It's great to see the Yankees playing better. A few wins and some offense does a lot for a team's psyche. I really wish they didn't have an off day yesterday.
The recent rehabs of the numerous pitchers and Harrison Bader, and the hopeful return to health of Anthony Rizzo, Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu, Andrew Benintendi (fingers crossed) have me optimistic that they will become more and more "whole" throughout the month, and be "back" in time for the postseason.
Tim Kabel - I don’t believe they are back to their first half of the season level of excellence. I think they’re headed in that direction and are basically in the suburbs. It’s possible they could make it back and if they do, it would coincide nicely with the postseason.
Ethan Semendinger - This past week/weekend was much needed for the Yankees to all but guarantee themselves a spot in the playoffs. Going 5-2 in the last 7 games is a very good sign. Obviously, they haven't clinched anything yet, but a 5.5 game lead in the AL East should be hard to break for the Tampa Bay Rays. (Also, the Baltimore Orioles are the first team fighting for a wild card spot in the AL and they have a 73-67 record to the Yankees 85-56. They'll make the playoffs.)
The bigger question is if the bats will continue to hit as they just did from this past week. The team is still too dependent on the long ball and there are far too many injuries to get comfortable with the team, but they should play well enough from here on out to get the AL East title for just the 2nd time in the past 10 years (since 2013). We just have to hope come October that the Yankees have enough time to get their key pieces back and ready. I'm cautiously optimistic right now.
Ed Botti - The Yankees are 6-4 in their last 10 games. It is too small of a sample size for me to get optimistic about them turning the season around and leaving the dismal July and August in the rear view mirror.
The bullpen has been doing well, and reinforcements are on the way. The same goes for the rotation, Sevy is due back soon.
The fate of the 2022 Yankees all comes down to their offensive approach, health, and Gerrit Cole pitching like a true ace, in my opinion.
Forget the scores, but I really liked the way they approached each at bat on Saturday and again on Sunday vs. the Rays.
Judge needs protection in the lineup, otherwise why pitch to him?
There are many “if’s” that have to go right, for me to view them as a serious contender to make it into the fall classic. If Benintendi, DJ and Rizzo come back and are healthy, they have a good shot at turning this around heading into the playoffs. If Holmes pitches like he did in April-June they have a good shot at turning this around heading into the playoffs. If Chapman somehow gets his head straight and Britton comes back they have a good shot at turning this around heading into the playoffs. If Stanton can be a force behind Judge they have a good shot at turning this around heading into the playoffs. If they finally lose their launch angle approach and focus on grinding out at bats and hitting the ball hard, not far, they have a good shot at turning this around heading into the playoffs.
I have been misunderstood here for the last four seasons. I am not anti-home run. I love the home run. My issue is you cannot build a team based on an occurrence that happens 4% of the time. If your focus is to hit the ball hard, the home runs will absolutely follow. If your focus is on just hitting home runs, you will strike too often and not make productive outs. Productive out are more often than not, the difference between winning and losing, especially against top tier competition.
If Bader can actually play CF and contribute they have a good shot at turning this around heading into the playoffs. If Jose Trevino comes back, leaving the automatic out Higgy on the bench, they have a good shot at turning this around heading into the playoffs. If they go with IKF and Donaldson at third base, and let Peraza play shortstop they have a good shot at turning this around heading into the playoffs. I like IKF, but his arm is too weak for shortstop. Peraza has a shortstop’s arm, and makes all the plays in the field. But can he hit enough? Now is the time to find out.
If Cashman stays out of Boone’s way and lets him manage they have a good shot at turning this around heading into the playoffs. If Gleyber Torres can continue his apparent resurgence they have a good shot at turning this around heading into the playoffs. If Scott Effross can come back and pitch like he was pitching they have a good shot at turning this around heading into the playoffs.
Moving forward, Hicks and Gonzalez should not be on the post season roster. Neither has a role on this team, especially since Cabrera and Peraza (and Bader soon) are on the roster.
Will all or any of that happen? We will find out very soon! They may not get every single “if” I pointed out, but they need many of them to play out.
Anything can happen. Every team has their own “if’s” to consider. It just seems like the Yanks have more than most.
Cary Greene - Clearly the answer to this question remains to be determined, for predicting baseball is an endeavor that never seems to go as those who attempt to predict say it will.
I caution the optimism that two wins against the Rays has generated. The Yankees have by far the easiest remaining schedule in the Division, according to Tankathon, the Yankees remaining opponents, have a .488 winning percentage. With only 21 games left in the season it would be very difficult for the Yankees to not win the Division. None of this regular season stuff really matters. The Yankees don’t have much time left to get back to being the team the fans once thought they were. It will be very difficult to integrate players like Aroldis Chapman, Harrison Bader, Zack Britton, Miguel Castro, Matt Carpenter, and Luis Severino and expect them all to be fantastic. All of this is nothing short of a massive “ask” and it would take a mini-miracle for all of these veteran players to each jump in and be their vintage or former selves. I just don’t see it happening. Hope I’m wrong here.
Also, I don’t see the Yankees leadership team using any of these players correctly, even if some of them do come back and show they can contribute. For example, using Luis Severino to start games, considering he’s not built up, isn’t a good idea. He should be closing and potentially working two inning saves. He’s shown a bulldog mentality coming out of the bullpen in the past, it’s time to replicate this. The Yankees probably aren’t “smart enough” to attempt this. They’ll likely try to start him and that’s a bad idea because it taxes a somewhat questionable bullpen if your starter can only go three or four innings - suffice it to say - this wouldn’t be a recipe for advancing deep into the playoffs. Learning from past mistakes isn’t something the Yankees are good at. Having a gassed bullpen has already cost the Yankees a possible World Series title and it seems to be a recurring theme these days. I doubt the Yankees would think outside the box and slot Sevy into the back of the bullpen - but they really should.
The lack of left-handed balance both in the rotation, in the bullpen and especially in the lineup is now at critical mass. Not having this will likely mean a fairly early playoffs exit for the Yankees. Personally, I think we should wait until the inevitable happens and then demand Cashman and Boone both be replaced - perhaps even crying out for the front office to be shaken up, for Michael Fishman to be removed and for Randy Levine to be asked to retire. This team needs new leadership. Unfortunately, with Hal Steinbrenner - as complacent and tolerant of losing as he is - in charge, I don’t expect it to be a fun offseason and I’m rather dreading the gauntlet the Yankees will need to run in the playoffs if they are to accomplish the mission.
This team needs to produce a World Series. It’s really that simple. It’s been 12 long years, enough is enough!
Andy Singer - The stars were always designed to align by September/October. Did the Yankees plan to throw away August in such spectacular fashion? Certainly not. However, injuries and the law of averages deemed otherwise. The roster we saw in August had very little resemblance to the roster that dominated in the first half of the season (Carpenter, Stanton, most of the relief pitching, etc.), and key components of the roster that did suit up were shells of their former selves as they tried to play through injuries (Stanton and LeMahieu). While some 2nd half regression should have been expected just based on the law of averages and load management, August gave even the most optimistic of us pause even despite the injuries.
However, the Yankees are in the process of getting healthier than they've been since June. Even without full health, they took 2 out of 3 against both the Mets and the Rays in recent weeks in playoff-like settings. It showed me that this team does have some mettle and an ability to turn it on when the stakes are higher. Add health to that mix, and suddenly this is a very different team. I know I'm a broken record, but I genuinely believe Harrison Bader fills a significant need: his defense is a difference-maker that the Yankees needed, and his bat is significantly better (and projects to be even better in pinstripes by just getting away from Busch Stadium...I'll say it again, the man has an .820 OPS away from Busch Stadium in his career and was an above average hitter in 2020 and 2021) than has been popularly discussed. Help is on the way for a team that has somewhat righted the ship, going 12-8 since August 21st. By the skin of their teeth, the Yankees are about to peak at the right time.