Most people were quick to write off the New York Yankees this season.
They were not hitting well, the defence was suspect and the pitching was abysmal. The Yankees were struggling to reach a winning record up to the All-Star Break. At one point in time, they were as much as 16 games out of first place.
Now, things are different. The Yankees are 56-49 and just 8 games back of Boston as of 30 July. They’re also four back in the Wild Card standings.
The turnaround has come mostly through hitting. The Yankee trademark of the last five years, the team is showing its old form.
Since the 10 July All-Star Break, New York has averaged roughly 10 runs a game. They’re currently second in baseball in runs and batting average and ninth in home runs.
Moreover, the Yankees have star offensive players. Alex Rodriguez currently leads the league in home runs, runs and Runs Batted In (RBIs). Derek Jeter is second in hits and tenth in batting average.
Does the power surge coming out of the Yankees’ bats mean they’ll make the playoffs? Are the Yankees a strong contender because of them? Not really.
The obstacle and chief hindrance for the Yankees continues to be their pitching. They’re currently ranked 15th out of 30 teams in runs allowed and ERA and 16th in Opposing Batting Average.
Furthermore, over the last 13 games the pitching staff has given up nearly 7 runs a game.
True, it is possible to win slugfests. The problem with that is a line-up will not fire on all cylinders every game and there’s big trouble when the other guys can pitch (teams like Anaheim and Cleveland come to mind). This is especially true in the playoffs, where blowouts are rare and pitching is crucial.
With that being said, a postseason birth for the Yankees looks bleak. Boston has a solid rotation and a dangerous line-up. The teams leading the chase for the Wild Card all field at least one starter with 10 wins or more.
In the late 90s, the Yankees were revered for fielding one of baseball’s best staffs time and time again. Guys like Pettite, Cone, Wells and Clemens were part of a rotation that kept the Yankees in almost every game. You would think they would keep that going well into the future.
Seven years have past since the Yankees last won the World Series. In that time, they went to the World Series twice. Both times they ran into arguably better pitching.
Yet the Yankees are seemingly stuck with their current pitchers. The Yankees continue to have baseball’s highest payroll, well into the $200 million range. Their current rotation is over the hill and overpaid while the pitching talent available on the free agent market is slim.
As a Yankees fan, it’s disheartening to see them struggle so much this season. It’s tough to fight the critics when the team does not perform. Then again, I’ve followed them long enough to know never to count them out.
In the end, there’s an old baseball saying that goes: hitting wins games while pitching wins championships. The Yankees already have what it takes to win games. Maybe in the near future, they’ll get what’s necessary to win championships again.