Yankees 2nd Half Resurgence, Will/Can It Happen?


Yankees GM Brian Cashman took a page out of George Steinbrenner’s book when he fired the hitting coach, Dillon Lawson, in season. Cashman never changed a coach before in season, but this Yankee offense has struggled mightily and Lawson took the fall.

In comes former MLB’er Sean Casey, who has not been a major league coach, to try and work some magic to jump start this dismal offense, but does this offense even have the ability to rebound.

What makes this season even more disappointing so far is that the Yankees have wasted a lot of good pitching.

Led by Gerrit Cole (9-2, 2.85 ERA), the Yankees are fifth in the league in team ERA (3.80), second in hits allowed and fifth in runs allowed.

It’s not just the offense that has dragged this team down. The Yankees have made numerous mistakes on the bases and that’s cost them a couple of games already this season.

Defense has been problematic, particularly in the outfield where players are out of position. There have been balls hit to the outfield, where plays are not being made because of inexperience.

Of course, Manager Aaron Boone is taking most of the heat for what has been a disappointing season so far. He has made a number of questionable moves but he deserves some credit for keeping this team afloat, while GM Brian Cashman has not exactly built a championship roster. Both men certainly know the deal around here. 

Left field was one problem that hasn’t yet been solved and the Yankees never backed up Anthony Volpe with a veteran shortstop. Someone who would accept a back up role and possibly serve as a mentor, in case Volpe struggled, which he did.

The current Yankee offensive philosophy is based on power and on base percentage. They believe that the more traffic on the bases, the more runs they will score with their power bats. That philosophy has also produced an inordinate number of strikeouts and a lack of consistent hitting with men on base and runners in scoring position.

As my nysportsday.com colleague Rich Mancuso pointed out in his most recent column, at the All Star break, the Yankees are middle of the pack in runs scored and are tied with Detroit for the second worst team batting average (.231) in the American League. They’re tied with Detroit for the second worst OBP (.300), are second worst in hits (690), and fourth from the bottom in walks (279). The only team worse is the 25-67 Oakland A’s.

Except for Volpe at shortstop, this is basically the same Yankee offense that ended last season with a 38-40 record after going 61-23, and were swept in the ALCS by the Astros after having to go five against an inferior Cleveland team to survive the ALDS.

Casey will have his hands full dealing with a lineup that lacks balance, has a continuing strikeout problem that has plagued this lineup the past few seasons and no real power off the bench. Oh, by the way, they could use a left fielder.

The Yankees are getting very little offensive production from left field (where they’ve used 9 players) and the catching position. Jose Trevino and Kyle Higashioka do a nice job handling the pitching staff, but neither of them provide any offensive threat while in the lineup or off the bench. Anything you get offensively from that duo is a plus.

You can probably look back at the previous 27 championships and find that the Yankees always had a left handed impact bat, likely more than one, in their lineup. The Yankees have not had a left handed impactful bat in their lineup since Robinson Cano left after the 2013 season. Greg Bird, Gregorius or Brett Gardner were not the left handed impact bats who can strike fear in an opposing right handed pitcher.

The Yankees have had to bring a number of left hand bats that didn’t pan out including Joey Gallo and switch hitter Aaron Hicks, who was brutal from the left side. Last season, Matt Carpenter and Andrew Benintendi were decent additions but both got hurt. Carpenter tried to come back after he got hurt in early August last season and was a shell of himself, while Benintendi missed the final weeks of the regular season and the post season. Anthony Rizzo is a nice fit in the lineup but is not the impactful bat from the left side that he used to be and he hasn’t been the same since he suffered that neck injury against the Padres.

The Astros have dominated the Yankees with their right handed pitching. During last season’s ALCS, Houston did not even put a left hand reliever on their roster.

Do you think the Yankees could’ve used a bat like 29-year old Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida, who is thriving for the Red Sox in left field and bats left handed. The Yankees reportedly showed some interest but for one reason or another, they allowed the rival Red Sox to snag him on a four year deal for a little under $75 million dollars.

Can this offense be better? Will the veteran players play up to the “backs of their baseball cards?”

Of course, Aaron Judge returning would certainly help but even when the Yankees were somewhat healthy earlier in the season (with Judge in the lineup), they had lapses where they weren’t scoring a lot of runs. If the supporting players are not supporting, Judge’s return will be a moot point for this season.

D.J. LeMahieu’s offense has gone south and some feel he’s finished. I don’t think LeMahieu has responded well to this logjam in the infield where the Yankees are fitting five players into four spots. This philosophy of scheduled off days doesn’t appear to be working either and seems to have become more of a hindrance.

Giancarlo Stanton has not had a good season and even if he gets on one of his streaks, there is always a question of availability. Gleyber Torres continues to be an enigma and may need a change of scenery, while Josh Donaldson is finished.

Looking ahead to the second half, the Yankees are 49-42, 4th in the East, seven games back of the Rays in the loss column. 

The Yankees trail the Astros and the Blue Jays by only a game for the final WC spot, while they are six behind the Orioles for the first Wild Card spot, so that likely leaves only two spots up for grabs. Tampa Bay is almost assured of a post season spot, even if they lose the division to the Orioles. The Yankees lead the Red Sox by only a game with four other clubs in the mix, including Seattle, Cleveland, Minnesota and the Angels, who are only four games behind but could fade because of their injuries.

Cleveland or Minnesota will win the weak Central Division, so the loser there is a Wild Card competitor. I think the Astros will eventually capture the West, so Texas will become one of the main competitors for a wild card spot. The Yankees lost the season series to the Rangers, who have the tiebreaker. (Remember, there is no more one game playoff to decide a division winner or a wild card spot)

The remainder of the schedule shows a very tough grind.

The Yankees have yet to play their seven games against the Astros this season and they still have to go to Miami and Atlanta for three games each. There are home series scheduled against the first place Milwaukee Brewers and Arizona, who has not been an easy mark this season.

There are 13 games left against Detroit and Kansas City from the Central, but the Yankees have not shown an ability to capitalize against supposedly inferior clubs (8-8 vs Minnesota, Cleveland and Chicago).

There are still 22 divisional games left (13-17 vs AL East teams) including four of seven in Boston, where they haven’t won yet and three in Baltimore, along with a home and home against Tampa Bay and Toronto. (ICYMI: Jays closer Jordan Romano threw only five pitches in the All Star game and came out with a what was announced as lower back tightness)

The six games against the Blue Jays will be played in the final 12 days of the regular season and could decide who goes to the post season and who goes home.

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