The Yankees offense was discussed with great admiration over the winter. The addition of reigning NL MVP and certified slugger Giancarlo Stanton and breakout performances from Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius lead many to believe the 2018 Yankees could reach the heights of the 1927 “Murderers Row” team that struck fear into every pitcher in the league. Unfortunately for the 2018 team, however, injuries and poor performances have played a large role in the Yankees’ current situation than home runs and slugging percentages.
The team was resilient enough to push through terrible month-long droughts from Gary Sanchez, Neil Walker, and Stanton early in the year thanks to some stellar pitching. Now, however, the pitching has been just as streaky in August and September. The poor timing of injuries to Judge, Sanchez, and Gregorius added with some pedestrian pitching these past couple months resulted in the perfect storm for a team who spent all season with expectations of at least reaching the World Series.
Back to basics
The biggest issue for the Yankees is also their biggest asset, the home run. They’re just too dependent on it. Through the first 13 games of September, the Yankees have scored 60 runs, an average of roughly 4.6 runs per game. Of those 60 runs, 30 have come from home runs, equaling 50%. That’s an incline from 31% over the course of the whole season to this point. Now I’m not recommending the Yankees give up hitting home runs and focus solely on small-ball. But focusing more on getting runners into scoring position and using the number of walks the team racks up every game would improve and diversify the different ways that the Yankee offense can score.
“Take what the pitcher gives you” is a saying I personally like to use when discussing the Yankees this month. Pitchers are so talented these days, you’re not as likely to see that middle-middle, 97 MPH heater you can gift wrap for a lucky fan in the right field bleachers anymore. Pitchers can locate that heater now, and now spin rates are being used to a pitcher’s advantage, not to mention offspeed pitches, which have only become nastier than they’ve ever been. The Yankees need to simplify their approach at the plate, and they’re just going to have to live with fewer home runs than they’d like, especially with October right around the corner. Knowing the high level of pitching they’re likely to face if matched up with the likes of Boston or Houston in the postseason, it’d be wise to simplify their approach to stringing together hits instead of relying solely on walks and home runs.
There’s still hope
The bright spot for the Yankees is that they can still turn their offensive numbers around. Injuries played a larger role in their recent struggles than their love for the long ball. Getting a bat in the hands of Judge sooner rather than later will vastly improve the offensive production. New York was stubborn in the early stages of Judge’s wrist injury, originally thinking a three-week recovery plan would suffice. This was obviously not the case as he was literally just activated off the DL. But if he can come back and get into a nice groove before the season ends, there’s a good chance their offense can fix a few of their issues before the games become win or go home.
All eyes will turn to Yankee Stadium on Tuesday when the Yankees welcome the Red Sox for a three-game set in an attempt to fend off the hungry Athletics looking to seize the home-field advantage in the AL Wild Card Game. If the Yankees can hold their own against Boston, it may give them just the right kind of confidence to propel them into the postseason and potentially even that elusive World Series appearance they’ve been craving for the last eight seasons. It’s going to be all hands on deck for the Bronx Bombers the rest of the way, and if they can get a few good wins in a row, this team has the talent to roar through October.
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