Let’s start with a question, who are the five best players on the New York Yankees below the age of 30? Gleyber Torres is the first name that comes to mind, he’s 26 but who comes after him? Harrison Bader? He’s 29 but by no means a player they can consistently rely on. Isiah Kiner-Falefa? The bullpen? Now you start to see the crux of the Yankees’ problems. They are an old team that is starting to show its age and this year has been the pinnacle of that.
Here’s another thing to think about, how many trades have the Yankees made in recent years that have worked out in their favor? Getting Anthony Rizzo from the Chicago Cubs, sure. Landing Clay Holmes from the Pittsburgh Pirates also helped. After that, you start to stretch your head a bit and this leads to the next problem with the Yankees. They have not upgraded significantly via the pipeline or a big deal in a long time and it’s showing now.
This team is bad. They have an above .500 record at 59-56 but their last-place position in the American League East Division is more indicative of where they are. This has been years in the making, a compilation of poor decisions and a bad philosophy for team building. The Yankees have to look at a receipt for years of poor mover that leave them on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.
Yankees Ran It Back. Big Mistake
There were two ways to look at last season. The first way of seeing it was that they were on the doorstep of winning the pennant. They had a powerful lineup and a deep rotation and easily won the division. It was easy to think they would be able to do it again this year and if they added a piece or two, they could compete for the World Series.
The other way of seeing last season was that it was their best chance and it would be all downhill from there. Aaron Judge had one of the greatest hitting seasons in American League history and the roster for the most part was healthy. Having a lot go right didn’t seem likely for another year in a row.
General manager Brian Cashman saw it as the former. They were close and ready to take that next step despite underlying issues with the team. The decision he made was to run it back with the same team. The problem is that the same team is one year older and slightly slower at the plate. Giancarlo Stanton is 33 and a free swinger, DJ LeMehieu is 34 and a slap hitter on a good day, and Josh Donaldson is 37 and a shell of himself (not like it matters, he’s injured).
The result of running it back is what the Yankees are this year. Their lineup has been awful. Without Judge in it, the Yankees might have the worst batting order in baseball. Is this an exaggeration? Possibly but considering these stats. Judge has a .284 Batting Average, the team average is .232 which is the second worst in baseball. Take away the Yankees’ best hitter and only two batters in the lineup have an OPS+ over 100. This team has not only looked bad but the results reflect it.
The Same Philosophy Continues to Doom Them
The Yankees have always been built on power as a franchise. It’s been their blueprint for success and has helped them win 27 World Series titles (short fences help too).
The problem is that this team has leaned too far into their power. The lineup assembled has more than enough power and not nearly enough contact and plate discipline. It’s left the Yankees with a team that easily strikes out at the plate and particularly struggled with offspeed pitches out of the zone. All the opposition needs to do to limit the lineup is bring in a pitcher that doesn’t rely on the fastball and is willing to get the batter to chase, which isn’t a hard thing to do.
Moreover, the Yankees haven’t learned their lesson from the 2021 team. That year, they had too many right-handed bats in their lineup and there wasn’t a lefty slugger to break things up. It allowed teams to bring in a reliever that could attack them with angles, specifically a right-handed pitcher that could make them swing and miss. Once again, the Yankees have fallen into a similar plight.
Where The Yankees Go From Here
The Yankees aren’t firing Brian Cashman, that’s not happening. For as much as Cashman’s stumbled recently, the job is his until he doesn’t want to operate the team anymore. The question is how this season plays out and how it affects the team in the long haul.
The best hope is that the Yankees can make a push for the postseason but then what? They can backdoor their way into a wild card spot but what does that do? In all likelihood, the Yankees reaching the playoffs will mean they play a competent opponent early on and suffer a quick playoff exit. If they make it though, what does that mean for the future, does that convince Cashman to run it back again? The fans can only hope otherwise.
The bottom line is that the Yankees need an overhaul regardless of how this season plays out. They need more youth, speed, and contact in their lineup. They need more plate discipline and the ability to get runners on base. They need batters who when runners are in scoring position, can make decent contact. The Yankees need to change their identity and this season has been a case in point as to why.