I have been saying it for weeks, anywhere that you can hear my on Bleacher Brawls, the podcast, our YouTube channel, or here on the blog, it is ok for the Yankees to take their foot off the gas in August. No team has ever won a championship in August. No team wants to peak in August. Championship teams peak in October. Having a bad August is not necessarily a cause for alarm.
However, August has been a much tougher month to get through than I had anticipated. If I were to say the Yankees have been playing like trash for the month of August, that would be a legitimate insult to trash. This team has been BAD.
With September on the horizon and injured Yankees slated to return to the roster, the Yankees are starting to show signs of life. A positive takeaway was their 2 game series against the Mets. They won both games against a top National League team, beating a still elite Max Scherzer. That was a good sign, they rose to the occasion and played well when facing pressure. They really showed some mental toughness (despite any comments made by Luke to the contrary)
As we roll into September, with postseason roster decisions looming, I really wanted to take a State of the Union look at this team.
First and foremost, the lineup. The Yankees have struggled in recent years in the playoffs because they have not hit with runners in scoring position. April through June, this looked to be a thing of the past. However, July through August, we’ve seen this flaw begin to arise once again.
There were quite a few factors as to why the Yankees were not hitting with runners in scoring position. Most notably, all the injuries allowed opposing teams to start pitching around Aaron Judge. Limiting the damage Aaron Judge can do with his bat put pressure on the rest of the lineup. Giancarlo Stanton was on the IL, not protecting Judge in the lineup.
DJ LeMahieu has been struggling with an injured right toe. This is a devastating injury for the type of hitter LeMahieu is. LeMahieu has a very balanced batting stance and uses the entire field with the tendency to pull off speed pitches while taking fast balls the other way. His inability to put weight on his back foot limits his ability to use the whole field. DJ recently received a cortisone shot for that toe but it is clearly affecting him. Maybe it’s time to sit DJ for another week or two with hopes the toe will begin to feel better?
Two more glaring issues in this lineup have been Anthony Rizzo and Gleyber Torres. Rizzo had a back issue a few months ago and has not been the same hitter since, providing no protection to Aaron Judge in the lineup.
Gleyber is a completely different story. The 2019 Gleyber Torres, the budding superstar, is a thing of the past. I recently called out Gleyber in a YouTube video stating it was time for him to step up. The Yankees needed him to pick up the slack in August with LeMahieu and Rizzo hurting and Stanton on the IL. This did not happen. Gleyber continued his struggles. He’s shown no life and his production continues to plummet. When looking at the postseason roster and who will be playing on an everyday basis, will Gleyber be the odd man out?
The pitching staff has been full of question marks as well but there is hope for the remainder of the season.
Luis Severino will likely be back in time for the postseason. He’s been pitching simulated innings, ramping up for a return. He’ll likely have two minor league starts followed by two major league starts before the playoffs start. Sevy could be a huge boost to the Yankees pitching staff. A healthy Sevy slots in as the #2 starter behind Cole, pushing other starters further down the depth chart. A healthy Sevy usually equals an electric Sevy which is what we saw earlier in the season. Severino will be needed for the playoffs, if he can’t go, the Yankees would be in trouble.
Nestor Cortes was just placed on the 15 day IL. It’s about dang time this happened! Cortes has clearly been dealing with fatigue since the All Star break. The Yankees need to give him some rest now because he WILL be needed as the 3rd or 4th starter for the Yankees in the postseason.
Domingo German has quietly been putting together some good outings. He’s a valuable weapon for the Yankees. A few years ago he was arguably the best pitcher the Yankees had. He can contribute as either a starter or a long reliever in the playoffs. He has a good arm with excellent spin on his fastball which generates late movement on his fastball. The more he relies on the late moving fastball, the better he has pitched. A trend that needs to continue.
The Yankees two closers have been completely ineffective this season. Zack Britton continues to rehab from Tommy John surgery. If the Yankees are really, really lucky, he makes it back for the last week of the regular season and the playoffs.
Aroldis Chapman is an entirely different problem. Chapman, who has been almost unpitchable this season, is now dealing with an infection stemming from a recent leg tattoo. Is there anything more Aroldis Chapman than that statement? Chapman has been something else since he came to the Yankees. The Yankees were able to trade for him because he was suspended. He’s shown dominance in the regular season then gives up game breaking home runs in the playoffs. He’s been wildly inconsistent. If his Yankee tenure ends on an IL stint because of an infection from a tattoo, that would actually be pretty fitting. It just highlights what a roller coaster ride life with Aroldis Chapman as your closer can be.
Lastly, I want to give a shout out to Oswaldo Cabrera. This kid has played with so much heart since he was called up from Scranton-Wilkes-Barre. Every game he makes an impressive play with his glove. After a week, his bat started to come around as he put together back to back 3 hit games. I love watching this kid, he looks like he belongs in the major leagues. Ideally as the Yankees get role players back from the IL (Matt Carpenter for instance) the best move the Yankees could make would be to DFA that cheating former Houston Asterisk Marwin Gonzalez and role with Oswaldo Cabrera for the postseason roster.
All in all, August was a struggle but the Yankees are still World Series contenders. If this team starts playing with the urgency we saw them play with in April through June, they can really make some noise.
Aaron Boone needs to get this team fired up for September and October. Maybe flip a table or throw a chair in the clubhouse? Whatever it takes Booney, whatever it takes.