What's wrong with the Yankees? Surprisingly, the problems start with offense
The New York Yankees are in last place, and their fans have had it.
The frustration from supporters boiled over Friday night in what became an 8-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
One fan threw a baseball onto the field while New York’s Clint Frazier was batting. Then came another. And another. Soon the field was littered with baseballs in an impromptu protest of the Yankees’ poor play. The game was delayed as the balls were gathered and removed from the field.
"You kind of hate seeing that," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after the game. "Unfortunately, a handful of people end up doing it, and it looks bad for everyone."
On one hand, the behavior of some frustrated fans can be somewhat understood. Yes, the Yankees haven’t been to – let alone won – a World Series since 2009. On the other hand, many teams have had much longer droughts. And the Yankees did win 100-plus games as recently as 2019.
One thing is clear, though: The Yankees might have a problem on their hands, and a few fans tossing baseballs onto the field isn’t going to solve it.
On Saturday, the Yankees fell again to the Rays, this time 6-3. Once again, they were stifled by a Rays starter, as Tyler Glasnow held them to one run in five innings of work. On Sunday, not even ace Gerrit Cole could save the Yanks, as they managed to go just 3-for-30 at the plate in a 4-2 defeat.
Sunday's loss dropped the last-place Yankees to 5-10, five games behind the division-leading Boston Red Sox. Their .333 winning percentage is better than that of only one team, the Colorado Rockies (.267).
As stunning as the poor start has been, there are a lot of games left to play. But it's worth exploring the issues that could be holding the Yankees back.
Surprisingly, the biggest problem so far is the offense. That’s unusual for a franchise known for stocking its roster with muscled sluggers, but that’s what’s happening so far this season.
"They’re relying too much on the long ball," FOX Sports MLB analyst Dontrelle Willis said. "They need to do a better job in that lineup fighting and piecing together and starting, manufacturing rallies."
The Yankees might be attempting to rely on the long ball, but it’s not working out very well, as they are tied for 17th in MLB in home runs (16), and they're last in the league in slugging percentage (.346).
Looking at their lineup, only Aaron Judge is performing like a star. He leads the team's regulars in home runs (four), slugging percentage (.510) and OPS (.831). Gleyber Torres, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Jay Bruce — who announced his decision to retire Sunday — and Frazier are all hitting under .200.
The lineup as a whole (heading into Sunday's games) has an OPS+ of just 89 (100 is average). By comparison, the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers have an OPS+ of 131, and the Red Sox are at 124.
Pitching has also been an issue for the Yankees so far in the early going. While it’s true that the team ERA of 3.64 ranks a respectable 10th in MLB, that stat is bolstered by the greatness of Cole.
Cole, who is 2-1 with a 1.82 ERA through four starts, has been shouldering the load. And he hasn’t been getting a lot of help.
"Everybody besides Gerrit Cole, the rotation has been horrible," Willis said. "They’re 1-6 with a 6.00 ERA in 10 starts. That’s not gonna get it done, especially in that division, where they have a lot of lineups that can get it done."
Some of this could be chalked up to the schedule, which has already featured six games against the defending AL champion Rays. The Yankees are 1-5 in those games and have lost seven straight series (including playoff matchups) to Tampa Bay.
"They’re in the Yankees’ dome," Willis said. "This is the first time I’ve seen this since I’ve been around baseball."
Obviously, it’s way too early in the season to be worried. The Yankees’ bats could come around soon, and some pitchers could step up to help Cole.
Willis, while saying that the Yankees should be nervous about digging themselves too big a hole early in the season, noted that he thinks New York will get things turned around.
"I believe the Yankees can get it done," he said. "I believe in Aaron Boone. They just gotta start cutting down on their swings."
And Judge said he believes his teammates will start to warm up soon.
"We’ve just got to get guys going," he said. "I keep going back to having quality at-bats. Stick your nose in there, and grind it out. Eventually, those homers, those doubles, those extra-base hits you really need with guys on base will come."
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