Yankees to Outslug Their Opponents
The New York Yankees are closing in on winning their 19th American Eastern division title. With a nine-game lead over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays and 17 games left in the regular season, it is just a matter of time. This has been a remarkable season with the obscene amount of injuries the Yankees have had to deal with. But the Yankees find themselves tied for the best record in all of baseball with the Houston Astros. That is where the big problem lurks.
The Bronx Bombers
The 2019 Major League baseball season has truly been the year of the HR. No other team aside from the Minnesota Twins have slugged more HR than the Yankees. The Yankees have slugged 270 HR which is only five behind the Twins.
Just imagine if Giancarlo Stanton was healthy and had more than 38 plate appearances. Just imagine if megastar Aaron Judge did not miss a chunk of the season. The Yankees could have easily slugged over 300 HR this year. With 17 games left this is still a possibility. The Yankees have an astonishing 13 players with double-digit HR totals. To put this into even more perspective the Yankees do not have one player who has hit over 40 HR.
This Yankee team is clearly led by their offense. The Yankees rank fourth in batting average (.269) and third in OBP (.341), SLG (.489) and OPS (.830). The Yankees also lead the majors in the most important offensive stat of them all runs scored with 837. With all of this offensive prowess, it is not impossible to think the Yankees can just slug their way to the World Series.
The Bronx Cheer
The Yankees biggest issue is their starting pitching. The only acquisition the Yankees made for the 2019 season was trading for James Paxton. The rest of the starting rotation was Yankees before the season started. Paxton is the only starting pitcher with an ERA under 4.00. This only happened as a result of Paxton pitching six-plus scoreless innings last night against the Boston Red Sox lowering his ERA to 3.96.
The Yankees starting rotation of Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, Domingo German, and CC Sabathia have combined to make 128 starts. In those starts, their ERA is 4.53 and they have averaged just over five innings per start. These are alarming numbers especially when the competition gets better in the playoffs. With numbers like this, it is certainly possible the Yankees would need to outscore their way to a championship.
The Yankee bullpen has certainly carried this pitching staff. But this could come with a cost. The Yankees have seven relievers who have pitched more than 50 innings with a 3.30 ERA. Clearly the Yankee recipe for success is to score runs and hand the game over to their deep and talented bullpen.
Help is on the Way
The Yankees did not bring in any starting pitchers at the trading deadline. This has angered the fan base as they saw the crosstown New York Mets trade for Marcus Stroman who was a Yankee target. Perhaps even more concerning was the Astros trading for ace pitcher Zack Greinke. Greinke was not a Yankee target as per their inclusion on his no-trade list and also his comments. But still, the Yankees would prefer to not see him on the Astros. But help may be on the way.
Ace pitcher Luis Severino has not pitched this entire season due to a lat injury. He is scheduled to make one more minor league rehab start and could join the Yankees by September 17th. However, it is doubtful he would be able to give the Yankees any length in playoff games. Severino could be used as a bridge to the bullpen or as an opener.
Another pitcher Dellin Betances who has also not pitched this entire season due to a lat injury is also on a minor league rehab stint. He can get activated by the end of the season. His role with the Yankees this season is not yet known. Betances was the setup man for closer Aroldis Chapman in 2018. With Severino and Betances seemingly ready to come back this could be a big shot in the arm for the Yankees.
With the Yankees tied with the Astros and a nine-game lead over the Rays, there are two ways to play out this month. The Yankees can fight the Astros for the home-field advantage throughout the American League playoffs. Back in the 2017 season, the Yankees had a three games to two lead over the Astros in the ALCS. With the last two games in Houston, the Astros were able to use that to their advantage.
The Yankees could also coast into the playoffs and set up their starting rotation and give their pitchers rest. Having a fresh pitching staff could really benefit this Yankee team as they potentially have to beat both the Minnesota Twins and the Astros to get to the World Series.
It’s a good bet that Tanaka will start the Yankees first playoff game based on his resume. Paxton should be second followed by German. Happ has been the worst of the starters and could be passed over in a five-game series. Sabathia seems destined to pitch out of the bullpen if he is healthy enough to pitch. Anything can happen in the playoffs and if the Yankees do face off with the Astros the one area where these teams do separate is in starting pitching.
The team offensive numbers are so similar you can’t really say one is better than the other. But when you look at the pitching numbers you can see distinct advantages. The Astros have struck out over 100 more batters than the Yankees. The Astros team ERA is more than one half-run better than the Yankees and this is with the Astros pitching in more innings.
If the stats are not enough for you do the names Greinke, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole ring any bells. The Astros would clearly have the starting pitcher advantage in any game against the Yankees. But this Yankee team has faced adversity all season long and have not backed down one bit.
There is still work to do for both teams but this is the matchup all of baseball wants to see. Yankee manager Aaron Boone can’t look ahead. The Yankees will most likely only see the Astros in the ALCS as the Twins are five games behind both teams. The wild card race is between three teams with the Rays, Oakland Athletics and Cleveland Indians.
Right now the Yankees are playing for the best record. Only time will tell if they are making the right decision.