I would be the first to admit that I didn’t expect to see the Yankees have their best month of the season in August. With the departure of Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran it seemed so unlikely. Just as unlikely as Ronald Torreyes leading the team in batting average. Who could guess?
When I was writing my coverage of the New York Yankees in Spring Training and April, I mentioned that this team looked like it could be an echo of the team that represented the Bronx Bombers in 1989.
(see for example my article “And on the Eighth day the Yankees did nothing” https://twilightdawning.com/2016/03/04/the-new-york-yankees-off-season-update-january-february-2016-and-on-the-eighth-day-the-yankees-did-nothing/ )
Little did I realise how much…
The Yankees bats finally began to break out in June but their win/loss record on the month wasn’t much different from how it had been in May. We’ll see to what degree the pitchers were responsible for that in our next article. In the meantime let’s survey the batters and see who was responsible for a month that saw them surge to a .278 BA on the month against May’s .232 and .424 SLG against the previous month’s .385.
A few months ago I talked in this column about two perils that the Yankees faced in the 2016 season. The first possibility was that the senior players would prove to be well past their sell-by date and would under-perform. The second possibility was that although those senior players would perform, they would be laboured by injury. In reality, I overlooked the third possibility – that they would under-perform AND carry injuries.
In an earlier article. I pessimistically asserted that I saw similarities between the Yankees squad of 2016 and that of 1989. The 1989 team finished 5th in the American League East. That was pre-expansion when there were 7 teams in the division. Consequently, that would mean that it was likely that the Yankees would finish 4th or 5th in the 5-team division and be well out of contention.
However, there were a few positive signs in Spring Training which gave me pause for thought. And then the real season began…
(up to and including March 16th)
Spring training hasn’t brought any huge revelations for the Yankees – no huge “ups” but, thankfully, no huge “downs”. This is not to say that things have gone entirely to plan or that Training has been easy. Of their first 15 games, they won 5, lost 8 and saw 2 games called at a tie. 17 players were reassigned but of those only Jacob Lindgren and perhaps Matt Tracy had much hope of making the 25 who would see service on Opening Day. And there have been no players breaking down to major injuries and only Brett Gardner suffering a major delay to his first appearance because of prior ailments.
How else to explain the moves that the Yankees have made since the season ended in October?
The Yankees might have listed their goals for the off-season as follows:
a) To strengthen their 25 man roster
b) To reduce the average age of players on their 25-man roster
c) To make themselves more competitive for 2016
d) To achieve the first three without majorly increasing their payroll for 2016 from its 2015 level.
As we are now halfway through that off-season period, it is fair to say that they have failed in the first three categories and, therefore, in the 4th.
Well, that is in the little bit of October the Yankees were actually involved in this year. They made it to the playoffs but only by wildcard qualification. And then in the one-game wildcard playoff, they failed to produce a single run in their game against the Houston Astros. Let’s look at what went wrong… and one or two things that went right and look bright for the future.
Let’s consider some figures:
What do they represent? Well, unsurprisingly for this column, they represent the monthly team batting averages for the New York Yankees for every month prior to August. The top one on the list is July, the bottom is April. June and May come inbetween and reveal the way that the Yankees’ batting had improved every month this season – that is until August, the month when their batting performance fell apart. Let’s see where the disaster had its roots:
In June, the New York Yankees’ bats caught fire, rising from a .249 team monthly batting average to .273. In July, against all expectations, they managed to maintain that and take it a little further with small gains in batting, slugging and on-base average.
Across the team, the bats are giving the pitchers that little extra breathing space and run support, resulting in a 17-7 month and a six-game lead in the American League East.