The New York Yankees of September were not the New York Yankees of August. From the 4th to the 10th of the month, they had a 7 game losing streak. However, later in the month (20th to 28th) they were to match this with a 7 game winning streak.
Inconsistency was their watchword.
This all meant that they only closed the gap on Tampa Bay by one game across the whole month and as the month came to an end, they were locked in a blockbuster situation with only three games to play. They still needed to head off Boston, Toronto and Seattle to earn one of the Wildcard places and this was going right down to the wire.
Most of the batters struggled. Some were pretty good…
The Yankees 14-9 record in July was due in no small part to their pitching. Their record improved after the All-Star break. They were 9-5 afterwards, 5-4 before.
The Yankees brought in two new pitchers at the trading deadline – Andrew Heaney (SP) from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Joely Rodriguez (RP) from the Texas Rangers but neither of them made their debut for their new club before the end of July.
Heaney was traded for minor leaguers, Janson Junk and Elvis Peguero (both right-handers). Joely Rodriguez may be more of a make-weight, as there is no question that the Yankees main target in the trade was outfielder, Joey Gallo. The players who went in the opposite direction were right-hander pitcher, Glenn Otto and infielders Josh H.Smith, Ezequiel Duran and Trevor Hauver.
In addition, they had added Clay Holmes (RP) from the Pittsburgh Pirates on the 26th of the month in exchange for Hoy Park and Diego Castillo. A curious move saw relievers Luis Cessa and Justin Wilson join the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for a player to be named later. It was no surprise that the Yankees wanted to offload Wilson because the veteran has struggled all season long but giving up Cessa who has had a solid year and been with the Yankees for a number of years when they weren’t particularly targeting anybody in return is strange.
Let’s look at the pitchers who play in July, beginning with the starters…
The New York Yankees seemed to begin to turn a corner in July and their results improved – particularly in the second half of the month.
It is difficult to analyse exacly why but strangely the results started to improve when many of their first choice roster members became unavailable and were replaced partially by untried players and partially by journeymen, perhaps spotting one final opportunity to breakthrough.
Some of those regulars were unavailable because of conventional injuries. Others were forced into isolation by positive Covid tests which hit the roster in ever-increasing numbers.
On the face of it, having to subtract Aaron Judge from the selection of available outfielders and add in Greg Allen, who in four previous stints in the Major Leagues (with Cleveland and San Diego) had managed to hit around .230, was not a recipe designed for success – but somehow the energy and enthusiasm of the new faces seemed to work.
Let’s survey the statistics of the offensive players in the month of July…
As previously noted, the New York Yankees have not had the start to the season that they expected in 2021. However, it is the start of the season that they deserved. With the season a third complete, they finished May at 29-25 and in third position.
Instead of hoping to win the American League East, they are more likely to be targeting the second wildcard spot and only then if their bats begin to do their work.
In May, their pitching was less culpable than the batting line-up in adding to their woes.
Let’s survey the strengths and weaknesses of the players who took the mound:
The New York Yankees finished April at 12 wins – 14 losses and in 4th place in the 5 team American League East. For a team who were expected to dominate the division, things clearly were not going to plan. Noises were made about Kyle Higashioka becoming the first choice catcher and Gary Sanchez being seen much more often warming the bench. Tyler Wade and Wandy Peralta were added to the active roster. One or two things seemed to be falling into place.
By the middle of May, the team sat in second place with a record of 22-17. That’s 10-3 over that period.
And then things began to turn again. Gleyber Torres, Giancarlo Stanton and Rougned Odor had headed to the injured list. As a partial balance, 1b Luke Voit (last season’s leading home run hitter) was back.
But things were still not going the way the guys from the Bronx wanted. The second half of the month went 7-8 and the Yankees closed out the month with a run of 4 losses
Let’s see who was struggling and who was holding their own:
The Yankees used 6 starters and 1 “opener” in April. It is fair to say, in that regard, it was a very mixed month. Some good, some bad, some indifferent. We’ll come to that in a moment.
They used thirteen relievers in total. Nick Nelson was used both as the one time opener and a reliever. Those who were solid out of the bullpen were pretty consistent.
There were those who bounced between the major league roster and the alternate training site. Most peculiar of these was Michael King who was excellent but couldn’t seem to do enough to rise in the pecking orderabove those who were struggling.
Let’s survey the whole of the pitching part of the roster:
Well, it’s so wonderful to have baseball back at something approaching normal. The crowds allowed to attend are limited but isn’t it great to hear games being played with real crowd noise – we are not there yet but we are taking steps in the right direction and it is so heartening.
So, the time comes to survey the Yankees first month. The picture is not pretty but with so many players under-performing there is so much scope for growth – so, let’s not sink into the slough of despond just yet, even with the Boston Red Sox sitting pretty at the top of the division.
It is fair to say we wouldn’t have expected that anymore than we would have expected one of the Yankees’ roster to have retired from MLB in the first month of the season. We closed out the month at 12-14 and in fourth place but given they spent 8 days on the bottom spot, at least the trajectory is in the right direction,
Well, surely the Yankees – after their disappointing series loss against Toronto – couldn’t bounce back and manage to win the series against Boston — and still allow the Red Sox to clinch the AL East in the Bronx? Well, if anyone could, these contrary Yankees could. Read on…
September 30th 2009 Yankees Vs Kansas City Royals @ Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York
Joba rules! We’ve lived with them for the last two seasons. Designed to ensure that the young pitcher of the New York Yankees develops into the star we all KNOW that he can be. Mmmm……. Tonight after lots of late season restrictions the training wheels came off and Chamberlain was given his head to show what he could do in a game on which nothing depended. And we all sat there and squirmed……. And hoped that this was just another off night and tried to avoid the conclusion that they’ll never make a starter out of this guy. But, trust me, this was dreadful.
Joba Chamberlain pitched 3 and 2/3 innings for 3 runs, and even more worryingly 7 hits and 4 walks. He couldn’t find the strike zone and I would have to say that he was lucky to get off so lightly. He was replaced before the end of the 4th inning by Alfredo Aceves. Now this guy didn’t make the rotation back on opening day and has never really been considered as an option for the starting rotation in 2009 but tonight he looked like twice the pitcher that Joba appeared to be. Aceves pitched two innings and if it wasn’t for the fact that the Yankees’ bats had gone to sleep, we would have been right back in it.
Of the batters, only Jeter produced anything of note. Two hits, one a home run and also a walk before he was lifted for Jerry Hairston in the late innings for a game the Yankees didn’t seem to think they could win but in which they were only one run behind.
The late innings relievers, Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera were as overpowering and untouchable as they have been for most of the season but the Royals’ bullpen was just as effective and the Yankees ran out losers, 4-3.
So the last home game of the stand raised more questions than answers and Chamberlain hoping that he could some way edge onto the post-season roster and re-gain some of the ground he has lost.
September 29th 2009
Yankees Vs Kansas City Royals
@ Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York
The Yankees are paying AJ Burnett an awful lot of money. After this game he was giving a rousing round of applause for 6 and a 1/3 innings during which he only gave up one earned run. The problem is that from where I was sitting he looked lucky. I kept waiting for the moment when there would be a series of hits and Kansas would then take him apart but it never came. I don’t know why. The problem is that I don’t think it was because Burnett was overpowering so much as that Kansas are a weak hitting side.
The post-season is at hand and the Yankees biggest flaw is their starting pitching – the one thing they spent most of last off-season trying to fix. Sabathia has been consistent (although I wasn’t know to know at this point he was only a couple of days away from one of his worst starts of the season). Burnett has had a poor second half after a solid opening to the season. Pettitte has been good for one good performance in every two. Chamberlain has spent half the time looking like a starter who would make a good reliever which is ironic since he is a good reliever who we are trying to make into a good starter. It is good that we don’t need a fifth starter in the playoffs.
We’ll see what comes. We could be brilliant, we could be embarrassing.
Tonight, we got away with it.
In relief, Phil Coke pitched reasonably well but made some bizarre decisions in fielding and dealing with runners on base – leading to the unearned run that was credited to Burnett. David Robertson looked as good as anyone coming back from injury at this point of season could have done. Brian Bruney removed 4 of the last 6 batters (1 hit, 1 walk) and has been busy playing himself back into contention for a playoff roster spot.
Offensively, we didn’t have much to offer. Teixeira carried us and fan-favourite Nick Swisher added a home run which was just enough for a 4-3 win.
Before the game I visited the Yankees museum (which is excellent) and Monument Park (which, ironically, in this more spacious ballpark is a little too compact). I really must do this more often.