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 my last Yankees-themed article, (https://twilightdawning.com/2015/12/23/the-new-york-yankees-off-season-update-novemberdecember-2015-ludicrous/), I highlighted how in my opinion, in their trades and lack of free agency activity, the Bronx Bombers had actually managed to weaken their squad of players. This view was obviously contrary to the view of Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi but it was difficult for me to see it any other way.
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.
At the end of May, the Yankees were tied for first place in the American League East. By the 9th of June they were 2.5 games clear at the head of that table. By the 23rd, they were 2 games behind. As June turned into July, they were poised to take the lead in the division again.
June was a mixed month for the New York Yankees. June was a very streaky month for the New York Yankees.
April 2015 was a bizarre month for the New York Yankees. They started with a 3-6 record and were bottom of the table. From there, they sprinted to 10 wins out of their next thirteen games, ending April one game ahead of the American League East and setting a pace which meant they should then relentlessly open up a gap ahead of all-comers.
And indeed, by the 11 of May with 8 wins out of their next 11 games, they opened up a 4 game lead. Journalists, experts and pundits were staggered as the Yankees’ bullpen and offense led them to performances that were far beyond anything that was predicted or anticipated — or even imagined by the most rabid fan.
And then the team returned quietly to the form of the early weeks of April as they crumbled against opposition from outside the division. The four game lead disappeared as they won 5 of their next 18 games. Will the real New York Yankees please stand up?
The Yankees have got off to a surprisingly good start to the season with a 14-8 record in April. This becomes doubly surprising when we consider that they got off to a 3-6 run in their first nine games. Both the bullpen and large sections of the offensive line-up have done better than we had any reason to expect and whilst there are more than a few weak links, there is good reason to think they can at least stay with the pace of a division which doesn’t have a clearly outstanding team.
Let’s survey who is doing well and not so well…
Well, in our last two part article, I made my predictions (just a few days before the start of the season) about the Yankees’ opening day roster and their performance in the 2015 season.
Wouldn’t you know that there would be an injury that would change quite a few things before we even got to that first game!