By Matt Czeitner
When the 2019 season began, the New York Yankees had very high expectations. Many were optimistic that the Yankees could repeat their successful 2018 season and many believed this team could be the World Series champion at season’s end. However, 16 games into the season, the Yankees own a 7-9 record which was something nobody could have predicted.
The Yankees have dropped 4 out of 5 series to start the season and are scheduled to face the Boston Red Sox for a two-game set starting Tuesday night. Following being swept by the Houston Astros on April 10, Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he believed the Yankees were “really close to turning a corner.”
The team is currently in a very unfamiliar position. The 27-time World Series champions are in third place, and what was once predicted to be an AL East battle between the Yankees and Red Sox has turned into the Rays running away with the division early on.
Despite such a slow start, I don’t believe it is time to panic. There is still so much baseball left. I feel the Yankees will find themselves on a hot streak sooner or later. However, there are plenty of factors that have to come into play in order for the Yankees to actually ‘turn the corner’.
No More Injuries!
Injuries have absolutely haunted the Yankees early this season. There are currently 11 players on the injured list, all of who do not have a definite timetable to return.
CC Sabathia has returned off the injured list, but Greg Bird was just added. So the number, unfortunately stays at 11. Looking at this list, you see that the Yankees are missing several superstars on their team who were a big part of the team last year. The injuries could be a whole lineup in this league and a lineup that is arguably better than a small portion of the league.
The Yankees simply just cannot afford more injuries at this time of the year. Yes, it is easier said than done, and it’s unfortunate that injuries are apart of baseball. But the Yankees are currently using a different lineup each day, and are piecing together a roster that is missing their superstars.
The Rotation Has To Be Effective
The rotation gained a boost when CC Sabathia finally returned April 13. However, the Yankees rotation has been extremely inconsistent since the season has begun. Masahiro Tanaka has been the one bright sign so far for the Yankees. J.A. Happ and James Paxton have struggled since making their Yankee debuts. In 15 innings, Paxton is 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA while Happ is 0-2 with an 8.76 ERA in 12.1 innings. As early as Tuesday, it looks like James Paxton may be on his way to ‘turning the corner’. Against the rival Boston Red Sox, Paxton came out an pitched an absolute gem, going 8.0 innings, with 12 strikeouts, and only surrendering two hits. This is exactly what we wanted to see as fans from Paxton. The Yankees need Tanaka to remain consistent, and need Happ to return to the form he was at during the second half of last season.
The Bullpen Needs To Be Dominant
To start the season, the Yankees had arguably the best and most dominant bullpen on paper. Despite losing David Robertson to the Philadelphia Phillies and Dellin Betances to the injured list, the Yankees still had big names like Aroldis Chapman, Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, Chad Green, Zack Britton and even more.
Despite having a strong bullpen on paper, some of the relievers aren’t performing as well as they should; Chad Green has a 9.95 ERA in 6.1 innings. Jonathan Holder has a 5.19 ERA in 8.2 innings. Zack Britton has a 4.05 ERA in 6.2 innings, and Tommy Kahnle has a 3.86 ERA in 4.2 innings. If the relievers can’t hold a lead into the ninth inning, there’s no chance for Chapman to lock down a save; Chapman only has two saves in five appearances. If the bullpen can figure things out, the Yankees will be one of the toughest teams in the league to beat if they head into the sixth inning and on with a lead.
All around, the Yankees have to start performing better as a team if they want to get out of their 7-9 deficit. Despite it being early in the season, it currently appears as if the Rays are leaving the rest of the AL East behind. And if the Yankees want to have any chance of winning the AL East, they have to actually ‘turn the corner’, or they’ll have to settle for either a Wild Card spot or a postseason-less October.