The two tweets above fully describe the mood around the Bronx Bombers right now. They do not seem to able to get the big hit in clutch times and letting the season get away from them. The Yankees are still in prime spot for a postseason berth, but there chances of winning the division are all but gone after this weekend.
The Yankees do not want to be in the one game Wild Card playoff, where the opposing starting pitcher can get hot and shut down the Yanks, as was the case in 2015. The Yanks made many major deals at the trade deadline to try and win the AL East and not be forced to play in the Wild Card game. The Yankees have had many opportunities in the last week to trim the deficit between them and the Boston Red Sox, but they lost both the series and now need some help from other teams in order to win the division. The Red Sox and the Yankees play each other only four more times, so mathematically the Yankees do not control their own destiny as their deficit is five games. The Yankees still have a nice cushion at the top of the Wild Card standings but need to get their act together before they start slipping in the Wild Card standings also.
The Yankees came into this season as a team which was testing the waters to see how good they are, and postseason was not a realistic goal for them. After the great start by the Yankees and the deals made by the front office at the Trade Deadline, this season becomes a must win for the Yanks, and not making the postseason will be looked at as a failure for them. The offense has become very streaky and runs only come in bunches. The Yankees cannot score with runners in scoring position, to back up the rotation who has put up their end of the stick. With the Bullpen also in disarray, winning this week’s series against the Tigers, who are really bad and have given up on this season, is very important.
The big reason why the Yankees were in first place for the majority of the first half of this season, was the offensive output of Aaron Judge. Judge, at times in the first half looked like the best hitter in baseball, and most pundits predicted that he would run away with the AL MVP and Rookie of the Year. The script has been completely flipped in the second half of the season, as he is one of the worst hitters in baseball since July, and there has been demands from the fan base of dropping him in the batting order. Aaron Judge is way too important to the success of the Yankees and he needs to return to his form from the first half or the Yankees will have one of the biggest collapses in MLB History. The Yankees will get some reinforcements back this week in Greg Bird and Starlin Castro, who will need to pick the slack of Judge and try to carry this team to the Postseason. The offense as a whole cannot seem to score runs when they have runners in scoring position, which is very important to winning baseball games. As soon as they get runners on base, the teams becomes frozen and cannot even get productive outs to move the runners. The team can only win when they score home runs, but they do not have many big home run hitters on the roster, which is a big issue for them.
The rotation has been one of the bright spots of this team over this collapse. The rotation was not great going into the season, but they exceeded their expectations. With the addition of Sonny Gray, the Yankees have a great one-two punch in him and Luis Severino who have done a great job in shutting down other offense but cannot get any run spot from their own offense. The rotation is already doing a lot more than needed, but they need to continue to do so, while the offense tries to figure itself out.
The biggest strength of the Yankees coming into this season was their bullpen. They had really good arms in the pen, who can get the job done in clutch situations and preserve the lead. The Yankees added two more great arms at the trade deadline, to form what many consider the best bullpen in baseball, but that bullpen is a major reason why this team is in a big slide right now. The bullpen could not get the job done on Friday night against the Red Sox, after the offense came back in the game. Winning Friday’s game would have been huge for this team, but they could not do it. Things got worse on Saturday, as Aroldis Chapman was no longer the closer of the team. Chapman signed a long term contract with big money with the Yankees this off season, and he is already struggling in year one of that contract. The Yankees have great arms in Dellin Betances and David Robertson who can be good closers, but there are some uncertainties in the bullpen after the recent performance of the arms in the pen. The bullpen will need to figure itself out this week, because it is a big part of this team and the Yanks are not going anywhere without a good bullpen.
The Yankees face the Tigers in Detroit this week. The Tigers have given up this season and are looking to build for the future. The Yankees should use this week to fix their holes before the competition gets tougher this weekend. If the Yankees struggle this week, then we can start having realistic conversation of them missing the Postseason entirely this season.