Yankees Going Nowhere without Repairs

Now pitching for the Yankees, Charley Brown. Hold onto to your socks!

In March I predicted that the Yankees weren't good enough to supplant the Red Sox atop the AL East. The Yankees' misplaced hope of doing so ended last weekend. The Yanks are now playing for home turf in the Wild Card game, if they even get that far.  

Don't get me wrong; if the Yankees make it to the postseason, they could catch lightening in a jar and win a championship. I doubt it; this team has too many flaws, and it's not too early to start thinking about 2019. Here's where the fixes should begin.

Manager: I also noted in March that you don't hand a $180 million payroll to a guy with zero experience. All managers were once rookies, but Aaron Boone had never even been a coach. It's starting to show. Am I being unfair given the number of injuries the Yankees have endured? Nope. Ask yourself this question: Can you fathom a Joe Girardi team looking so listless against the Red Sox? Girardi took squads that didn't really have the talent to compete and made them better. I also said that if the Yankees were going to replace Girardi with a neophyte, Hensley Muelens should have been the choice—a guy who speaks Spanish, Japanese, and Dutch. 

The rational thing would be to demote Boone to bench coach and let him learn the ropes. An interim Buck Showalter return makes sense.

Pitching: Can we just stop with all the nonsensical numbers? Anyone who has followed baseball on the field rather than on data sheets would have told you that the Yankees needed starting pitching—even before Jordan Montgomery went down. This must be Priority # 1 for next year. It's a risk, but Clayton Kershaw should be the top target, followed by Dallas Keuchel, and Patrick Corben. Gio Ganzález is worth a look if the price is right. Of the late season pickups, I'd take a chance on Lance Lynn, but I surely would not break the bank for J. A. Happ.

As for the bullpen, sign Zach Britton, as there is a high likelihood he is still rebuilding arm strength and will return to lights-out effectiveness. That would give the Yankees a way to avoid overworking Chapman. If the price is right, put out feelers on Andrew Miller or Cody Allen.

If the deal is right for a starter, toss in Betances to get one. We know he will never be a closer and best to move him while some think he could be.

Hang on to Domingo Germain, who will be good when he gains experience. I'm not seeing a high ceiling for Giovanny Gallegos, though, and he's expendable. So too is Luis Cessa, who would be better in the NL, like Ivan Nova. I also wonder if we've seen the best Jonathan Holder will ever be.

Time to Part: I love Brett Gardner and I told anyone who'd listen that the Yankees were dumb to sign Jacoby Ellsbury. (Who's the fool now?) Alas, it looks as if Gardy is done. As of Monday, Gardner had just 10 steals and had scored a mere 66 times. You need more of both from a lead off hitter. Just dump Ellsbury. Period.

Greg Bird is the next coming of Nick Johnson, sans his discerning eye. It's not imperative that Bird be replaced, but my instinct is to dump him before he breaks down completely.

Neil Walker, like Brandon Drury, was a perplexing signing from the start. Waive[ sic] him goodbye. Tyler Wade is a solid AAA player who can't/won't get over the hump. I'd advance a player who has untapped potential and part with Wade. While I'm at it, the only player the Yankees have who was hitting over .300 is sitting in Scranton: Ronald Torreyes, who is exactly the kind of heart and spirit the team needs.

One of two things needs to happen—either the Yankees need to put up with Giancarlo Stanton's mediocre defense on an everyday basis and make Gary Sanchéz their DH, or they part with the latter in a monster deal. He can't catch, which is why the Yankees top two picks were receivers.

Dump the Stat Heads and Get Real: Stat charts have their place, but only people who only watch box scores think they're the only answer. Here are some measurements that are worthless: WAR, UZR, OPS, WHIP. Here are some gloriously old-fashioned ones in need of revival: BA, H, BB, R, OBP, K, and W-L. (WAR is meaningless unless there actually is a replacement player!)

Remember how the Stat Heads dumped on Derek Jeter for his poor fielding and lack of power? What a bunch of idiots! In any baseball game, a Web Gem that doesn't affect the game one way or the other is just a parade preceding the circus. Jeter made nearly all the plays that mattered and, frankly, that's all that matters.

Jeter also had nearly or more than 200 hits per year for most of his career. No one will approach that this year; Stanton leads the club with just 120. The sabermetrics crew will also tell you strikeouts don't matter. Of course they do! You have to homer or be on base to score—pure and simple. On this year's Yankees, Aaron Judge has walked 66 times and struck out 137; Stanton has whiffed 145 times. (Sanchéz has fanned 67 times in just 66 games.) Only one other player, Aaron Hicks, has walked more than 50 times. Put it all together and in 110 games, just four players have more than 100 runs (Stanton, Andujar, Gregorius, and Judge). Even this is deceptive, as the Yankees lead MLB in homers. No matter who tries to talk you out of it, the Yankees hitters really are an all-or-nothing.

This won't change until less emphasis is placed on launch angle and more is paid to on-base-percentage, cutting down swings with two strikes, and bringing back the shame of striking out, failing to advance runners, and not plating a player from third with less than two outs.

I don't care how much crow management has to eat, grovel and bring back Chris Chambliss as hitting coach!

Here's the only pitching stat that matters: wins versus losses. It's usually correlated with a low ERA and low WHIP, but not always. A great pitcher adjusts according to the situation. In an 8-2 game, for instance, that pitcher stops nibbling and doesn't sweat a solo homerun or a single here and there; he knows that more trouble comes from walking players, rising pitch counts, and a tired bullpen. He also knows that efficient outs top strikeouts. 

Free Agent Eye Candy: No to Bryce Harper. He would be Ellsbury all over again, a pricey redundancy. Where would he fit in an outfield that already has Hicks, Stanton, and Judge, with Frazier, Florial, Amburgey on the way? Spend on pitching, not more mashing.

Maybe yes to Manny Machado. They could then dangle Gregorious as trade bait. But only if Machado doesn't cost so much that pitching is again ignored. Machado is a great hitter, though his defense is so-so at shortstop. Let me be Old School once again and quote a time-tested adage: good pitching beats good hitting most of the time. That's why the Red Sox just made the Bronx Bombers look like bums.  

Rob Weir

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