Hitters or Pitchers? Who’s to Blame for Yankees’ Recent Slide?
While the Chicago White Sox finished up the sweep of the New York Yankees, our beloved team is 5-5 in their last ten games and has accumulated a 12-9 record in the month of August. This comes after a 13-13 record in July. Something is amiss and now the division lead has shrunk to three games. Before, we needed two hands to count out how many games the Yanks were up on the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles. Sure they have a winning record this month, but is anyone really comfortable right now, especially with key players out?
The Yankees haven’t played their best baseball since June when they went 20-7, but they were also very healthy and Ivan Nova was pitching like his old self. Injuries to Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia (x2), and Andy Pettitte are beginning to rear their ugly head, especially in the rotation. Let’s quickly examine where the trouble spots are for the Yankees.
Right off the bat (no pun intended) we can see that the bullpen has been shoddy in August. They’ve compiled a 4.29 ERA while giving up 24 earned runs on 57 hits. To put that in perspective, in March and April combined they amassed a 2.00 ERA and gave up 17 earned runs on 56 hits. The difference is, in March and April they did that in 76 innings compared, to August’s 50 innings of work. The bullpen might now be feeling the effects of bailing out the early struggles of Phil Hughes, Freddy Garcia, Hiroki Kuroda, and a full season’s worth from Nova. If the bullpen is doing one thing right, it’s that they are issuing fewer free passes. So I suppose they’re limiting the damage somewhat.
The starters on the other hand, with the exception of Nova, have been pretty even-keeled. I guess you could say Nova has been consistently bad, so he could presumably be lumped in there as well, but I digress. Injuries have depleted this group, but Sabathia is due to return against his former Cleveland Indians team on Friday. Looking at the numbers though, the starters have held down the fort, especially Kuroda. As a team in August, they hold a 4.19 ERA, which is a far cry from the June they had (2.62 ERA), but overall falls within the parameters of how they’ve pitched all season. It seems one pitcher steps up when the others fall on hard times. We’ve seen Hughes step to the occasion, Kuroda’s been a rock, and even Garcia and David Phelps have helped when Sabathia and Pettitte were on the mend.
Our last stop is the hitters. The Yankees boast one of the best lineups in baseball and it’s showing in August despite not having A-Rod. They have a .269/.315/.425 batting line this month, which is actually one of their best months thus far. In July, they hit .255/.313/.416, which still isn’t bad at all. There is one red flag though. Their strikeout-to-walk ratio is trending in the wrong direction. Currently it sits at 3.67, in July it was 2.92, meaning for every strikeout they were earned a base on ball more often. This number is actually the highest it’s been all season long, which doesn’t bode well.
So who is to blame for only a 12-9 record in August so far? (Sarcasm) I’d put most of the blame on the bullpen as they haven’t been playing their best baseball all month long. Let’s not forget though, they are what kept the Yankees near the top of the standings during the first month of the season. Remember all of those failed RISP at-bats and starters only going four or five innings? I’m chalking it up to a taxed bullpen; they’re simply tired and ineffective right now. Once September rolls in, fresh meat from the minors will be able to throw some innings and let the Major League relievers take a seat. Let’s hope the Yankees can hold on with the Rays in the rearview mirror quickly gaining ground.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference