2. Yankees Might’ve Underestimated Rivals
At the beginning of the 2021 season, most baseball people predicted that the Yanks would win the American League East Division and make the playoffs. A majority of bettors and analysts believed they would likely reach the World Series. For once, they were the clear favorites in that department.
For instance, Fangraphs gave the Bombers a 91.6% chance of making it to the postseason. Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA predicted that the Bombers would finish the season with a 97-65. Lastly, the sportswriters at USA Today had the Yanks finishing the 2021 season with a 94-68 record.
At the same time, however, the Red Sox were thought to be going through a rebuilding process and would not fair well in 2021. The team lost Mookie Betts, and the pitching staff was in shambles. Adam Ottavino, a Yankee outcast, was likely going to be their closer. Imagine that.
Even though the Rays came close to winning the World Series against the Los Angles Dodgers, the team traded away Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell to the San Diego Padres and lost several key players. While “Mad Dog” Russo and others thought that the team’s heavy reliance on relief pitching to start and close games worked well during the shortened 2020 season, most believed this strategy would not succeed in a much longer, physically demanding 162-game season. We shall see.
While most expected that the relatively young Blue Jays were an up-and-coming club, especially with the signing of star free agent George Springer during the off-season, their starting and relief pitching was suspect. While few commentators expected them to perform at a division-winning level in 2021, most felt the future looked bright for them.
The Yanks have now played all the American League East Division teams at least once during the regular season. For the most part, they have been summarily spanked by them. Even the Baltimore Orioles, who were expected to lose 100 games this year, have played the Yanks close. Many more games against these formidable opposing teams remain.
All three teams mentioned above have played much better than expected in 2021 for over two full months, and the Yanks have played much worse than expected (at least until now). Even with Springer spending most of his time on the IL this season, the Blue Jays have been competitive, as the Yanks can attest.
For the most part, many players on opposing teams in the AL East have played much better than anticipated. And when starters have struggled or have been injured on these teams, others have stepped in and played effectively. The same cannot be said for the Yanks.
In particular, the Red Sox, Rays, and Blue Jays have profited a great deal from having experienced and terrific managers (Alex Cora, Kevin Cash, and Charlie Montoyo, respectively).
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the Yanks. If the present standings continue to hold in the AL East, they will provide an excellent example of the benefit of having an outstanding manager with experience at the helm and the contrasting cost of having a field general without prior coaching and managing experiencing running the team.
Or, to put it simply: all three of those other teams are hitting. Take the juiced ball theories and regression ideologies and put them wherever you’d like. The Yankees aren’t hitting, and their three chief rivals are. That’s been more than enough to send the Bombers spiraling towards the sewer so far.