“But the 2009 New York Yankees were 38-32 through their first 70 games and dropped their first eight matchups against the Boston Red Sox.”
Yup, that sure is true. But that 2009 team wasn’t losing games because of consistent futility and lack of energy and/or gumption. The problem with the 2021 team is its identity, its DNA. The way they’re falling short.
Before the All-Star break in 2009, the Yankees led the way offensively in a multitude of categories. Their OPS (.828), home run total (132), RBI total (471), run total (495) and walk total (373) were tops in the league. They even had 61 stolen bases, which was good for 10th! They didn’t use their next 20 games to leap the league in all of those statistics. They were consistent but simply found themselves losing in certain stretches, which is a thing most teams do.
You know what else the 2009 Yankees, who were 38-32 in the early going, did to end up separating themselves from the pack? They won 13 of their next 15. They took advantage of momentum. They didn’t punt games. They weren’t 100% reliant on home runs. When they desperately needed a win, CC Sabathia delivered. Sabathia started the year 1-3 and was 8-5 by the time the break rolled around.
Do you understand the type of miracle the Yankees need to even crack the top 10 in various stats?
- 16th in batting average (.235) — need to improve seven points
- 13th in OPS (.713) — need to improve 19 points
- 27th in RBI (283) — need 59 more RBI
- 23rd in runs scored (307) — need 59 more runs
- 30th in stolen bases (16) — need 22 more SBs
Can we measure energy? Motivation? Passion? If we can, we can assume they’re dead last in those categories as well and would need to orchestrate an insurmountable climb to crack the top 20.
They’re only top 10 in home runs (eighth with 100) and walks (fourth with 307). Simply not good enough for a team that’s supposed to be “the best” in both of those categories.
Do we really need to talk about runners in scoring position, too?
The Yankees have so far to go to match their 2009 numbers and rankings.
The 2009 Yankees finished with these numbers when coming to the plate with runners in scoring position:
- .272 BA (8th)
- .433 SLG (7th)
- .803 OPS (3rd)
- 419 hits (2nd)
- 49 HR (2nd)
- 618 RBI (2nd)
- 23 SB (14th)
- GIDP (29th)
Aside from grounding into double plays, do you understand the turnaround that’s needed for the Yankees to even come close to these numbers? They would need one of the most miraculous second halves the sport as seen in recent decades. That’s how bad they’ve been. This roster is nowhere close to what the 2009 team brought to the table. A team’s record through the first 70 games hardly tells the real story.
As for the pitching? They had big-game arms. Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, AJ Burnett, a young David Robertson and Mariano Rivera. They were ready for pressure-filled situations and must-win moments — something, sadly, Gerrit Cole has yet to prove. Cole just got knocked around by the Red Sox on Sunday in a game the Yankees needed to avoid the sweep. Cole couldn’t help the Yankees avoid the sweep against the Rays back in April. He then got bested by Ryan Yarbrough again in early June when the Yankees were looking for a commanding four-game series win. He couldn’t keep the Yankees ahead in ALDS Game 5 last October.
It simply doesn’t matter what the wins and losses tell us at a certain point of the season when we’re examining teams of yesteryear. This current version of the Yankees, which has largely lasted from 2018 until now, has won games and lost games (for the most part) the exact same way for four seasons. Bludgeon the opponent with home runs in wins, lose close games because the moment consumes you.
There’s still a little more than half the year remaining. We’re not going to rule out a remarkable turnaround simply because the pieces are there, but every other aspect of this team tells us we’re in for more of the same across the final 85 games. And we know you didn’t feel that way in 2009.