If you’re reading this, you already know that the 2021 New York Yankees — somehow, some way, and with some combination of trade additions and Triple-A talent — are making an honest-to-God playoff push.
They won’t make it all the way to October, though, without a few more impressive displays from a few of the core members of their roster.
In other words, they’ll be rounding third no matter what, but won’t be heading for home if these guys don’t step up and play to the backs of their baseball cards.
Though the Yankees have been stunningly good in one-run games and other varieties of tight-as-hell contests this season (they’ve played 62 one-run affairs and are 40-21 in games separated by two runs or fewer), this is simply not a sustainable strategy for a contending team. At some point between now and Sept. 30, they need to blow the doors off of somebody.
No, not just the Orioles.
The Yankees have been more good than lucky, especially since their trade deadline acquisitions of Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo (see you soon) have balanced the lineup. Still, though, Brett Gardner is seeing 4.85 pitches per plate appearance. Traffic has constantly been on the bases, and most of it hasn’t been cashed in. The offense continues to play exceptionally strange baseball, even as Gardy, the wily veteran, becomes more comfortable setting the table.
In essence, it doesn’t matter if you’re particularly good at winning nailbiters if every game is a nailbiter. Eventually, the tide begins to turn, and the classic Yankee fan (and every baseball fan) complaint of, “We never win games like this!” actually starts to ring true,
For New York to make it as far as they’re capable of this fall — and, rest assured, these past few weeks have proven this roster is both good and deep — these three players will need to reverse some worrisome trends, many of which are season-long.
These 3 Yankees need to step up for New York’s playoff push.
3. Giancarlo Stanton
No, Giancarlo Stanton is not having a “bad season”. He’s been among the best hitters on the team, when you consider the totality of his output.
The problem here, of course, is two-fold. Stanton isn’t paid to put up what’s amounted to above-average, but decidedly un-special, offensive production. Including a blistering hot streak towards the end of May, Stanton’s been a 123 OPS+ guy, good for the lowest total he’s posted since 2016, his age-26 season that consisted of 119 games.
If only for a week or two, Stanton needs to be locked in at a higher level for New York to become truly fearsome, lest Luke Voit prove he’s a stronger DH option in the coming weeks, only for a roster logjam to emerge when Anthony Rizzo returns and a modestly powerful Stanton takes the reps anyway.
In terms of OPS, Stanton sits 54th in baseball. Behind Mark Canha. Behind Salvador Perez. Behind Jorge Polanco, Ryan McMahon and Andrew McCutchen. Useful players, all of them, but none of them offensive anchors, which is what Stanton should be.
Even Stanton’s biggest admirers must realize the optics of his swing also contribute to the frustrations. Sure, the totality of the numbers are viable, but when Stanton is struggling to out-produce forgotten outfield options on lower-tier teams, it changes the equation. If Stanton could be an MVP, even for a few weeks, that would alter the 2021 Yankees’ ceiling tremendously.
In his past seven games, Stanton is hitting .370 with eight RBI. More of this, please.