Pre-judging the 2022 New York Yankees‘ offense based on a five-game sample size sounds (A) short-sighted and (B) like the exact thing most fans have opted into, as per usual.
But in Joel Sherman’s latest alarm-sounding column about the Yankees’ small-sample-size tendencies, he brought an additional truthful nugget at the center of his speculation that should raise red flags.
Are the Bombers doomed to be “home run or bust” in 2022? Has the core of players from 2019, a team Sherman cited as a paragon of home-cooked offensive bludgeoning and fearsomeness completely forgotten how to do their jobs? And isn’t it fine to be “home run or bust” as long as you’re hitting, like, a ton of home runs?
All this is true. But in Sherman’s column about offensive warning signs, he cited the team’s incredible pitching thus far, something the Yankees cannot take for granted if the offense does continue to scuffle. After all, it might not be so wonderful by late summer.
There’s nothing inherent buried under the ability to hit home runs that indicates a team can’t do the other things, too. The Yankees’ five games worth of RISP underperformance doesn’t necessarily amount to much in the grand scheme.
However … through five games, the team’s margin has been razor thin, forcing 5-6 members of the pitching staff per game to be borderline spotless. That will not be maintained for a six-month season, pending a massive luck increase. That’s worrisome, whether the offense picks up a bit or not.
Yankees’ relievers getting overworked bigger problem than offensive struggles
For the life of me, I cannot remember an April where the cold weather Yankees had all their offensive bearings in order and looked like the summer version of themselves.
Even 2019, which Sherman extols, started with a 6-9 record, with three of the victories coming in a road series against — who else? — Baltimore. By and large, the Bombers looked sleepy then, too, dropping key road games against Houston as well as frigid home contests against the O’s and Tigers in Troy Tulowitzki’s heyday.
The main difference between that start and this year’s, though, is the Yankees’ remarkable pitching staff — mostly the relief corps. Those fellows have picked up the slack in the wake of several buildup starts from Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Jameson Taillon and Nestor Cortes Jr., none of which passed 80 pitches (Jordan Montgomery didn’t hit that mark, either, but he was drilled with a baseball).
This isn’t even necessarily a commentary on burnout; Aaron Boone has more trustworthy options than ever at his disposal, down to Ron Marinaccio and Michael King, and has done a good job of keeping everyone balanced thus far in terms of workload. It’s just a matter of the number of things that must go perfectly for all the dominoes to continue to topple each other in one-and-two-run games through the end of the season.
Some teams piece together an excellent October run with a quick trigger on their starters, followed by four, five or six exceptional bullpen performances per game. Thus far, it feels like the Yankees are attempting the same maneuver for all 162 games. Even more so than the pressure placed on the home run ball, this seems poised to sink the Yankees’ season. Even an exceptional bullpen can’t hold a one-run lead in six-part harmony 100 consecutive times.