It doesn't take extensive mental gymnastics to determine what's gone wrong with Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo lately.
Rizzo was in the midst of an exceptional season. Then, he got his neck wrenched by an awkward Fernando Tatis Jr. non-slide. He sat out a series in Seattle, returned, and hasn't had the same mojo, surely battling stiffness in his joints.
Unfortunately, among struggling Yankees stars, he is hardly alone.
The Yankees are (stay with me here) traditionally a far worse team without Aaron Judge in the lineup. Since the start of 2022, they are an outright dominant 126-76 with him active, and a pedestrian 10-14 without him available. In order to survive Judge's upcoming lengthy absence, the Yankees' offense will need to step up across the board -- but, so far, the role players are doing more than their due diligence. The stars? They've been MIA.
The Yankees' dimmed star power was most glaring in the first game of Thursday's doubleheader, when Rizzo, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres and Giancarlo Stanton went 0-for-the-game as Willie Calhoun and Jake Bauers tried to drag the Bombers through the doldrums. Now just a sliver of a game above the Toronto Blue Jays in the Wild Card standings, the Yankees' playoff position won't last another week if their stars don't start playing to the back of their baseball cards.
Yankees can't rely on Jake Bauers, Willie Calhoun to stay atop MLB Standings
The good? Calhoun is at .308 with pop over his last 12 games; Bauers is at .385 with three homers and five doubles in his last nine. If the Yankees could continue stumbling into these contributions while adding Billy McKinney to the fray, they just might survive ... but ...
The bad? Rizzo's OPS now resides just above .800, 10th in the league entering weekend play and well behind standouts like ... Oakland's Ryan Noda (third, .888). We know exactly why. But it's ... it's bad.
LeMahieu? After helping to carry the team in the early going, his OBP entered the weekend under .300; he's in a similar slump to the one that has fans and writers considering a demotion for Anthony Volpe.
Torres? His foul pop with runners on first and second with no outs in the ninth continued an 0-fer that persisted from Game 1 in LA to his fourth-inning home run on Thursday night.
Maybe the Josh Donaldssaince is for real. Maybe Calhoun and Bauers can continue hitting like two Judges. But as long as fans remain envious of the A's for Noda and wistful for the LeMahieu of old (read: April), this Yankees team is going to have a tough time treading water. They employ non-Judge stars for a reason, and their time is now. There is more than enough talent in this lineup to continue to punish the league. They simply have to start doing it.