Considering the injury blows the Yankees have been dealt to begin the 2023 season, their hot start has to be regarded as a success. For the third time in 20 years, they secured four series wins in a row to open the campaign, and followed that with a well-earned split against a tough Twins team that took the series' first two games in emphatic fashion, complete with a nine-run first inning and follow-up bullpen meltdown.
But how sustainable is the Yankees' hot start? The leaders of the starting rotation, Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes Jr., have been phenomenal, but the placeholders have been less effective. Domingo Germán was brilliant in his third start of the season, and Jhony Brito was excellent in his first two, but both need to be more consistent moving forward.
The bullpen is full of exciting arms, especially thanks to Michael King's recent bounce back, but it remains unclear whether the team has a closer; Clay Holmes nearly faltered in Cleveland, blew a save against the Twins, and now has a 5.81 ERA since midway through July 2022 (cherry picked, of course, but an extended sample size).
Does the offense have a leak in it, too? The Yankees are bashing along with MLB's best teams, but have left a frustrating amount of runners in scoring position, especially with no outs. With a runner on third base (and first and second unoccupied), the Bombers are 1-for-19 with a pair of RBI and eight strikeouts. A specific circumstance, to be sure, but a deficiency that's been evident from the eye test.
Thanks to Yankees insider Brendan Kuty, we now have an additional worry beyond clutch performance in a small sample size. The Yankees aren't just struggling to keep the line moving. They're struggling to get on base at all, outside of their most prominent stars.
Yankees' worrisome early-season trend: They can't get on base
Through the Yankees' first 16 games, their .307 team OBP ranked 24th in MLB, well down from the .325 OBP that placed them fourth last season. Since Kuty penned this piece, they've "vaulted" up the rankings to 21st in MLB, inching up to .308. Unfortunately, those extra runners on base haven't resulted in much run production, as they've scored only five runs total in those two additional games. One was the Ghost Runner on Wednesday night, a game in which the Yankees went a frustrating 0-9 with RISP.
While Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu and Anthony Rizzo have been just fine in their small sample sizes so far, Giancarlo Stanton was somehow getting on base at a below-.300 clip prior to his Grade 2 hamstring strain. Unsurprisingly, Aaron Hicks, Josh Donaldson and IKF have combined for an OBP under .150, as of this writing.
All the Yankees have to do to rebound is to replace that trio's production with something approaching league-average. Even a little below would be fine! As it stands, though, that's 60 ABs of horrific offense, and with Stanton out, it appears Hicks will get an even longer runway to halt this team's offensive momentum.
It's not as if Stanton was a premier on-base specialist to begin with, but if any member of the top four dips, this issue could get worse before it gets better.
Maybe it's time for Andres Chaparro instead of testing the definition of insanity.