Yankees face a double whammy as offensive woes join rotation despairs

Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees
Joel Sherman
John Allen
Sunday August 13, 2023

Table of Contents

The Yankees rotation currently is in despair and their challenges seem to be compounding as the offense has gone more inconsistent than ever.

In recent months, the team has been plagued by injuries that have sidelined crucial starting pitchers. As a result, they are now heavily reliant on less experienced pitchers as they navigate the remainder of the season. This situation has even led them to extend one of their top relievers to fill the gap, all while their chances of making the postseason continue to decrease.

This is why Jhony Brito deserved the spotlight on Saturday in Miami. Making a successful return to the Yankees’ pitching staff from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the right-hander showcased his skills with an impressive performance. He matched his career-high of six strikeouts while delivering five solid innings, allowing only one run.

However, Brito’s standout display was somewhat overshadowed. Despite Friday night’s offensive fireworks, the Yankees found themselves grappling with their recurring weakness once again, dampening their recent surge of momentum.

The Yankees struggled to generate offense, managing only a single run on four hits against Marlins’ top pitcher Sandy Alcantara in a 3-1 defeat. Alcantara delivered a complete game performance, dominating the Yankees with 10 strikeouts and 19 swings and misses. He surrendered just five hits in total. The lone run for the Yankees was a result of a missed strike three calls by home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez in the top of the seventh inning. After the call, Billy McKinney managed to draw a walk, and he later scored on an RBI single by Isiah Kiner-Falefa.

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Inconsistent offense drawing down the Yankees

The explosive offense that ignited for nine runs on Friday night in Miami seemed to vanish on Saturday. Despite every Yankee in the starting lineup recording at least one hit during the previous game, their performance took a different turn. Aaron Judge and Anthony Volpe‘s remarkable home runs were replaced by a lackluster display, and the Yankees struggled to replicate their success with runners in scoring position, managing only seven hits in such situations.

This scenario of a silenced offense the day after a notable breakthrough is not a novel experience for the team. In fact, it has occurred before, highlighting a recurring pattern.

Following the game, Yankees manager Aaron Boone commended Alcantara’s performance, emphasizing how he consistently gained the upper hand. Alcantara’s effective use of his sinker and changeup posed challenges for the Yankees’ right-handed hitters. When questioned about the disappointment of being stifled offensively after scoring nine runs the previous day, Boone’s response centered on the skill and tactics of the opposing pitcher.

Boone mentioned that the team was aware they were facing a capable pitcher and that their focus is on securing wins. He emphasized the importance of bouncing back after a strong performance and acknowledged that they were held in check by a pitcher who was performing at his best.

Certainly, Sandy Alcantara, the 2022 National League Cy Young Award winner, has seen a dip in his performance this season, yet he exhibited his ability to confound strong lineups as he did on Saturday with his diverse pitching arsenal.

However, this can’t serve as an excuse. To contend for a championship, the Yankees must be able to compete with the top-tier pitchers on opposing teams. Their offense needs to hold its ground. Moreover, the Yankees have often allowed struggling starting pitchers to shine like elite pitchers during this season. Their lackluster showing against Jameson Taillon just before the All-Star break was a tipping point that led to the dismissal of hitting coach Dillon Lawson. Subsequently, starters such as Chase Silseth, Austin Gomber, Griffin Canning, and Kyle Bradish have perplexed the Yankees, leaving them searching for solutions.

Actions must back the Yankees’ confidence

Despite these challenges, those within the Yankees’ clubhouse remain confident in their ability to rectify their offensive performance. The team possesses the talent and potential to achieve this turnaround. However, recent games underscore that the glimpses of a formidable offense may be more illusory than indicative of a significant breakthrough. This holds true for the team until they demonstrate otherwise.

Considering their recent loss, the Yankees find themselves trailing by four games in the Wild Card race, maintaining a somewhat precarious position at just three games above .500 (60-57) with 45 games left to play. Notably, their offense still grapples with the second-worst batting average (.232) and the fifth-worst on-base percentage (.307) across the league. Their struggle is evident in the fact that they’ve tallied three runs or fewer in 55 of their games, managing to win only 11 of those contests.

While the leadership of new hitting coach Sean Casey has brought about several improvements in the second half, including a noticeable rise in on-base percentage, the offensive performance remains a work in progress. In the time since the All-Star break, the Yankees have recorded the fifth-lowest slugging percentage (.383) and have notched the eighth-fewest runs (104) in all of Major League Baseball.

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AP Photo/ Marta Lavandier

Indeed, the loss of Nestor Cortes for the remainder of the season was a significant setback. Carlos Rodón’s return to the injured list further compounded their challenges. When you add in Frankie Montas’ sidelined season and Luis Severino’s struggles during the summer, the Yankees are facing substantial adversity in their rotation.

However, it’s the offense that is poised to be the limiting factor for this team. After all, winning requires outscoring the opponent, and the Yankees have yet to consistently demonstrate this ability throughout the season. Even if they manage to secure a playoff spot — their chances currently stand at 7.8 percent, according to FanGraphs — a notable turnaround would be necessary for the team to navigate their way through the challenges of October.

As owner Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman approach the task of reshaping their roster for the 2024 season in the upcoming winter, this reality should remain at the forefront of their considerations. Despite any gaps in their starting rotation, enhancing the lineup around Aaron Judge and fortifying the team’s batting should emerge as their primary focus.

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