At 5-14, the New York Yankees are in the middle of their worst 19-game stretch since losing 14 times in 19 games in June 2017. The Yankees were outscored by 13 runs in those 19 games in 2017. In 2020, they've been outscored by 34 runs during the 5-14 stretch. Monday brought a new low as the bullpen turned a four-run lead into a six-run deficit in the sixth inning against the Blue Jays (TOR 12, NYY 7).
Here's video of the bullpen bloodbath:
"We need to get past it. We need to play better obviously," manager Aaron Boone told reporters after the game, including George King of the New York Post. "We did some good things at the plate where we had been struggling a little bit and hopefully we can build on that. Any time we get a lead in the middle innings we will take our chances at the back end. We got to do better, but have to have the ability to move forward.''
The Yankees started the season 16-6 but are now just one game over .500 at 21-20, and their postseason chances sit at 84.7 percent, according to Sportsline. That's really good, though it's down quite a bit from 99-plus percent two weeks ago. Because the No. 7 seed is all but certain to go to the third-place finisher in the AL Central, the Yankees are currently fighting for the No. 8 seed in the expanded postseason field. Here's that race:
Can't imagine the Yankees expected to be scoreboard watching the Mariners, Orioles, and Tigers in the final 20 days of the regular season, but here they are. It's embarrassing, really. The Yankees came into this season as World Series contenders, if not World Series favorites, and are instead trying to hang on to the No. 8 seed for dear life.
Given their current slide and the play of the teams chasing them -- Seattle has quietly won 11 of its last 14 games, the best record in the American League during that time -- there is a very real chance the Yankees will miss the postseason entirely this year, even with the expanded postseason field. Here are the four biggest reasons it is a distinct possibility.
1. The offense has been dreadful
The Yankees scored seven runs Monday night and it probably felt like 700 runs. They managed only 11 runs total in their four-game weekend series in Camden Yards -- the Yankees scored 11 runs in one game against the Orioles four times last season, and 10 runs on one other occasion -- and they've scored more than five runs only four times in this 5-14 skid.
New York's offensive ranks during the 5-14 stretch are dreadful:
|Runs per game||Batting average||On-base percentage||Slugging percentage||Homers per game|
Gary Sanchez has been so bad this year that he's currently being benched, but he is hardly the only Yankee underperforming. DJ LeMahieu, Luke Voit, and Clint Frazier are by far New York's best offensive performers and it's not all that close with Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gio Urshela on the injured list.
By OPS+, here is the lineup the Yankees sent out there against the Blue Jays in a pivotal game Monday night:
- 152 OPS+
- 162 OPS+
- 112 OPS+
- 158 OPS+
- 86 OPS+
- 63 OPS+
- 68 OPS+
- 12 OPS+
- 47 OPS+
Pretty easy to pick LeMahieu, Voit, and Frazier out of that lineup. The only other above-average hitter is Aaron Hicks, who is hitting .209 but has a solid .365 on-base percentage thanks to the third-highest walk rate in baseball (19.7 percent). The bottom five spots in the lineup, which includes Gleyber Torres hitter (No. 5 hitter above), is where rallies go to die.
The Yankees got tremendous production from fill-ins like Mike Tauchman and Mike Ford last season, allowing them to win 103 games and the AL East despite all their injuries. This year, Tauchman owns an 88 OPS+ and Ford is at 39 OPS+. The next man up is now the next man out. The offense is in dire straits. Every run is a minor miracle these days.
2. The bullpen can't protect leads
A 10-run inning is an outlier, always and forever, but Monday's meltdown was a symptom of a larger problem for the Yankees. Their bullpen, which has ranked among the game's elite for so long, has consistently failed to protect leads. Six times during this 5-14 stretch the bullpen has blown a lead, including three times with six or fewer outs to go. They lost three such games all last year.
Here is where New York's bullpen ranks this season:
|ERA||WHIP||FIP||K/BB||WAR||Win probability added|
A replacement-level bullpen, through and through. The Yankees did lose Tommy Kahnle to Tommy John surgery earlier this season and that's a significant blow, because Kahnle is a high strikeout/high ground ball guy who can neutralize lefties and righties. They really miss him. Otherwise this is the same cast of characters that formed one of the top bullpens in the game last season.
"The leadoff walk came back to kill us," Chad Green told reporters, including George King of the New York Post, after conspiring with Adam Ottavino to allow those 10 runs in the sixth inning Monday night. "That situation with what our offense just did that can't happen."
With the offense struggling the way it has, the Yankees need the bullpen to protect any leads they're given, and they've been unable to do that. Turn just two of those six blown leads during this 5-14 stretch into wins and the Yankees are tied with the Blue Jays for second place and have a more comfortable 3 1/2 games up on the Orioles.
3. There's no help coming anytime soon
Despite obvious needs, the Yankees did not make a single move at the trade deadline last week. They definitely needed another pitcher, either a starter or reliever (ideally they would have added one of each), and they could have used another bat as well given their injuries. Instead, nothing. GM Brian Cashman said the asking prices were too high.
"Without a doubt, the effort was to try to get a controllable starter moving forward, or even a short-term starter to continue to give ourselves a better chance," Cashman told reporters, including NJ.com's Brendan Kuty. "But the price tags associated on it usually was a subtraction of some impactful player that's currently playing a role or was anticipated to play a very important role for this franchise or the immediate future. So that was the difficulty of trying to navigate the deadline."
Ex-Marlins president David Samson discussed the Yankees' recent slide on Tuesday's episode of Nothing Personal with David Samson. Listen below:
With no additions at the deadline, the Yankees dipped into their farm system for top pitching prospects Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt within the last 10 days. Garcia has been very good in two starts while Schmidt has been hit or miss in short relief. The Yankees need immediate impact and those two kids will be asked to provide it. They've been put in a difficult spot.
As for the offense, the Yankees are waiting for Judge (calf) and Stanton (hamstring) to return. Judge is on the injured list for the second time with a calf strain. He missed 14 days last month, came back, then reinjured the calf five innings into his first game. The Yankees are taking it even slower this time to ensure the calf is healed and Judge doesn't suffer another setback.
"I'm not sure all the baseball stuff that he did today," Boone told reporters, including Erik Boland of Newsday, when asked about Judge's progress on Monday. "I'll get that report a little bit later, but I know he ran outside to start his ramp-up. I know he's feeling (good) and everything went well in his first kind of running on the field. So that was good news."
Stanton has resumed baseball activities as well but Boone admitted "it's been a little bit slow, but we do feel like he's making really good progress right now." There are 20 days remaining in the regular season and it's unclear whether the Yankees will have Judge and Stanton for even half of them. There's not much time to return and have an impact on the postseason race.
For all intents and purposes, what you see is what you're going to get with the Yankees. If they're going to end this 5-14 skid and take control of a postseason berth, it has to be the guys on the roster right now who do it. The trade deadline brought no help and it's hard to expect Judge and Stanton to return in time to have a meaningful impact.
4. The schedule isn't favorable
If you're an optimistic, the glass is half full because the Yankees still have a lot of games remaining with the teams directly around them in the postseason race. If you're a pessimist, the glass is half empty because the Yankees have really struggled against those teams of late. Here is their remaining schedule:
- Sept. 8-9 at Blue Jays
- Sept. 10-13 vs. Orioles
- Sept. 15-17 vs. Blue Jays
- Sept. 18-20 at Red Sox
- Sept. 21-24 at Blue Jays
- Sept. 25-27 vs. Marlins
Nine of New York's final 19 games are against a red-hot Blue Jays team that has won 16 of their last 23 games, the third-best record in the American League during that time. That gives the Yankees a chance to catch Toronto and retake second place in the AL East! Given how they've played of late, I can't say I'm confident that will actually happen.
Nine more games against the Blue Jays, four games against an upstart Orioles team that is in the race with nothing to lose, plus three games against a Marlins team fighting for their own postseason spot. Three games in Fenway Park, which is never an easy place to play, will be the "softest" part of the schedule for the Yankees down the stretch.
"First of all, we have a lot of really good players, guys that have had a lot of success in this league," Boone told reporters, including NJ.com's Randy Miller, on Monday night. "You've got to trust in that ability and that it's going to turn. It doesn't mean you don't dig in and you don't grind and you don't look to where you can make subtle adjustments to continue to improve and put us in a position to start winning games. You've got to have that belief. That's the biggest thing right now, especially when we're going through a tough time."