All-Star weekend festivities have come to a close, and now it’s officially time for teams to start making runs toward the postseason.
The Yankees didn’t expect themselves to be 46-43 at this point, but that’s where they begin the second half, sitting eight games back of the first-place Boston Red Sox in the AL East.
It’s been a real letdown, to put it simply, that New York hasn’t been able to find a consistent groove with such a talented roster. And with the MLB trade deadline the next big date on the calendar, it’s unknown if the Yanks want to be aggressive to try to rejuvenate the squad for that second-half push, or sell off and think long-term.
There is a championship window for this club, though, and manager Aaron Boone has stated numerous times that he knows his team is capable of much more. They’ve proven that over the years.
So let’s take a look at five things that need to happen for the Yankees to take control of the second half of the season and possibly punch their ticket to play for a World Series:
1. Get Starting Pitching at MLB Trade Deadline
Hi, Brian Cashman. This one’s for you.
The Yankees can’t be entirely dependent on Gerrit Cole in the second half to get them over the hump. That’s not how a playoff team works. Corey Kluber may not return at all this season, and the likes of Jameson Taillon, Domingo German and Jordan Montgomery just isn’t enough.
There’s a possibility Luis Severino can give quality innings when he makes his return from Tommy John rehab, but you can’t take that to the bank.
Yankees fans aren’t asking Cash to get a Jose Berrios (though that would work wonders behind Cole) with his price tag very high. But someone like Cubs’ Zach Davies, Pirates’ Tyler Anderson and others should be available to provide quality innings that the Yanks can use in a potential run.
Honestly, it’s a necessity if the Yanks wish to make it.
2. Chapman Needs To Figure It Out
An ERA over 11 since May 23, and Boone not being able to use him as the Yanks’ closer at the moment.
He may have been in an All-Star uniform in Denver on Tuesday night, but Aroldis Chapman hasn’t been pitching like that in the slightest. His velocity is slightly down as he tries to find the strike zone, and players are teeing off on his high-octane fastball because he’s getting behind in counts.
Chapman promised he’d work it out, but it’s been over a month since we’ve seen the shutdown closer that started the season for New York. Chad Green has closer experience, but the Yankees need Chapman to work through these struggles…and fast.
Why pick out these two specifically? Well, given their spot in the lineup (usually Top 6), the Yankees need these two to hit like they have in the past.
That doesn’t mean we need LeMahieu putting up the best average in baseball again. But slashing .270/.351/.367 isn’t the LeMahieu Yankee fans came to love and the one that got things going each night at the top of the lineup. He has been better with a .305 average with 11 RBI, one homer and two doubles in his last 15 games before the break, but numbers like that need to be consistent for the catalyst in this power-heavy group.
As for Torres, his struggles from the shortened 2020 campaign trickled over into this season and they haven’t stopped. And the Yanks can’t send him down to Triple-A to figure it out and get his confidence yup because, well, they don’t have any options to take his place. He’s hitting .240/.326/.308 with only three dingers and 29 RBI.
Torres is certainly capable of more and the Yanks need to see it in the second half.
He’s battled injuries throughout the season, but since returning, Voit hasn’t really gotten going.
It seemed he was going to after the Royals series, where he cranked two homers as well as a long walk-off hit. But he’s got just three homers in 29 games and 11 RBI, coming from the league-leader in big flies last season.
Again, Voit is another Yankee at the top of the lineup, normally stationed between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. With those two playing well (Judge has been New York’s best offensive player by far), Voit’s bat finding itself again in the middle creates a power trifecta that teams hate pitching to.
Voit finding that power stroke consistently again would help this team that sits 20th in runs per game.
5. Set The Tone Early
The Yankees have 11 of their first 13 games in the second half against the Boston Red Sox (eight games) and Tampa Bay Rays (three games) – the top two teams in the AL East. Both teams have given the Yanks fits thus far, but if there was ever a time to make that push, it would be setting the tone immediately against these two teams.
New York would not only make up ground in the division, but also tell the rest of the league they’re not going away that easy and there’s a lot of baseball left. And if they can do that, it gets easier with the Miami Marlins, Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals before facing the Chicago White Sox and Red Sox again when August rolls around.
Setting the tone will be a major key for New York. If they don’t, the pinstripes could quickly be looking at a double-digit gap in the division instead of just a few games.