The Yankees’ mediocre start has fans in panic mode. Here are 5 reasons why the Bronx Bombers are scuffling with a .500 record.
Brian Cashman and the Yankees’ front office not to spend big in free agency this offseason put fans on edge to start the campaign. The team’s ugly 5-5 start hasn’t helped the mental health of fans in the Bronx.
It’s too early for the Yankees to press the panic button, but it’s reasonable to ask who is responsible for the team’s inconsistent start to the campaign. Fans on social media would love to place the blame at Cashman or manager Aaron Boone’s feet, but they aren’t on the field failing to make plays. Fans in New York should focus on the following five reasons for the team’s sluggish start.
5. Gerrit Cole has been human
Cole is being paid to be one of the best pitchers in baseball but he’s arguably been New York’s worst starting pitcher for his opening two starts. He’s certainly not satisfied with his 5.59 ERA in just 9.2 innings pitched.
In fairness, Vlad Guerrero’s home run barrage against Cole is responsible for a fair bit of the pitcher’s struggles. That doesn’t change the reality that he’s made too many mistake pitches. In particular, his propensity to leave pitches up in the zone is a concern for the team moving forward.
Cole can get his numbers back in line with a single quality start this week, but his failure to win either of his two starts to open the season is a contributing factor to his team’s ugly start.
4. Joey Gallo still can’t hit
The party line for the Yankees this offseason was that Gallo just needed a stable offseason to settle in and play his best baseball for the team. Instead, his first 10 games of this season have been even worse than last year’s putrid campaign.
The sample size is still very small at just 29 at-bats but Gallo’s .138 batting average and OPS of just .424 illustrate just how poor he’s been at the plate. Right field is a plus batting position all over MLB and instead, the Yankees are carrying dead weight in the form of Gallo at the moment.
The veteran outfielder is just 28-years-old so this shouldn’t be a product of age-related regression. It’s still a massive concern that Gallo hasn’t hit about .200 since the 2019 season. New York’s front office should be losing patience with him.
It’s nice that Gallo plays good defense in right field but the reality is that his offensive ineptitude is a big reason why the team’s offense is struggling to score runs. If he doesn’t improve his performance in a hurry he’s going to find himself on Boone’s bench more often than he’d like.
3. Jonathan Loaisiga hasn’t found his groove
The Yankees’ bullpen deserves immense credit for keeping the team afloat despite the batting order’s obvious struggles. Ironically, Loaisiga is the one guy who hasn’t gotten off to a good start despite the momentum he brought into the season after his brilliant 2021 campaign.
His 8.44 ERA in six appearances is comfortably the worst mark for the pitching staff. The good news is that Loaisiga has only really pitched poorly in two of his outings. He gave up one run while recording just one out against the Blue Jays early in the season, but it’s giving up four runs in just one inning of work in his most recent performance against the Orioles that’s really driving up his ERA.
Similar to the case with Cole, Loaisiga’s appearance on this list is largely a product of the large expectations the Yankees have for him. He’s supposed to be Boone’s most reliable weapon out of the bullpen. When he can’t help bridge the gap to closer Aroldis Chapman it puts New York in a tough spot.
Loaisiga’s stuff has looked good for most of his work on the year so there’s significant reason for optimism about his pitching moving forward. Look for his ERA to regress to the mean pretty quickly over the coming weeks.
2. The catcher position has actually gotten worse
The Yankees knew that jettisoning Gary Sanchez was likely going to weaken them offensively at the catcher position. The hope was that Kyle Higashioka could help keep the team’s catching tandem afloat with the pop in his bat.
Instead, Higashioka has begun the 2022 season mired in a horrendous slump. This kind of doldrum might not be quite as noticeable sandwiched in the middle of a season, but the 31-year-old only managing three hits in 25 at-bats looks pretty ugly as his full-season statistics.
If possible, Higashioka has actually looked more lost with the bat in his hands than the numbers reflect. He’s never been a high contact hitter but he has looked overmatched in his six strikeouts on the year. Higashioka may do a nice job framing pitches behind the plate but he’s looked like a minor leaguer at the plate thus far.
The immediate solution for Boone is to make him more of a platoon player until he finds some confidence. Jose Trevino isn’t going to light up MLB with his bat, but he can’t be much worse than Higashioka has been to open the season.
1. Gleyber Torres still looks lost
Torres’ sparkling 38 home run total from the 2019 season seems like a fever dream for Yankees fans at the moment. His 5-for-31 start to this season has team officials wondering whether or not he’ll ever regain his stroke at the plate.
The franchise hoped that moving Torres back to second base on a permanent basis would free him up to focus on his offense. Instead, he only looks more puzzled. Torres continues to try to snap out of his doldrums by pulling the ball at all costs.
That’s a problem because he’s at his best when he’s using all fields. A significant portion of his best power stretches come from driving the ball to the gap in right center. Right now he’s jumping at everything in an effort to pull it down the left-field line. That approach equals strikeouts for the 25-year-old infielder.
It’s fair for Yankees fans to wonder whether or not Torres is ever going to become the star it looked like he was on track to become just three years ago. If his performance doesn’t improve soon the front office may contemplate moving him. DJ LeMahieu’s ability to handle second at a high level makes him expendable if the right trade offer comes along.