Yankees Facing Uphill Battle In Crowded AL East – Reflections On Baseball

Yankees Stadium - Home of the Yankees Photo Credit: Wheretraveler

The Yankees are just another team in the AL East Division. They’re competitive but not dominant. Some sobering facts are emerging…

The Yankees find themselves again in the most competitive division in major league baseball – the American League East. They are playing .600 baseball, but so are three other teams, and the Boston Red Sox are not far behind the pace.

Before we begin, let’s dispel a myth that seems to follow baseball due to its lengthy season that covers six months and 162 games. It is not early.

The games played in April count the same as those played in the season’s waning days in September, and looking up in the standings is never as good as looking down at the teams below you, no matter what stage of the season. Starting play today (Monday), here’s a look at the American League East standings:

Source: MLB
Source: MLB

Undefeated at home (13-0), the Tampa Bay Rays have gotten off to a blistering start. Meanwhile, the Yankees have played more games at home (16) than any team in the division, but they only have a 9-7 record at Yankee Stadium.

The Baltimore Orioles are picking up right where they left off last year when they surprised everyone with 83 wins. They surprised no one this year. Even the Red Sox (12-11), who most discounted during the offseason, is 7-3 over their last ten games.

Yankees: The Tale Of The Stats

The AL East - Baseball's Toughest Division
The AL East – Baseball’s Toughest Division

Regarding the Yankees, the question is, do they have enough to produce results that can win the division?

Sadly, the answer at the moment is a definitive no! Let’s recap a few things to demonstrate the point solely with the AL East.

The Tampa Bay Rays lead the AL East in batting average, runs scored, home runs, OPS, and on-base percentage. Plus, they have the fewest strikeouts of anyone in the division. They are aggressive at the plate, drawing the fewest walks.

In contrast, the Yankees strike out more than anyone in the division. They score fewer runs, sport the lowest batting average, and have the lowest OPS of teams in the AL East. This is not a good formula to survive, much less thrive in this division.

On the pitching side, things look better for the Yankees as they are second to the Rays in ERA. But the young staff of the Orioles is getting better and better, achieving command of the strike zone and allowing the fewest walks in the AL East.

Yankees: The Ifs, Ands, And The Buts

As stated before, as trite as it sounds, every game counts. While the Yankees are flailing in many offensive departments, what can we look forward to among the maze of “ifs” on the team?

Giancarlo Stanton‘s bat is sorely missed in the Yankees lineup. Until he returns, it is incumbent on Anthony Rizzo to stay hot and healthy behind Aaron Judge because, otherwise, pitchers will pitch around the big guy.

The return of Josh Donaldson will secure the infield defensively, but it remains a horror to think he will make four or five appearances in the six-hole each game – likely with men on base.

DJ LeMahieu remains invaluable to the Yankees as Aaron Boon sprinkles him around the diamond each game. Still, he is aging more quickly than the Yankees may have anticipated when they signed him to a contract extension.

Gleyber Torres remains an enigma who shows flashes of brilliance, hitting in clutch situations but lacking consistency.

Aaron Hicks should be given his walking papers – lest he mimics the Yankees’ fantasy support of Gary Sanchez until they finally pulled the plug on Sanchez, who still wallows away – somewhere??

Moreover, the Yankees have Harrison Bader still on the sidelines from when he showed up in the clubhouse wearing a “boot,” save for a few playoff games last year. And to rub it in, do the Yankees have anyone better than Jordan Mongomery, who they gave up for Bader to plug in as their fourth or fifth starter?

Those Pesky Tampa Bay Rays...
Those Pesky Tampa Bay Rays…

What about Carlos Rodon too? When will he throw his first pitch in a Yankees uniform? Aaron Boone is non-commital regarding his throwing program, which continues to be a source of irritation for the team that needs someone to follow Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes adequately in the rotation.

And did Clarke Schmidt “find something,” as he said regarding the five scoreless innings he spun on Sunday?

The AL East – Where Do The Yankees Fit In?

These are a lot of ifs and unknowns facing the Yankees. With this year’s newly balanced schedule, six fewer games are played against teams in the AL East. Given the trouble the Yankees seem to have with Tampa Bay and Toronto, some will say this is an advantage for the Yankees. But there is nothing to gain with sarcasm.

In all likelihood, the Rays will come back to Earth. But simultaneously, the Blue Jays will sort out their pitching and continue to present a run-scoring machine with their lineup.

So, where do the Yankees fit in, if anywhere, in the AL East? My take is they fit right where they are – in the middle of the pack competing and probably snaring a spot in the playoffs as a Wild Card team.

A sobering assessment, perhaps. But realistically, is there any reason to believe otherwise?

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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.