The Yankees’ Big Guns are shooting blanks, but it’s too early to be anxious
By Cam Giangrande
We’re barely three weeks into the 2018 baseball season and already there are storm clouds forming in the Bronx. Not only are the Bombers looking up at the streaking Red Sox, who are 13-2, and just lost two out of three against them, but they are in third place, behind the Toronto Blue Jays. More alarming for the Yankees is that they’re just not playing good baseball. They are currently at .500, with a 7-7 record, and already 5.5 games out of first place…and two games behind the second wildcard.
Yankee fans sensed early that something is amiss with this team. On Opening Day they “welcomed” Giancarlo Stanton by raining Bronx Cheers down upon him. The reigning NL MVP already has 26 strikeouts, including two games which saw him strike out five times. To compare: Hall of Famer; Joe DiMaggio, only struck out 13 times in 1941 and 18 times in 1949.
Wow, looks like anyone can strike out Giancarlo Stanton these days. pic.twitter.com/zZ3AzNDjdt
— What the Sports (@realwtsports) April 10, 2018
But is Giancarlo the problem in Yankee-land? He’s definitely been a problem, but he’s certainly not the only one. If you take a closer look at his stats so far, you’ll see he’s not that far off his career levels. His career average is .268. This year he’s sitting at .217, but with such a small sample size, he’s not that far away from being at his career norm. He has 13 hits in 60 at bats. If he had two more hits in his first 54 at-bats, he’d be at .277, which is about the average he had during last season’s MVP campaign, when he batted .281.
His 162-game HR average is 44. In the first 13 games this season, he hit three. Over 162 games, that averages out to be 38 home runs.. He averages 110 RBI over 162 games: this season he was at a pace of 124 RBI after 13 games. He scores 95 runs over 162 games. This season he was on pace to score 99 runs after 13 games. His career OPS is .919, and this season he was just a tad off that after 13 games, with an .828 OPS.
The only major statistical blip is his strikeout figure because the average will certainly come up. At his current pace he’d end the season with over 250 strikeouts. The all-time record for strikeouts in a single-season is 223 by Mark Reynolds, who accomplished the dubious record in 2009. Stanton would obliterate the record. Again, let’s put everything in perspective; his career 162-game average for strikeouts is 189. He struck out 163 times last season, and he’s never struck out over 170 times in any season. To get back to his historical average, he’ll have to go seven straight games without a strikeout. Realistically that won’t happen, but over the long run, his strikeout pace will come down; and barring injury, his home run pace will continue to hover around 40 or more bombs. Giancarlo Stanton will be just fine, and the boos will turn to cheers before long. The only question will be whether or not Stanton takes a curtain call and tips his cap after his first multi- home run game…I’m not sure I would.
Yankee fans: you have far bigger problems than Giancarlo Stanton. You have a catcher who’s been awful this season. Other than the game last week where he showed signs of breaking out; hitting two bombs over the Green Monster, Gary Sanchez ‘ season has been quite forgettable thus far. Sanchez is the consensus Most Valuable Catcher in the AL, and he’s been absolutely killing his team, and his fantasy owners, (I’m one of them). Currently, Sanchez is only hitting .173 with nine hits in 52 at-bats. His OPS in only 627. By accident, he should have more production.
Aside from Sanchez, one of the main pieces this season was supposed to be their first baseman, Greg Bird. His coming-out party was in 2015 when he was 22 years old. In 46 games he banged out 11 home runs, and hit them at a pace of one every 14.27 at bats. He lost his entire 2016 season to injury, and his entire 2017 was ruined due to injuries too. Heading into 2018, which should be his fourth big league season, he’s only played in 94 total games. And, he began this season on the DL, recovering from ankle surgery. At 25 years old, he should be entering his prime seasons. It’s beginning to feel like Bird will never actually have a prime and be one of those players who can’t get on, or stay on a field, for any extended period of time. He wouldn’t be the first player to have a promising career cut short due to injuries.
Add to that, a pitching staff that is heavily reliant on its bullpen. The Yankees have a bunch of five and six-inning starting pitchers and will rely on a deep pen of fireballers, (Tommy Kahnle, Dave Robertson, Chad Green, Chasen Shreve, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman). For many teams, that’s a great problem to have, but for a team who just hired a first-year manager, in Aaron Boone: it could be a long season of bad decisions and missteps.
Nobody is going to shed a year for the Yankees. General Manager Brian Cashman has put together a powerhouse on paper. Unfortunately games aren’t played on paper; they need to be won on the field. The team does have some money to spend, being 10s of millions under the luxury tax, so they’ll be able to improve where needed. Although it’s way too soon to make any wholesale changes, or start to panic, the fact is, this team is built to win; now. If they don’t start to click soon, don’t be surprised to see Cashman making aggressive moves. Although I doubt it will get bad enough for Boone to be worried about his job, he should be glad that George Steinbrenner isn’t around anymore, because if “The Boss” were still with us, Boone would definitely be in jeopardy. It’s amazing to me they gave the keys to the Ferrari to a kid who just got his driver’s license.
So yes, Stanton has gotten off to a rough start, but fear not; he’ll be just fine…and so will the Yankees. They have too much talent over the long run. And they have enough financial flexibility, with a smart front office, to not be in the mix for their 28th World Series title.