MLB: Are Injuries Just Part of the Problem for the New York Yankees?

As one of the oldest franchises in Major League Baseball, the New York Yankees are perennially one of the best teams in the sport. Bleacher Report ranked the Yankees No. 1 based on World Series Championships. With 27 titles, this gives them a commanding lead over the St. Louis Cardinals and their 11 championships. The Yankees also hold the title for the most World Series appearances and the fewest number of years passing between playing there. They lead the pack in the category of the most 100-win seasons and have the highest number of first-place finishes overall in the sport. The start of the 2019 season has been anything but championship-caliber for the Yankees, and a slew of injuries are just part of the problem.

Yankees heading for a World Series?

The 1980s were about the only time the Bronx Bombers weren’t playing nicely together. The Yankees didn’t appear in the World Series between 1982 and 1995, and the last time they played for a title was 2009.

The Yankees recently broke a record with a dozen players on their injured list, the highest in the league. The injuries have many fans wondering if their favorite team is in trouble, but they aren’t the only thing dragging the Yankees down this season.

Replacements not going the job

With slugger Giancarlo Stanton out with injury, Greg Bird took over at designated hitter, but he hasn’t done much hitting. Through 35 at-bats, Bird had a .171 average with a solo home run accounting for his lone RBI.

Bird isn’t alone in his struggles. Only five everyday players had averages of .250 or above through 22 games in 2019.

Pitching isn’t up to par

The Yankees less than stellar bullpen, which includes Aroldis Chapman's decreased velocity, is one of the problems at the start of the 2019 season.
Aroldis Chapman and the rest of the bullpen have struggled. | Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

On paper, the Yankees have one of the best bullpens in baseball. Still, as the season unfolds, the numbers coming from the pitching staff are less than impressive. Consider these recent mediocre performances from players on the mound:

  • Zack Britton allowed more baserunners than he had swinging strikes.
  • Aroldis Chapman’s fastball velocity isn’t what it used to be. He routinely touched triple digits on the radar gun in the past. This season, his fastball tops out at 97.5 mph.
  • Chad Green allowed seven runs in less than six innings to start the season.
  • Tommy Kahnle walked four batters in four innings, and he is also struggling with his fastball velocity.

Through 13 games, the only major pitching stat category in which the Yankees bullpen ranked in the top 10 was strikeouts per nine innings.

Sloppy performances on the field

The Yankees have one of the best trios playing in the outfield (when healthy), but they’re still struggling with other players on the diamond committing careless errors. New York ranked poorly in the league in defensive efficiency and recently placed 20th in baserunning at minus 1.4 runs. Some say their margin for committing these errors is due to a roster plagued with injuries, but it shouldn’t affect how the rest of the team is playing. Some Yankees seem like they’re simply not concentrating on the game.

Bad baserunning is compounding errors in the field. During a disappointing loss to the White Sox on April 12, D.J. LeMahieu swatted a two-run single, but baserunner Gleyber Torres froze between second and third base for some strange reason. Instead of being caught and tagged as an easy out in this self-inflicted pickle, Torres should have forced the Sox to perform a perfect set of relay throws in an attempt to end the inning.

Is there a silver lining?

For the sake of Yankee fans everywhere, hopefully, they’re done with injuries for the season. Often optimistic manager Aaron Boone summed up his players’ shortcomings with reporters:

“It’s got to be better, especially when you’re playing a really good team, and you’re up against a really good pitcher,” Boone said, according to CBS Sports. “You’ve got to do the little things that allow you to win ballgames. The bottom line is, we’re really close to playing a good brand and a complete game.”

So if the Yankees want to see another trip to the World Series in 2019, the bullpen needs to be delivering better pitching overall. For the other players, it’s literally time to step up to the plate and play better baseball in support of their fallen comrades.