It is still too early to panic on the 2021 Yankees. Still, that does not mean there are troubling tends with this New York Yankee team as they begin their pursuit to climb out of a 5-10 start.
The bullpen has been good, but the starting pitching after Gerrit Cole, the defense, and the offense have played poor baseball for the first two weeks.
“We recognize we’re really disappointed in how we started this season,” general manager Brian Cashman said on a Monday afternoon Zoom call. “…you kind of liken it to you’re out of sea and you’re in a storm and you jut have to sail through it. You have to batten down the hatches and sail through it.”
The Yankees have been trying to weather this storm for longer than 15 games. Remember, they started 2020 16-6, then went 5-15, then 10-0, and then they finished 2-5. Additionally, a lot of the trends seen early in 2021 date back to 2020, when the team was marred by these inconsistencies.
The issues that reared their head during the Yankees’ bad stretches last year have been present in 2021. The core of the team was not altered much in the offseason so a lot of these issues
The 2021 Yankees have looked lost defensively. According to Baseball Savant, they have two players – Gio Urshela and Brett Gardner – playing above average defense. They have three – Aaron Judge, Clint Frazier, and Gleyber Torres – combine for -8 outs above average.
The team is throwing the ball away, overshooting cutoff men, and letting unearned runs score in unnecessarily extended innings. They hold the third highest error per game total in MLB, 0.80, only better than the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Angels.
In 2020, the Yankees finished second to last in errors per game. Only the Pittsburgh Pirates committed more errors. Of the 13 players that qualified, they had six register below-league-average outs above average numbers compared to three that were positive.
Part of the problem with the 2021 Yankees’ defense is their speed. In the early going, not one Yankee ranks in the top-20 at their position for sprint speed and none crack the top-100 overall. This lack of speed inhibits their range in the field.
Although they had two players in the top-100 in 2020, neither cracked the top-80. Speed has never been a focal point of the Yankees’ roster, but they have struggled to field well since the start of 2020 and the lack of speed only further exposes that weakness. Not only are they struggling to field and throw the ball, but their range is not great either.
Still, speed and defense were not supposed to be the greatest strength of this team. Their offense is. The team entered play Tuesday with one of the worst slugging percentages in the league. Ten of their thirteen qualified hitters have slugging percentages lower than the MLB average. One of the three above the league-average mark is Kyle Higashioka, their backup catcher.
“Right now we would be a team that an opponent would want to play because obviously we are not firing on all cylinders,” Cashman said. “Our strengths obviously are not showing themselves right now.”
In 2020, they had 11 players slug below-league-average although seven of their nine lineup regulars were above league average.
The 2021 Yankees can start to turn their season around with a win Tuesday night. After that, they need to string together a lengthy streak of clean, fundamentally sound baseball on offense and defense to prove they are not destined for a repeat of one of the franchise’s most inconsistent seasons in recent memory.
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