The Angels head up to New York to play a four-game set against the ferocious Yankees. However, NYY is currently fourth in the AL East, sitting at 40-37 and 6.5 games out of the division lead. Despite the record that Angels fans would probably love to have, Yankees fans online seem to feel like the world is ending.
Although this is a four-game series, the Angels will avoid facing ace Gerrit Cole, who pitched Sunday. This is definitely a positive boon, as the Angels need all the help they can get at the moment.
Here are some things to note about the 2021 Yankees.
1. The Yankees ground into a ton of double plays.
It’s like they have Albert Pujols playing for them or something. The Yankees have GIDP’d 75 times this season, only second behind the Astros (except the Astros actually have a competent offense and are winning, so the fans don’t get too mad). This makes sense. The team is largely right-handed (only Brett Gardner hits lefty) and slow, and the hitters walk a lot. Just because it makes sense for the GIDPs to flow doesn’t mean the fans are happy.
The Yankees are a top-ten power team, so when baserunners do reach against Angels pitching, it will be crucial to erase them on the aforementioned GIDPs, not allowing multi-run home runs.
2. The Yankees have one of the best bullpens in the league.
Yes, this starts with Aroldis Chapman, who was simply lights out at the start of the season, but it’s not just him. In fact, Chapman has allowed runs in four of his last seven appearances, and in another, he allowed the first two baserunners to reach before inducing a triple play to end the game. So his form is shaky right now, but it would not be surprising at all for the dominant reliever to rebound against the Angels.
No, the fact that the Yankees have a Majors-leading 3.9 bullpen fWAR is not solely due to Chapman. In front of him, Chad Green has experienced a return in form to his 2017 season, boasting a 0.80 WHIP. Jonathan Loaisiga and Lucas Luetge provide high-quality high-leverage innings when the team needs to bridge the gap to the end. Any of these three would easily be the second-best reliever the Angels have by a wide margin. Furthermore, the back end of the Yankees bullpen is not a tire fire, which can also inflate a team’s WAR.
If the Angels want to win games this week, they will need to do the scoring early off the starters, especially considering Gerrit Cole is not pitching.
3. Offensive underperformance has led Aaron Boone to shuffle things around in the lineup.
The Yankees are still a good offensive team. However, this should be a top-3 offense, capable of scoring the runs needed to cover up for whatever pitching deficiencies they have. It hasn’t worked out that way this season.
After a torrid start, Aaron Judge now has an .894 OPS, which seems good, but his mark should be much higher for a player of his talent. His weighted on-base average is .385, well below the .433 expected mark for his batted balls. It’s been this way the entire season, and given that we are still in a relatively small sample size, one would expect him to break out soon. He’s also been drafted to play center field at times, due to the hitting woes of Brett Gardner. I haven’t seen the numbers, but I would think that putting such a large man in center is not the best way for long-term success.
The other main star, Giancarlo Stanton, might never reach the heights of his Miami prowess ever again. He’ll still blast the ball as hard as anyone, but he strikes out a lot, which is not conducive to driving in runs when there are men on base.
DJ LeMahieu, after a couple seasons where he was heralded as a top-10 player in baseball, has seen the power numbers drop. In 2019 and 2020 his slugging numbers were in the .500s, and he finished 4th and 3rd in MVP voting. This year, however, it’s .378. He’s still an effective leadoff hitter, as he gets on base, but the Yankees probably were expecting more from him this season.
Luke Voit has practically missed the entire season, and the Yankees traded for Rougned Odor to fill the gap. With Voit back, LeMahieu can slide to second base and Odor can be a good pinch hitter off the bench. Gleyber Torres has had a disappointing season both offensively and defensively. His OPS is .639, and the defense leaves much to be desired. Former Ohtani nemesis for the Rookie of the Year award way back when Miguel Andújar is now out in left field. I do not know how this poor infield defender is taking to the outfield, but the Angels do have several examples, so…it can’t be too pretty.
Although the Yankees seem scary on paper, they aren’t playing good baseball right now. Let’s hope the Angels can capitalize on that this series.
(Title Image from Yankees Twitter)