I’ve always felt (in all areas of life, not just baseball) it’s important to not overreact to short term issues but you can’t ignore long term consistent trends either. I think that’s what separates good organizations from bad: The ability to differentiate between the two is what made Gabe Paul, Gene Michael and Bob Watson great at running baseball teams and anyone named Steinbrenner not very good at it.
Lately however, it seems every fan in Yankee land is either on one side of the state of the team or the other. There are cliff jumpers holding signs that read “the end is nigh” and there are fans who take the position that it’s only April and continue to yawn.
Like most situations, I think the appropriate response is in the middle somewhere. It is April, so there’s no need to overreact to a 13-10 start to the season – that’s a 92 win pace – given the number of injuries the team has sustained. Although the offense is 22nd in runs per game, and below league average in both OBP and SLG (the two most important offensive stats), there is reason for optimism.
One third of their starting lineup is on the IL, their best hitters have been up and down so far, and although it’s not good, their team wide xwOBA (quality of PA) is league average. Combine that with their 28th lowest BABIP in MLB (despite ranking eighth in exit velocity) and perhaps we can say they’ve been hitting into some bad luck.
If all that is true, it’s fair to say that there’s no need to worry. We know who Judge, DJ and Gleyber are, players will come off the IL, and the gods of randomness will turn in the batters’ favor, and all will be well with the Bombers. That’s not an unreasonable position.
Not unreasonable, but also optimistic – some might argue sanguine is the better word.
Two of the hitters due to return soon – Harrison Bader and Josh Donaldson – are not players you want to count on to bolster your offense. Bader is a plus center fielder and plus base runner which makes his career 97 OPS+ tenable, but he shouldn’t be counted on to really boost the team’s RPG average. And obviously, if you’re a Yankee fan, I don’t need to tell you that Donaldson hasn’t been a good hitter for a long time and expecting a 37-year-old to significantly change that is not something upon which I’d bet.
Giancarlo Stanton, of course, is a monster who has a massive impact on the lineup. But again – and I say this as one of Stanton’s biggest fans – expecting him to return in late May and be healthy and productive for four straight months is also a bit on the glass half full side of things.
That leaves us with some serious issues.
Anthony Volpe, Oswaldo Cabrera, and Oswald Peraza are question marks – that isn’t a bad thing. Young players are going to struggle at times and you’re never quite sure what they’re going to be or when they’re going to be it. I like Cabrera and I love both Peraza and Volpe and I think they’ll be fine, but right now they’re sporting wRC+ of 38, 84 and 90 respectively. Long term that probably won’t be an issue as they’re very likely all better than that but if you’re counting on them to produce offense right now – that’s a different and more unpleasant discussion.
The catcher position is essentially an automatic out in the lineup at this point. Trevino and Higgy don’t need to be Josh Gibson and Johnny Bench if they play well defensively, but there’s only so long you can stick with wRC+ of 52 and 49. (No that’s not a misprint.)
That leaves us needing offensive production from Willie Calhoun, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Franchy Cordero and Aaron Hicks. We don’t need to do a deep dive into the analysis pool for that one do we?
Yes, the pitching has been great. The bullpen, despite injuries, has been much better than average and overall, the staff ranks 7th in xFIP across MLB. That, combined with the fielders’ ability to turn batted balls into outs at a high rate has led to the 2nd lowest runs allowed per game – which is the only reason the team is above .500. Yet even fans of Matt Blake have to ask, how long will that last when three out of every five games are started by the 6th, 7th and 8th starters on the staff?
Do Yankees fans need to panic? Of course not. 86% of the season still needs to be played, the team has a lot of firepower and they’ll be buyers at the trade deadline. And keep in mind, many of the fans screaming doomsday right now are the same ones who compared last year’s team to the ’98 Yankees last spring.
Yet there are areas of concern upon which we should keep or eyes, because they may be turning into larger problems than a 23-game sample can hide as we continue to say, “But it’s only April.”
2023 is going to be a wild ride – let’s enjoy it.
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2 thoughts on “Should Yankees Fans Panic or Relax?”
Hi. To be completely honest with you I think the answer should be for Yankees fans to relax. I think this because if you end up staying relaxed then you will end up having better mental health. If you panic, you are just going to make everything worse, and it will hurt your mental health. The Yankees have the talent they need to succeed. Right now they just need to play better. Right now as I watch the New York Yankees play they do not seem to ever panic. They seem to be always relaxed.
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