Despite winning 100 games in 2018, it is still possible this could be considered as a disappointment for the New York Yankees.
Before this MLB season began, if we knew the Yankees would win 100 games, fans everywhere would rejoice. The Yankees were the favorites to win the division and 100 wins would all but ensure their path to the division title. Most predictions had the Yankees winning the division, but not too many predicted 100 wins, as that’s a rare feat, reserved for elite teams. So, when the Yankees finished the 2018 season with exactly 100 wins, but failed to win the division, what was seemingly a fantastic year, tastes bittersweet.
Can 100 Wins Really Be Disappointing?
There have only been 105 teams to ever win 100+ games in a season, and this year there were three teams: The Yankees, Red Sox (108), and Astros (103). Only seven times in history have three teams won 100 or more, and only this season where those three teams from the same league. The Yankees have ended up on the short-end of the stick in this case, despite having the third best record in the Majors, they are merely a Wild Card Team. At least there is a Wild Card and they did not become the 9th team in history to win 100 games, but miss the playoffs entirely.
While the 2018 playoffs are just beginning, the regular season has indeed been somewhat disappointing for the Yankees, despite meeting the 100 game threshold.
The Bright Spots
Coming into the season, the Yankees were unclear on who would man second and third base. Veteran Neil Walker was a late addition and Brandon Drury was traded for during the winter. Even with those veteran additions, however, fans were clamoring for Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres. The rookies did not disappoint.
Andjuar slashed .297/.328/.527 and tied the Major League record for doubles by a rookie with 47. He also added 27 home runs in 606 plate appearances, while playing a decent third base after coming into the season as a defensive liability. Torres, despite missing time with injury, hit 24 home runs in 484 PA and slashed .271/.340/.480, stellar numbers for any rookie and any second baseman.
Unfortunately, both rookies are debuting in a year with the multitalented Shohei Ohtani, who can pitch and hit. In all likelihood, Ohtani will win Rookie of the Year, but at least the Yankees still have a bright future ahead of them.
The Yankees bullpen was widely regarded as the best on paper coming into 2018, however, we all know that on paper and in practice can be completely different. This relief corps did not disappoint. Yankees relievers led the league in fWAR with 9.7, almost a full point ahead of the second place Padres with 8.8. The pen was utterly dominant, striking out 11.40/9 in 594.2 IP.
Individually, star closer Aroldis Chapman had another dominant season racking up 16.31 k/9 and yielding only .35 HR/9. He led the Yankees relievers with 1.9 fWAR despite only throwing 51.1 innings due to a late season injury. Dellin Betances also had another outstanding season, rebounding from what could be a considered a down year for him in 2017, when he became erratic and unreliable down the stretch. Betances became the first reliever in history to begin his career with five consecutive seasons of 100 strike outs or more. Chad Green, David Robertson, and Jonathan Holder were also stellar this year as well.
Once again Brian Cashman proved to be a wizard. The Yankees needed starting rotation upgrades midseason, so Cashman traded for J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn and the Yankees went 16-6 in games in which they pitched. J.A. Happ has performed so well, that he may be picked to start the Wild Card game.
Cashman also traded for Luke Voit and Andrew McCutchen. In 39 games for the Yankees, Voit has slashed .333/.405/.689 with 14 home runs in 148 PAs. McCutchen, the former MVP, has slashed .253/.421/.471 with 5 home runs in 25 games and 114 PAs. Both players provided a much-needed spark to the Yankees lineup when the team was hit by wave after wave of injuries.
Still, though, something seemed amiss in this 100-win season.
It cannot be overstated how much the Yankees were hampered by injuries to key players this year. Aaron Judge, Aroldis Chapman, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Gleyber Torres, Masahiro Tanaka, C.C. Sabathia, Aaron Hicks, Clint Frazier, Greg Bird, Jordan Montgomery, and, of course, Jacoby Ellsbury all missed significant time on the DL. In the case of Montgomery, Ellsbury, and Frazier, their injuries were season ending. Judge and Gregorius’s injuries have everyone wondering if they will be able to play at full strength in the playoffs.
Stanton, the reigning NL MVP, slugged 59 home runs in 2017 with Marlins Park as his home field. Surely, if healthy, he would enjoy big power numbers in Yankee Stadium this year. Stanton did have a fine season too. He slashed .266/.343/.509 with 38 home runs, 102 Runs, and 100 RBIs, but still, his season was a bit of a letdown. Stanton flashed signs of his dominant self, but would then go into prolonged cold streaks. No one expected him to hit 59 home runs again, but if you told me he would have more plate appearances than last season, I would never have guessed Stanton would fail to hit 40 home runs.
After finishing in the top 30 in fWar in 2017, Sonny Gray seemed poised to take the next step forward and be that solid number 2 starter for the Yankees. Instead, he absolutely imploded and ended up with a 4.90 ERA in only 130.1 brutal innings. What made matters worse is that Gray is seemingly healthy, he just is not performing. The Yankees cannot trust him to start a game and they may not trust him in the bullpen. It’s possible that Gray will be left off the playoff roster entirely.
19 wins, 10+ K/9, 3.39 ERA, and 5.7 fWAR in 191.1 innings pitched. In many ways, Severino pitched almost exactly the same as 2017, a year in which he came in third in the Cy Young. How can this be a disappointment? Looking at his splits, we see that the majority of Sevy’s output came in the first half of the season in which he had a 2.31 ERA in 128.1 IP. Simply put, Luis Severino was one of the leagues best pitchers in the first half of the season and one of the league’s worst pitchers in the second half. What happened? Sure, his overall numbers look really good for a 24-year-old starter, but after seeing what he is capable of, Yankees fans are left wanting. He has been so unreliable in the second half, that he is not really in contention to start the Wild Card game against Oakland on Wednesday.
So, yes, racking up 100 wins, but still having to play in the one-game Wild Card playoff is severely disappointing. The Red Sox were on a near-historic pace for most of the season, yet the Yankees still only finished 8 games back. It leaves me wondering what could have been. Hopefully, all the injuries are in the past and this team can get past the A’s on Wednesday and make a deep playoff run.