The MLB season is delayed, but the Yankees still face three keys to success if they want to take the crown and win it all in 2020.
The hibernation of sports goes on, people.
It has been nearly two weeks since the baseball world, and the sports world, for that matter, shut down entirely, and it’s crazy to think that tomorrow, March 26th, would have been Opening Day. Unfortunately, however, it’s not, and it may not be for quite some time.
With that said, we will have a baseball season (hopefully), and with that comes a to-do list for the Yankees in order to ensure their standing as one of the best teams in the sport. With that noted, the Bombers face three keys to success when they eventually take the diamond.
Back-End of the Rotation Stepping Up
In what would have been a dominant front five, the Yankees were hit with injuries that caused a hindrance to the club, even with Opening Day put on hold. Although one big arm should be back in time for the season to start in James Paxton (His timetable for return was originally 3-4 months as of early February, according to the Yankees PR Department), Luis Severino is out for all of 2020 with Tommy John Surgery, regardless of when the season begins. Pair that with fact that Domingo German still has 63 games left on his suspension and you have some holes to fill in the fourth and fifth starter spot.
That leaves two Yankees to watch fill out the back of the rotation in Jordan Montgomery and J.A. Happ. Montgomery, although showing signs of success previously, missed most of both 2018 and 2019 recovering from Tommy John. Going back to his one complete season in 2017, Montgomery had a very competent 3.88 ERA in 29 starts. He also only allowed 140 hits in 155.1 innings and struck out 144.
On to Happ, the lefty is coming off one of the worst seasons in his career from 2019. Although making 30 starts, Happ’s ERA was a rough 4.91, Allowing about a hit per inning and a WHIP of 1.30. It’s not all bad for Happ, however. The veteran finished his season strong, locking down a tremendous ERA of 1.65 in five games (four starts) and 27.1 innings. Combine that positive with the hope that Happ can somewhat resemble the 2.69 Happ posted with the Yankees in 2018, and there’s reason to believe that the 37-year-old can turn the tables in 2020.
Consistency From Yankees Catchers
I’ll be the first to tell you, I’m a huge Gary Sanchez fan. in 106 games last season, Sanchez hit 34 home runs and 77 RBI. Let alone those being very impressive, they’re almost unheard of out of the catcher position in the MLB. Having said that, the backstop does have his flaws, even beyond his work behind the dish.
Sanchez has had four IL stints in the past two seasons, which, although the time he’s missing isn’t incredibly detrimental, the injuries add up, but that’s par for the course if you’re the Yankees. It’s also worth noting that, if Sanchez does go down, the Yankees will likely turn to Kyle Higashioka–in his first full MLB season–to hold down the fort. Looking at Sanchez’s hitting, it can be ridiculously streaky. Of course, hitters go through slumps, but Sanchez’s slumps make the power-hitting righty look abysmal at the dish. In May of 2019, Sanchez had a very strong slash line of .286/.348/.646. In June, those numbers took a bit of a dip, but nothing major, as he slashed .255/.324/.500. July, though, was a nightmare of a month. Sanchez slashed an abysmal .102/.172/.186 in 59 at-bats.
Now, we all know the Yankees have more than enough offense to make up for a stretch like that, but we all know that those safety nets are one bad slide or hit by pitch away from disappearing.
Beat Your Division
The Yankees did this incredibly well in 2019. In order to have success, particularly in winning a division, you need to do your work against your rivals in order to fortify a hefty lead. The Yankees in 2019 had a 54-22 record against teams in their division, helped out greatly by a 17-2 record against the Baltimore Orioles on its own. Also in 2019, the Yankees were 14-5 against the Boston Red Sox, 12-7 against the 96-win Tampa Bay Rays, and 11-8 against the Toronto Blue Jays.
It’s safe to say the Yankees dominated their direct competition in 2019, and that needs to happen again in 2020 to ensure a nice and easy path to the postseason.