Analysis

Yankees: Biggest Questions Going Into 2021 Season

The New York Yankees fanbase is mad and disappointed after another failed season, but what questions do they face going into 2021?

Every year we hear the same speech in mid-October, saying that we just came up short of our goal, a World Series title, and that is was a successful season. This is exactly not what Yankees fans like to hear, they would rather hear the complete opposite.

Because of Covid-19, the 2020 regular season was cut to 60 games which meant that every game mattered. Even though the Yanks made it to a decisive elimination game against the Tampa Bay Rays, the season was still considered a failure in the eyes of the fans. The Rays came through when it mattered as they now see themselves commanding a 1-0 lead in the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros.

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On the contrary, the Yankees did not get the job done and did not come through when it mattered the most. The American League Divisional Series basically summed up the Yankees season in a nutshell. The lineup did not come through with timely hitting, there were poor managerial decisions, and at times it seemed like the pitchers were overmatched.

However, injuries did plague the roster as it did in 2019. But, this season the Yankees did not seem to carry the “Next Man Up” mentality. During the heart of the season, the Yanks found themselves in a skid. Going 5-15 during a 20 game span, and finishing the season off at 2-6. It seemed that there was no sense of urgency coming from the dugout and on the field.

The Yankees bats came to life in the Wild Card series against the Cleveland Indians, but when it mattered the most in the ALDS, the team looked stiff and departed.

So as fans of the most historic franchise in all of sports, all we can really do is trust Brian Cashman will make the correct decisions this offseason to propel us to a 28th World Series championship. If this is the case, then it may finally be the year that the Yankees win a title in eleven years.

To the surprise of many fans, the lineup still put up good numbers. The Yanks ranked fourth in runs scored throughout the entire MLB, while also leading all of AL teams. Also throughout MLB, the squad ranked fifth in home runs, fourth in RBI, and fifth with an OPS of .789.

And now to the part where the Yanks lacked timely hitting. As a team, they placed 21st throughout MLB with a BABIP of .280 and ranked 14th with a batting average of .247. According to Statcast, they ranked 13th in barrel rate with an unpretentious 7.7%.

It only gets worse from there. According to FanGraphs, the Yanks were 14th in line drive rate, 10th in groundball rate, and an eye-opening 21st in flyball rate. These numbers are not quintessential for a team that is built to hit the long ball.

Why did this happen, you may ask? Aaron Judge got off to an unbelievable start, but then got injured. Giancarlo Stanton missed several weeks because of injuries and DJ LeMahieu was clearly not the hitter he was during the regular season in the playoffs. If New York wants to win a championship, they need to be able to stay on the field and come up with a clutch hit when needed the most.

Regarding the pitching, Yanks ace Gerrit Cole was very solid. Not amazing, but just what was needed. During the regular season, he held a 2.84 ERA with a 7-3 record, throughout a dozen starts. The rest of the pitching staff in the rotation and bullpen was inconsistent, as they ranked 14th in the MLB with a 4.35 ERA. The Yanks staff also ranked 15th in stranding baserunners at 71%. The Rays were in second, stranding 77% of base runners. Fans can debate it, but this is a leading cause of the Rays success this 2020 season.

Not to mention, the pitching staff was plagued with injuries and growing pains. Jordan Montgomery was a prime example of that after coming back from Tommy John surgery. James Paxton was not in his usual form after getting back surgery last offseason and injuring his elbow this year, and Deivi Garcia showed some signs of greatness but still has a ways to go. Not even the “feared” bullpen that Cashman put together could get the job done. They found themselves in an unusual spot ranking 16th with a 4.51 ERA compared to their 4.08 ERA the season prior. Losing fan favorite Tommy Kahnle to Tommy John surgery also proved to be a big loss.

So now, what happens next? The Yankees will most certainly be a top contender in 2021 with a 162 game season coming back into play. However, that does not mean the Yanks should stay complacent. LeMahieu and Masahiro Tanaka need to be re-signed as they are proven valuable members of this franchise. Judge and Stanton need to find a way to stay healthy and be the most feared sluggers in the game. Gary Sanchez needs to be explored through trades, although that will most likely not happen. And Aaron Boone is not going anywhere despite poor managerial decisions throughout the course of 2020.

In a 162 game season, would the Yankees have overcome the rough patch and bounced back? Of course. Instead, during this 60 game season, they went ice cold when it mattered the most, and ended up coming up short in the playoffs to their division rival. As Yankees fans, their anger and sorrow are completely vindicated.  2020 was a disappointment for the Yanks, but there is a lot to look forward to in 2021.

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