10 Reasons Why the New York Yankees Will Miss 2021 MLB Playoffs
We’re still not even to the All-Star break, but already things are looking bleak for the New York Yankees. While most expected them to run away with the AL East and cruise to the American League pennant, things haven’t played out as expected.
From the very start of the season, it’s been a struggle for the Bronx Bombers. Forget about competing for a championship, the Yankees don’t even look like a playoff team. In fact, it’s not too early to come out and say that the Yankees won’t be a playoff team in 2021.
Here are 10 reasons why the Yankees won’t be playing in the postseason this year.
Weak Up the Middle
Baseball teams need to be strong up the middle. While the Yankees can get by defensively with DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres as the middle infielders, there are obvious defensive shortcomings with Gary Sanchez getting a majority of the playing time behind the plate.
There are similar issues in center field with Aaron Hicks sidelined for the season with an injury. To his credit, 37-year-old Brett Gardner is doing the best he can to handle center field. But most of his career has been spent in left field, and at his age, he’s far from an ideal fit for center field, contributing to team-wide defensive concerns for the Yankees.
The Outfield is a Hot Mess
Speaking of the injury to Hicks, his absence has wreaked havoc on the entire New York outfield.
Without Hicks, Gardner is playing a lot more than expected. He also hasn’t produced, hitting under .200 on the season. The same was true of Clint Frazier before he went on the IL. Granted, Aaron Judge gives the Yankees one of the best right fielders in baseball. But with Gardner, Frazier, and Miguel Andujar handing the other two spots, the Yankees aren’t good offensively or defensively at those positions.
Andujar has started nearly half of the team’s games in left field, forcing him to play a position where he has little experience. On top of that, Andujar isn’t providing much of an offensive lift, producing an OPS of .663.
All or Nothing on Offense
Offensively, the Yankees have fallen well short of preseason expectations. They are currently tied with the Royals for the fewest runs per game in the American League at 4.1. Oddly enough, they are near the top of the league in home runs. That means that too many of their runs are coming off the long ball.
If the Yankees are going to improve their fortunes and start winning games, they need to be better at manufacturing runs and not just waiting for someone to hit a homer. But with the likes of Frazier, Gardner, Gleyber Torres, and Luke Voit underperforming and not hitting for much of an average, it doesn’t appear likely that the Yankees can improve in that area.
There’s No Cavalry Coming
In recent years, the Yankees could take some of their struggles with a grain of salt because they knew that injuries were playing a big role. Last year, they knew that things would get better when they started to get healthy. But that’s not the case this year, as injuries have only been a small part of the equation.
Outside of Kluber, the Yankees don’t have anybody who’s currently on the IL who can be expected to make a big impact upon his return. That means the team’s success hinges on the current crop of players performing better.
No Quick Fix at the Trade Deadline
Of course, there is always a chance that the Yankees can improve from the outside before the trade deadline at the end of July. The problem is that the Yankees have too many problems to fix with one or two trades.
They need to trade for at least one if not two outfielders. They need to get Torres going or find a way to upgrade at shortstop. They also need one, possibly two starting pitchers. It also wouldn’t hurt to look into an upgrade at first base if Voit can’t get on track between now and the trade deadline.
That’s a lot to do, making it unlikely that the Yankees can accomplish all of it, meaning they won’t be able to fix things with one or two trades, even if the Yankees find a way to land some of the better players available on the market.
No Rotation Depth
In general manager Brian Cashman’s defense, this wasn’t a huge issue heading into the season.
The Yankees brought in Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon this offseason to supplement ace Gerrit Cole. They also had Jordan Montgomery, Domingo German, and a few promising youngsters to fill out the rest of the rotation. However, things have not played out as the Yankees would have hoped. Kluber went to the IL after just 10 starts and Taillon is barely a No. 5 starter some nights, much less a frontline starter.
In fairness, Montgomery and German have been fine, but only as back-end starters. Meanwhile, Michael King and Deivi Garcia have failed to produce much depth. Kluber isn’t particularly close to returning right now, so unless Taillon, Montgomery, and German can step up big time, the Yankees don’t have the rotation depth to string wins together and create the kind of winning streak that can get them closer to the top of the AL East.
Even Gerrit Cole and Aroldis Chapman Are Slipping
Things are so bad for New York’s pitching staff that even Cole and Aroldis Chapman aren’t reliable at the moment.
Cole was outstanding early in the season, only to see his ERA go from 1.78 to 2.91 over his last six starts. It’s a similar situation for Chapman, who posted an ERA of 11.42 in June and then blew his first save chance in July.
If the Yankees don’t get a star effort out of their best starter and closer, it’s going to be difficult to get things turned around.
The Rest of the AL East
The other teams in the AL East certainly aren’t going to make it easy for the Yankees to turn the tables during the second half of the season.
The Red Sox are close to running away with the division and will improve at some point with Chris Sale on his way back. Meanwhile, the Rays are still more than 10 games over .500 despite struggling throughout the second half of June. Also, don’t forget about the Blue Jays, who have already been proactive on the trade market and are likely to improve during the second half of the season with their young roster.
The Yankees will have to play much better and hope that those teams falter a little if the Bronx Bombers hope to leapfrog all three of those teams.
Crowded Wild Card Race
Unfortunately for the Yanks, earning a Wild Card spot isn’t going to be much easier than winning the AL East.
A week before the All-Star Game, there are seven teams fighting over two spots that are within at least six games of a Wild Card spot. With the Yankees toward the bottom of the race among those seven teams, it will take a lot of good fortune from the outside for the Yankees to get to the top of the Wild Card standings.
Clearly, the Yankees have a lot to overcome based on the way they’ve played during the first half of the season if they hope to make the playoffs. But all of the distractions around the team aren’t likely to help.
With every loss, there are questions about Cashman and Aaron Boone keeping their job. Those questions aren’t making it any easier for the players to focus on the task at hand, creating one extra obstacle standing between the Yankees and the playoffs in 2021.
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