The New York Yankees will be fine…I think.
Going into the second game of their series against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Bombers are 9-8. They have been a model of inconsistency.
Luis Severino has kept the promise of his 2017 campaign with a 2.63 ERA and 30.1 percent strikeout rate. However, Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka have been the opposite, posting an absurd .408 and .311 batting average on balls put in play against them respectively (leading to ERAs approaching the 7's for both pitchers). Overall, the Yankees pitching is 24th in the majors in ERA.
The Yanks haven’t been great in the field either, leading the American League in errors committed. Yes, there have been bright spots with their offensive numbers, as Didi Gregorius (.327/.452/.764) and Aaron Judge (.339/.481/.629) have carried the load for the Bronx Bombers to keep the squad just above the .500 mark.
All of this leads us to the man of the hour.
Derek Jeter’s gift to the Yankees, Giancarlo Stanton, has the highest strikeout rate of his career (36.7 percent), but has a .297 batting average on balls put in play. When he makes contact, he’s fine, but having more strikeouts than total bases is never a good thing.
Could it be New York? Playing in the Bronx and hearing boos during your first home game might have come as a shock to the slugger who spent his entire career playing in a warm climate, during sparsely attended games in Miami where the only pressure came from choosing whether Prime 112 or Il Gabbiano will be dining location. This take from a current MLB scout told to the New York Daily News about Stanton's hitting sums it up well.
“The guy is a great hitter and there are times when he’ll look like the greatest hitter that ever lived, but he’s also very inconsistent. With all the hype attached to him coming over to the Yankees, this isn’t Jose Altuve or Mookie Betts. This is a power hitter who can go into long slumps and you wonder how he’ll fare when and if he gets to the postseason for the first time.”
Is it the weather? Stanton’s not used to playing games in the cold, in the rain or in windy conditions. The ball carries more during the summer and humidity hasn’t really been a problem in the northeast yet this season. But that hasn’t stopped the slugger from hitting well elsewhere. Going into the Blue Jays series, Stanton possessed a .086 batting average (3-for-35) at Yankee Stadium with one home run and 20 strikeouts. On the road, he’s batting .323 (10-for-31) with two home runs and nine strikeouts. The Yankees’ road schedule up to this point has included three games in Boston, one in Detroit and four in Toronto under the dome.
So what could it be? Maybe this is just who he is.
When we say “that’s just who he is,” we don’t mean that he’ll forever struggle under the proverbial bright lights. We mean that Stanton has always been a streaky hitter. Stanton has not been a model of consistency, but he goes off for stretches where anything in the strike zone could result in contact that breaks Statcast measurements. When he’s on, he’s a joy to watch…unless you’re on the mound.
But he also has streaks where you don’t understand why any organization would pay him to hit a baseball. His lows could make any fan turn into a F1 racer driving to the store trying to get a refund on their #27 jersey. During those streaks, 0-2 counts are guaranteed strikeouts and even when he might have an idea that it’s coming, he won’t lay off the slider low and outside.
So what’s a Yankee fan to do? Wait. That’s it. Just wait.
This is who Stanton is. He’s a streaky power hitter. Once the weather warms up, he’s going progress to the mean and fans sitting in the left-field bleachers will have to wear helmets and bulletproof vests during his at bats. If him and Judge hit a streak simultaneously, it’s going to be fun to watch.
Yes, he hasn’t played in any relevant major league games yet his career, but the Yanks are poised to be World Series favorites for years to come. Yes, New York is different from Miami, but Stanton’s a professional and he’ll adjust. He’s the perfect representation of the Yankees at the moment...a team with promise that’s frustrating to observe from a distance. Thankfully, there are still five months left in the season. This team is too talented to fall into the gutter.
The Yankees are going to be fine…I think.
Writer. Reporter. New Yorker.