With the Yankees off to their worst start since 1997, Brian Cashman spent Monday’s off day fielding questions about his team’s struggles.
The general manager spent nearly 45 minutes addressing New York’s shortcomings while also stressing patience and steadfast faith in the personnel he assembled. After all, it’s still April.
But Cashman understands that the team is playing uninspired, ugly baseball. Asked what bothered him most, he cited New York’s American League-worst 5-10 record before making specific note of the lineup’s lackluster production.
“Obviously, the offense is currently a prime target for what ails us because it’s something that’s a strength of ours,” Cashman said. “And it will be a strength of ours, but it’s currently not.”
Cashman is spot on when he says that the Yankees are not producing at the plate. Their collective offense ranks at or near the bottom of the league in hits, runs scored, RBI, average, slugging, wOBA, BABIP and fWAR. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking at traditional stats or advanced ones; most numbers say the Yankees lineup has stunk. Even when it comes to home runs, the Bronx Bombers have been middle of the pack.
That said, Cashman’s belief that the offense will eventually become a strength makes sense given this group’s track record in recent years.
Cashman went on to say that the lack of offensive production is “magnifying” the Yankees’ other “deficiencies.” Among those issues: defense and starting pitching.
Like the offense, just about every stat will tell you the Yankees have been a poor defensive club.
They are tied for the fourth-most errors in baseball (12) and tied for the most throwing errors (8). Their .977 fielding percentage is bottom tier. When it comes to metrics such as DRS, UZR, DEF and Outs Above Average, those numbers are all on the wrong side of zero with room to spare.
As for the rotation, anyone not named Gerrit Cole has offered mixed results at best.
Providing length has been an issue, as Yankees starters have logged just 68.1 innings this year (New York has used an opener once). Only teams that have played fewer games have received fewer innings from their starting pitchers. As for other measurements, the Yankees rotation has been pedestrian when it comes to stats like ERA and fWAR. Allowing 1.98 HR/9—second worst in baseball—hasn’t helped much.
Just as the Yankees lineup has a track record of mashing, these defensive and rotation problems are hardly new to the organization.
The Yankees led all of baseball with an astonishing 48 errors in 60 games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Defensive woes have been exacerbated this season by (more) players (than planned) playing at positions that don’t best-suit them, but it wasn’t as if the Yankees were returning a stellar defense.
The need to extract more length from the rotation, meanwhile, has been a recurring theme. Though the Yankees received the 10th-most innings from their starters last year, they finished 23rd in 2019, 22nd in 2018, and 21st in 2017. In 2021, they entered the season reliant on several starters who have missed significant time over the last few years, including Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon.
Cashman maintained faith that New York’s starters will soon make a habit of going deeper into games. Some of them, after all, are still building themselves back up. “It just hasn’t happened,” Cashman said, and that pretty much sums up his thoughts on the season so far.
“Below average performances, we believe those will get corrected over time,” the exec added. “We trust our players. We trust our process. But the record is obviously something we’re better than.”
It’s not irrational thinking, not on April 20. It’s far too early to be setting narratives in stone. The MLB season is back to being a marathon, and this mile will quickly be forgotten if the Yankees can string a few wins together. Still, Cashman has been “really disappointed” in what he’s seen already, and that disappointment should cover more than just the offense, which might ultimately be the least of New York’s problems.
Almost everything the Yankees have done so far has looked bad. If Cashman’s optimism is to be rewarded, a lot will have to change in a hurry.
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