The New York Yankees are Major League Baseball’s winningest team in history with 27 world championships. However, since their last triumph in 2009, they have failed return to the Fall Classic. They have made it to the playoffs only four times since then, with the 2015 Wild Card exit being their first appearance in four years. This year the Bombers are in the dreaded Wild Card game and it is still unclear if they have what it takes to win number 28.
Their offense certainly has what it takes. The Yankees lead the league in home runs and trail only Houston in runs scored. They are led by rookie phenom and MVP candidate Aaron Judge who has gotten hot at the right time. He was named American League Player of the Month for September, hitting 15 home runs, 32 RBI, and a .311 batting average. Their lineup is also padded with power hitter Gary Sanchez and scrappy average hitters like Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius and Todd Frazier.
While the bats have been pivotal for the 162-game regular season, what it comes down to in October is pitching.
While the Yankees do have the fifth best team Earned Run Average (ERA) at 3.72, pitching, notably the bullpen, has let them down.
The Yankees made big trades at the deadline and arguably the largest was acquiring pitcher Sonny Gray from the Oakland Athletics for prospects Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo, and James Kaprelian. However, Gray has a mere 4-7 record while wearing the pinstripes.
Luis Severino has been the most reliable pitcher on the Yankees’ roster and they will send him to the mound against the Twins in the Wild Card matchup. He has posted a 14-6 record with 1.05 WHIP and a sub 3 ERA this season, but this is his first ever playoff appearance. Severino is another young phenom for the Yankees who has delivered in the regular season, but it doesn’t seem like he will be enough to win a series.
Heading into the season, the Yankees bullpen, headlined by Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances, was supposed to be stellar. Betances was expected to the setup guy and 100 mph-throwing Chapman was supposed to close the deal. However, the bullpen, for all its tout and attention, has blown 23 saves this year and has a save percentage of just 61. Chapman, Betances and the rest of the bullpen have had a strong September, though.
The Yankees’ chase for 28 will be difficult with a deep American League and lack of overall pitching consistency. While this may not be the year for the Yankees to add a trophy to the already filled trophy case, this year was supposed to be a rebuilding year and it has already exceeded expectations with the potential for more.