Yankees Thoughts: Anthony Rizzo Ruins Game

The Yankees’ nine-game West Coast road trip started out with two wins over the Padres, but has been followed by losses to the Padres and last-place Angels.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. Last July 17 when the Yankees really sucked, they faced Griffin Canning and the Angels in the Bronx. Canning entered that start with a 4.62 ERA and 5.03 FIP. Over 5 2/3 innings against the Yankees, he struck out a career-high 12. The Yankees put nine runners on base against him, but could never seem to get the big hit, losing 4-3.

On Tuesday night in Anaheim, Canning was on the mound to face the Yankees for the first time since that start. Like that start, he entered Tuesday with a 5.08 ERA and 5.35 FIP. Like that start, the Yankees put 12 runners on base against him in five innings. And like that start, the Yankees could never get the big hit, losing 4-3.

2. After being held to one run by Joe Musgrove and his 6.14 ERA and 5.81 FIP on Sunday in San Diego 4-1 loss, the Yankees’ offense minus Juan Soto hit like the Yankees’ offense minus Juan Soto on Tuesday in Anaheim. Michael Kay and Paul O’Neill will tell you how “explosive the offense has been,” but has it? The Yankees have scored nine runs in their last three games and 36 in their last eight, and to no surprise they’re 4-4 over that span.

3. The loss to the Angels was frustrating because the Yankees had a one-run lead with four outs to go and couldn’t hold the lead. They couldn’t hold the lead because of Anthony Rizzo who booted an inning-ending grounder, giving the Angels a fourth out to work with, and with that fourth out they hit a two-run double to take the lead.

“That play needs to be made,” Rizzo said.

Yeah, no shit, Anthony.

“The first couple of weeks were pretty brutal, but overall the last five or six weeks, I would say pretty normal,” Rizzo said about his defense this season. “A play like today’s, I’ve got to make it.”

Rizzo’s defense has been atrocious all season. He has bobbled and booted many routine plays and has scooped and picked balls like he’s blindfolded.

“He’s still great over there,” Aaron Boone said. “Just a couple of hiccups here lately.”

Except he isn’t great over there and it’s not just a couple of hiccups.

4. You could live with Rizzo’s horrific defense if he were hitting, but he isn’t. And you could live with his lack of offense if he are still playing Gold Glove defense, but he isn’t. He isn’t doing anything to help the team, just hurt it.

Rizzo hasn’t homered in 17 game. He doesn’t have an extra-base hit in the last 16 games. He has three walks in the last three weeks. His slash line is down to .245/.310/.370. He has been awful all season.

5. What’s startling is he’s not even the worst everyday player on the Yankees. That title goes to Gleyber Torres.

If you like Torres then you don’t like the Yankees because Torres is detrimental to the team’s success at the plate, in the field and on the bases. His two-week “hot streak” has his OPS out of the .500s, now at .631, but while his bat has been better of late, everything else about his game remains as sloppy as ever. On Sunday, Torres was picked off at first and later made the late-inning error that led to the Padres taking the lead in their eventual comeback win. On Tuesday, Luis Rojas inexplicably sent Torres home on an Austin Wells double, but of course it was Torres of all runners getting thrown out at the plate. When disaster strikes, Torres is always in the middle of it.

6. Boone is also in the middle of it. If you didn’t notice, all four of the Yankees losses in their last eight games are by three runs or fewer. Only one of the four wins was by three runs or fewer. The Yankees win when they hit and take Boone out of the equation. When they don’t hit and let Boone get his hands on the game, well, you get games like the last two. The more close games the Yankees are forced to play, the more they will lose with Boone having to make important bullpen decisions.

Last week against the Mariners, the Yankees nearly overcame a late-game deficit after being stifled by Bryan Woo, but Boone made sure it wasn’t possible. Trailing by two runs, Boone let Dennis Santana double the deficit. Then after the Yankees cut the deficit from four to one, he used Clayton Andrews to push the deficit back to two. (Immediately after the game, Andrews was sent to the minors. Good enough to pitch in the seventh inning of a one-run game, but not good enough to be a major leaguer after the ninth inning.)

On Sunday, Boone used Victor Gonzalez as the first guy out of the bullpen with a one-run lead and the tying run on base. Gonzalez let that run score and then another two, and the Yankees lost.

On Tuesday, after Rizzo’s error, Boone removed Luke Weaver in favor of Clay Holmes. (Ever since Boone pissed away the game in Milwaukee last month, he has been using Holmes for multi-inning save opportunities.) I don’t trust Holmes with clean innings, let alone with two runners on, considering it usually takes him a few pitches to gain his control and command, and sure enough, the first pitch was an elevated sinker that got crushed for a go-ahead, two-run double.

“I had to make a pitch, and I think he just put a good swing on that sinker there,” Holmes said. “He put it in the air, which doesn’t happen very often.”

8. The bullpen being untrustworthy and not very good isn’t all on Boone. While he rarely puts his players in the best possible position to succeed, he didn’t build the bullpen he’s working with. The Dodgers didn’t give away Gonzalez and Caleb Ferguson because they thought they would help them win the World Series. They’re the Dodgers. It’s not the Pirates giving up on and giving away Holmes. Nick Burdi wasn’t available as a free-agent signing because he’s often healthy and has a history of impeccable control. Dennis Santana isn’t on his fourth team in four years because he’s really good.

The only trustworthy relievers the Yankees boast at the moment are Holmes, Weaver and Tommy Kahnle, and I don’t trust Holmes with anything less than a four-run lead, a month ago I figured Weaver would be pitching in an independent league by Independence Day and Kahnle has thrown 19 pitches this season. If the Yankees don’t have a big lead, the bullpen will either blow it or come as close as possible to blowing it, and Boone will see to it.

8. I got a good laugh out of Boone batting DJ LeMahieu ninth in his season debut on Tuesday. LeMahieu hit behind Rizzo (.680 OPS), Torres (.631 OPS) and Austin Wells (.591 OPS). It wasn’t the “HAHA THAT’S HILARIOUS!” type of laugh, it was a “I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS GUY IS THE MANAGER OF THE YANKEES STILL” type of laugh.

LeMahieu looks like himself at the plate. He drove the first pitch he saw to right field, which is where you want LeMahieu to be driving the ball) at 99.5 mph. He drew a walk in his second plate appearance, hit a 99.5 mph flyout in his third and a 101.7 mph flyout in his fourth (a ball that had a .680 expected batting average, but was caught).

When LeMahieu is healthy and going right, he should be hitting no lower than fifth in the lineup. I would hit him first, but Boone’s love for Anthony Volpe will outweigh what’s best for the team. And because Boone has to alternate righty-lefty throughout the lineup, a lefty will always hit fourth, and because Rizzo flat out sucks, Alex Verdugo is the only option there.

9. Well, he’s the only option until Jasson Dominguez is ready. Once Dominguez is ready, he should be an everyday Yankee. Will he be? Of course not. That would make too much sense. Veteran status, reputation and money owed will always trump talent and ability with the Yankees, so when Dominguez is ready to be activated, expect him to go to Triple-A.

10. The Yankees will try to end their two-game slide in which they blew late one-run leads in both games on Wednesday night in Anaheim as this 10-day, nine-game road trip continues. They will have to do it against the solid left-hander Tyler Anderson. I expect Rizzo to be on the bench for this one. Lefty starter or not, he deserves to be.