The Yankees demolished yet another team with championship aspirations. After taking three of four in Chicago, the Yankees are now 11-5 against the Red Sox, Blue Jays and White Sox this season.
1. That was rather easy. The Yankees went to Chicago, took three of four from the White Sox and could have easily swept the four-game series. The one game they lost was to the White Sox’ worst starter (and one of the worst starters in all of baseball) and in that game, they tied the game in the top of the ninth, only to lose in the bottom of the ninth.
As I have written for two weeks, the only way the Yankees don’t win the division is if they don’t stay healthy. (Please knock on all of the wood near you.) They’re far and away the best team in the AL East, and they are proving they are the best team in the AL, and as of now, the best team in baseball.
2. The White Sox entered the season with the best odds of reaching the postseason in the majors because of the extremely weak AL Central. In 2021, the Yankees won 92 games and were forced to play in the one-game, wild-card playoff on the road. The White Sox won 93 games and won their division by 13 games.
The AL Central is an absolute joke. (The Yankees are now 9-1 against the Central in 2022.) Despite the White Sox having a mediocre roster coupled with a 77-year-old foolish manager, they were expected to run away with their division again. That hasn’t happened. Instead, the White Sox are now a game under .500 after getting blasted by the Yankees at home, and they trail the Twins by three games thanks to a -30 run differential. Overall, the White Sox aren’t very good.
They’re not horrible though. They’re not the Orioles or Tigers or Royals. But if the White Sox played in any other division, they would be signing up for one of the now-three wild-card berths in the AL. They might be signing up for that anyway.
3. On Thursday, the Yankees took a first-inning, 2-0 lead on Dylan Cease thanks to a two-run Giancarlo Stanton home run. It was Stanton’s eighth home run of the season, and in the third inning, he would hit his ninth of the season, another two-run shot off Cease. The next night, Stanton gave the Yankees another first-inning, 2-0 lead with his 10th of the year off Vince Velasquez. Stanton went 8-for-16 with a double, three home runs, nine RBIs and two walks in the series. A .500/.556/1.125 slash line. Ridiculous.
What’s even more ridiculous is Stanton is hitting .290/.326/.548 with 10 home runs and 31 RBIs on the season, which is great, but he hasn’t been that great. I’m not knocking his production or his .874 OPS. I’m just saying this isn’t Stanton at his best. He has another gear (and maybe another one after that) that he hasn’t consistently displayed this season. It’s possible the weekend in Chicago kicked off one of his patented hot streaks, and if so, the best place to be getting hot going to is Camden Yards where the Yankees will be for the next four nights.
4. Stanton wasn’t the only one to have a big series. Aaron Judge continued his quest to top Mike Trout’s average annual salary with a .357/.474/1.259 and two home runs over the weekend, and even Josh Donaldson (.294/.333/.706 with two home runs) and Joey Gallo (.286/.444/.714 with two home runs) showed signs of life.
The White Sox offense is the team’s flaw, and it’s their rotation and bullpen that’s supposed to keep them upright. But the Yankees scored 25 runs off White Sox pitching in the first two games of the series, and it wasn’t until Saturday when old nemesis Dallas Keuchel shut them down that the offense cooled off. On Sunday, the Yankees’ offense only provided two hits, but scored five runs because of Michael Kopech’s wildness, and the Yankees’ ability to be patient and wait for walks (something the White Sox don’t and won’t do).
5. The Yankees’ one loss in the series came on Saturday when they couldn’t solve Keuchel even though the entire league has solved him over the last few years. It was like 2015-2017 on Saturday with Keuchel shutting them out for five innings. The only difference is that from 2015-2017 he would have shut them out for at least seven. The Yankees eventually broke through against Joe Kelly and Hendriks to tie the game before losing it in walk-off fashion.
It’s been a long time since I trusted Aroldis Chapman. Even last season when he didn’t allowed an earned run until his 19th appearance (against the White Sox), you couldn’t fully trust him because you knew the Chapman we saw in the ninth against the White Sox still existed and it was only a matter of time until he showed up.
On April 14, with the Yankees leading the Blue Jays 3-0 in the ninth, Chapman walked the bases loaded and was pulled without recording an out. The following night he walked in the game-winning run in the 11th inning in Baltimore. On April 26 against the Orioles, trying to protect a four-run lead in the ninth, he walked two. On May 1 in Kansas City, with a two-run lead, he put two on. Following an eight-day layoff, he put the tying run on base in the ninth against the Rays, and two days later with a three-run lead in the ninth, he allowed a run and brought the tying run to the plate. Then there was Saturday in which he walked his ninth batter of the season in just 11 2/3 innings, allowed two hits and lost the game.
Chapman isn’t the reason the Yankees lost. Their inability to score a single run against one of the worst pitchers in the league is why they lost. But he took the L, allowing three baserunners, while recording just one out, in what was his latest tight-rope walk that ended with him falling off the rope.
6. Chapman can’t be trusted. The Yankees are one bad week from the Rays away from being able to run away and hide with the AL East, and if that happens, Chapman no longer being a trustworthy back-end option won’t matter. He can continue to pitch the ninth in nonsensical “save opportunities” during the regular season, but once the postseason comes, he can’t be used as a traditional “closer.” The “lanes” Aaron Boone often speaks of needs to be properly managed, which I have close to zero faith in Boone properly managing. The Yankees can’t turn over close games in the ninth in the postseason to Chapman because of a made-up stat (save) or because he’s the highest-paid reliever or because of what he has done in the past. That version of Chapman is gone.
My current bullpen pecking order based on trust (not including Clarke Schmidt):
1. Clay Holmes
2. Michael King
3. Jonathan Loaisiga
4. Chad Green
5. Lucas Luetge
6. Aroldis Chapman
7. Miguel Castro
8. Wandy Peralta
Don’t walk batters and I will like you.
7. Nestor Cortes doesn’t walk batters and it’s why I like him. It’s now at the point where me writing about how great Cortes is should be insulting to him. His success should no longer be treated as a shock or surprise. It’s no longer a fluke. This is who he is. And that is one of the best starting pitchers in all of baseball.
After shutting out the Rangers for 7 1/3 innings last Monday, Cortes allowed one run on three hits over eight innings against the White Sox on Sunday. He now leads the league in both ERA (1.35) and ERA+ (270). He has been the Yankees’ “ace” this season, with his “worst” start being a four-inning outing on May 4 in Toronto when he allowed only two runs.
As of today, the AL starter for the All-Star Game is between Cortes and Justin Verlander. (I can’t imagine thinking that sentence in 2019, let alone writing it.)
8. It’s a good thing Anthony Rizzo hit those early-season home runs against the Red Sox and had that three-home run game against the Orioles on April 26. Because since that April 26 game, it’s been Rizzo hasn’t done much.
His last multi-hit game came on April 28 and his last home run on April 29. Since April 30, he’s 6-for-46 with six walks, hitting .130/.259/.196 with two RBIs.
I didn’t expect Rizzo to maintain a 1.000 OPS all season, but I certainly didn’t expect the lack of production he has provided for three weeks now, considering he has continued to hit third in the order, when others like Donaldson and Gallo have seen their batting order place change constantly based on their most recent production. It’s been a lot of nothing from Rizzo since the end of April, but thankfully, the Yankees have been able to keep winning as he goes through this.
9. Congratulations to Kyle Higashioka on his first multi-hit game of the season on Thursday! Yes, I say that in jest because Higashioka has been awful and the Yankees’ catching situation has been awful from an offensive standpoint. I do think the Yankees will address it eventually. They have to. They can’t run out a .424 OPS (Higashioka) and a .427 OPS (Jose Trevino) for a full season, especially come the postseason when outs can’t be pissed away.
The Yankees have played 34 games and Higasioka (11) and Trevino (12) have 23 complete games between them. The Yankees have had to pinch hit for their catcher in one-third of their games. Does anyone think that’s a good long-term plan?
It’s only a viable long-term plan if the Yankees’ pitching continues to keep them in EVERY game. After 34 games, the Yankees have had not been blown out in any game, have had a chance to win every game and in their most lopsided defeated (a 5-0 loss in Baltimore), the game was 0-0 in the eighth.
10. Last Sunday, the Yankees started a stretch of 23 games in 22 days. They have gone 7-2 so far with 14 games in 14 days to go.
The next four days will be in Baltimore. Then it’s home for three against the White Sox. Then the Orioles come to the Bronx for three. Then the stretch finishes with a four-game series in Tampa.
I would have signed up for 14-9 for these 23 games, and to do that, the Yankees only need to go 7-7. The Yankees have done so much winning through the first five weeks of the season that if they were to play .500 baseball for the rest of the season, they would win 89 games. Before the season, the over/under for their win total was 91.5. They are going to crush that.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!