Yankees Thoughts: Real Test Begins After Beating Bad Teams

We'll find out this week if Yankees have really turned season around

The Yankees erased their embarrassing 11-game stretch against the Rays, Blue Jays and Braves in which they went 3-8 by beating up on the Indians, Orioles and Tigers to go 8-3. Now the schedule gets tough again, and we’ll find out if the Yankees turned their season around or just beat some bad teams.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. Don’t let the weekend fool you. The Yankees swept a bad Tigers team. Not just a bad team, the worst team in baseball. The Tigers are 8-21 with a .276 winning percentage and -62 run differential. “Good” teams are supposed to beat a team like the Tigers. The Yankees are supposed to be a “good” team.

Outside of Friday’s win (10-0), it’s not like the Yankees easily handled the Tigers either. They won 6-4 on Saturday and 2-0 on Sunday. Two two-run wins, needing to use elite relievers in both games. That’s not all that encouraging given the Tigers’ lineup or their starting pitching. A win is a win and the Yankees got three of them against a team whose season is already over.

2. It’s scary to think where Gerrit Cole’s career would be without Kyle Higashioka since Higashioka is the reason for Cole’s success. That’s what everyone on YES and in the mainstream media wants fans to believe. Cole dominated the Tigers (6 IP, 4 H,0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 K) and lowered his ERA to 1.43 on the season. He has now faced the Blue Jays twice, Orioles, Rays, Indians and Tigers, allowing two earned runs or less in every start. He has been awesome and it hasn’t mattered who was behind the plate. Jorge Posada could be catching him and he would still be awesome. I don’t mean Posada in his playing days, I mean current 50-year-old Posada, who retired nearly a decade ago.

3. Aaron Judge returned to the lineup on Friday and hit two home runs, including a grand slam. It’s miraculous how his “lower-body stuff” and soreness from traveling disappeared! Thankfully, Judge must have experienced ideal traveling conditions on the way back to New York from Baltimore to keep him healthy and allow him to play against the Tigers all weekend. Let’s hope he sat on the couch Sunday night and all day Monday and is able to arrive at the Stadium on Tuesday without any further travel complications.

4. Why does Aaron Hicks bat left-handed? (The bigger question is why is Hicks a Yankee or why did the team give him a seven-year, $70 million extension). He’s not any good at it. Hicks is batting .250/.300/.607 as a right-handed hitter this season and .115/.236/.180 as a left-handed hitter. He has a .715 career OPS as a lefty and a .760 OPS as a righty. Maybe he just can’t switch hit anymore?

A .300 on-base percentage (which he has as a righty) isn’t good, let alone for a guy whose only skill is supposedly getting on base, but at least as a righty he hits one out every once in a while, like he did on Friday. If you’re Hicks and you’re batting .139 with a .499 OPS like he was entering Friday’s game, and you hit a home run, you can’t be staring at it and flipping your bat.

5. Rougned Odor is very bad, though for some reason he bats third and fourth in the Yankees lineup. Why? Because he bats left-handed, of course! Odor has four home runs in only 67 plate appearances and still has a .642 OPS. That’s how bad he has been. He only has six other hits as a Yankee, all singles.

Odor went 1-for 10 on the weekend, but did hit a solo home run on Friday as the 9-hitter, so that allowed him to bat third on Saturday and fourth on Sunday. Aaron Boone is such an idiot. He really is.

Odor has now batted third (1), fourth (4), fifth (1), sixth (2), seventh (3), eighth (1) and ninth (6). He shouldn’t be in the lineup ever (he shouldn’t be on the Yankees). If he must be, then he needs to bat ninth. Only ninth.

6. Jameson Taillon won a game for the first time in two years on Saturday. He still only gave the team five innings, but I think that’s all he will ever give the team at most The Yankees seem to want to keep him around 80 pitches per start (74, 84, 80, 82, 79), and with trouble he has putting away hitters with two strikes, it’s always going to take him that many pitches to get through five innings. He has now had two good starts, one OK start and two bad starts as a Yankee. He’s been about what I thought he would be.

7. Corey Kluber was great again, however, everything from the weekend needs a disclaimer because again it was against the Tigers. Kluber was OK against the Blue Jays, awful against the Rays, bad against the Blue Jays, blah against the Braves, great against the Orioles and outstanding against the Tigers. He now has a 3.03 ERA on the season thanks to his last two starts.

Were his last two starts against the Orioles and Tigers Kluber getting back to being his old self after not pitching in basically two years? Or was it two starts against two bad teams? I hope it’s the former and not the latter.

His next few starts won’t be against the hardest of offensive competition either as he is lined up to face the Nationals, Orioles and Rangers his next three starts. He will see the Blue Jays at the end of May, so we will have a better idea then if the Yankees hit it big on his one-year deal.

8. The Yankees went 8-3 in the 11-game stretch against the Indians, Orioles and Tigers. It could have been more and should have been more, but it did erase the 3-8 they went in the previous 11-game strech against the Rays, Blue Jays and Braves. They are fortunate the Rays and Blue Jays both got off to nearly as bad starts as they did.

Have the Yankees really turned their season around? I want to believe they have, it’s just to hard to trust them given how bad April was and how they only went 5-3 in their last eight games against the Indians, Orioles and Tigers.

9. The Yankees will be tested over the next 10 days with nine games against the Astros, Nationals and Rays. The Astros have had the Yankees’ number for three years straight (since they didn’t play in 2020), the Nationals have managed to stay afloat at .500 without Juan Soto and Stephen Strasburg and the Rays are 5-1 against the Yankees this season despite being 10-14 against everyone else.

The Yankees wasted April. With the Blue Jays (14-13) and Rays (15-15) both struggling, they had a chance to create early-season separation from their two competitors for the division. Instead they’re in fourth place in the East and half-game out of last.

10. The Yankees have been managed like they had built a five-game division lead in the first month of the season and they played some of the worst baseball any Yankees team has played in a long, long time, including the 2013 Yankees. That can’t continue. I don’t think it will on the playing side, though I’m sure it will on the managerial side.

They have six games against the Astros and Nationals then an off day and then three games against the Rays. The best possible version of the everyday lineup needs to play in these games. There have been enough personal days off through 28 games and look where it has gotten them.

The Yankees were given a gift to not be buried in the division and spending the next few months trying to climb out of a deficit. They’re at .500 with new life and they can’t afford to screw it up this time because the Rays and Blue Jays might not give them another chance. The Yankees have five months to be the team they were expected to be, and it begins on Tuesday.

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