Over a span of 162 games, a baseball team will go through multiple ups and downs. The key to a successful season is to have more of the former and less of the latter.
The Yankees are struggling. They’re playing ugly baseball, losing close games, losing winnable games and losing games in the standings. They have gone from best record in baseball before the All Star Break to 4th best record overall. What was once a 10 game division lead has shrunk to as little as 4.5.
After a red hot June, the team hit a bump in the road in mid- July and into this first week of August. The Yankees are 6-12 in their past 18 games dating back to July 19th, the start of the first four game losing streak of the season to the Oakland Athletics.
So who’s responsible for the recent struggles? Here is a look at the hot and cold performances over the past few weeks.
Derek Jeter: Did you expect anything different? Jeter has slumped at certain points this year but his past 30 games have not been one of those stretches. The Captain is hitting .337 in his past 95 at bats, scoring 14 times to accompany a .370 OBP out of the leadoff spot. While his power has been minimal (just seven RBI since the beginning of July) Jeter is doing everything he has to from the top of the lineup, which is to say, getting on base and providing timely hitting (.309 on the season with runners in scoring position and .385 in the first inning as a leadoff man).
Mark Teixeira: Teixeira started the season in an extended slump, providing just 13 HR and 44 RBI through his first three months and batting a painful .219 in the month of June. All of that changed in July when “Tex” hit seven home runs and delivered 27 RBI before the month was over. With Alex Rodriguez out until September, New York will need him to continue to provide middle of the order production.
Eric Chavez: Chavez has been very valuable as Alex Rodriguez‘s primary replacement, hitting .273 with a rare power surge of four home runs in just 55 at bats. Chavez is also hitting .318 with two outs in an inning on the season.
Curtis Granderson: It’s not easy to place blame on someone with six home runs and 14 RBI in their past 94 at bats but it should apply to Granderson. While the Yankees’ center fielder has not lost his power stroke, he has lost just about everything else, particularly brutal timing as Yankees’ Manager, Joe Girardi, decided to bat perhaps his biggest power hitter second behind Jeter. Granderson has managed to hit .213 with an embarrassing .275 OBP to accompany a whopping 36 strikeouts, 15 more than the second closest Yankee, Nick Swisher. Inconsistent contact and the inability to get on base has left Granderson with the dreaded “all or nothing” label, which isn’t desired out of the top of the lineup when the team is struggling to find timely hitting.
Cody Eppley: Part of the reason the Yankees have been struggling is weaknesses to what should be team strengths. When New York went 36-14 between May 22nd and July 18th, it was mainly due to the consistency of the bullpen and the rise of the rotation. Naturally with the latest 18 game stretch, those two areas have slumped.
Eppley was perhaps the most pleasant surprise in a bullpen which saw major injuries to Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera throughout the season, but he has fallen off of late. The right-hander has given up 13 hits in his past 7.2 innings, posting a 4.70 ERA while the opposition has hit .394 against him in his past nine outings.
Ivan Nova: It’s not scientifically possible to get much colder than Ivan Nova has been of late. The sophomore right-hander has lost his last three starts and given up nearly a run per inning over his past 31 innings, posting an 8.36 ERA with 41 hits and a 1.82 WHIP in that span. Perhaps more frustrating for the Yankees was the signs of promise Nova was showing during his June campaign, posting a .209 average against and a 1.26 ERA in five starts.
Of course a first place team doesn’t all of a sudden play .333 ball because of three players. They have lacked timely hitting within the outfield walls all season, starting pitching and the bullpen have been inconsistent on the whole and the Bronx Bombers have had a complete inability to win close games recently (losing their past eight one run games) or come back against any team’s closer (0-39 when trailing after eight innings).
Even so, whenever any team turns it around it’s likely because struggling players improve and gaudy numbers find a way to correct themselves. The Yankees expect nothing less from some of the guys who have contributed little since the All-Star Break.