Twitter is savage right now. At least from my little corner of the world (@BronxBeatBP, I’m a fun follow!), fans are placing the recent Yankee struggles square on Aaron Boone’s head. I think this is wrong.
Since August 1st (a nice round number, but also only a few games after Aaron Judge broke his wrist), the Yankees are 23-19 (.547 win%) or pacing for 89 wins. While that’s good enough to win the AL Central, it’s not good enough to win the AL Wild Card, where the red-hot Athletics (26-13, .666 win%) have nearly overtaken the Yankees. Therefore, it’s Aaron Boone’s fault.
Maybe there is some kind of behind the scenes clubhouse conflict that I’m not aware of. Maybe Boone has decided to force Luis Severino to stop throwing his slider, or he took a baseball bat to CC Sabathia’s one good knee. That’s all possible, but given the publicly available information, we have no reason to blame Aaron Boone. Managers don’t perform miracles. Even if managers are very important to player performance (which there isn’t a lot of evidence to suggest, especially in the age of super-analytic front offices), we should first rule out other causes of decline. And there’s a really big one to examine first: injuries.
The Yankees have missed 40ish (round numbers to make the math easier) games of Aaron Judge, 30ish games of Gary Sanchez, 10ish games of Aroldis Chapman and 20ish games of Didi Gregorius over that span (plus some odd games from other players). Over a full season, Judge has been playing at an 8ish win pace, Didi at a 5ish win pace, Chapman at a 3ish win pace, and Sanchez at a 2ish win pace (the Sanchez baseline is debatable).
Taken together, the Yankees have lost about 13.5 wins of players to injury in the average game since August 1st. Add a win or two if you think Gary Sanchez is better than a 2ish win player, or if you want to think about this team with Jordan Montgomery. I’ll be conservative and call it 13 annualized wins lost.
Simple math time. 13 wins = 0.08 win%. .547 win% + .08 = .627, or a 102-win pace. Without those four injuries, the Yankees would likely have played like a 102-win team since August 1st. They would have 3-4 more wins than they do now, and a solid lock on the first Wild Card spot.
Aaron Boone can’t fix Judge’s wrist or heal Gregorius’ bruise. He also can’t summon magical players out of Triple-A to replace them. The Yankees got screwed on the replacement player front by trading Billy McKinney the day before the Judge injury and watching Clint Frazier continue to struggle with post-concussion symptoms. Thus, Shane Robinson, starting RF, too many starts for a clearly beat up Brett Gardner, and a billion consecutive games played for the clearly-in-need-of-rest Giancarlo Stanton.
Are some players performing worse than in the first half? Of course. Luis Severino has been terrible and Gleyber Torres has seriously regressed to merely average. However, other players have been better than the first half including Miguel Andujar slugging nearly .600, Masahiro Tanaka pitching like an ace, and Didi Gregorius silently rediscovering his April magic.
Overall, the 110-win team has regressed to a 101-win team with a bunch of injuries.
That’s what happens to 110-win teams. They regress almost every time because 110 wins is a lot of wins.
We don’t need any magical conspiracy theories to explain the Yankee second-half struggles. It’s not that complicated.