The Good (and Bad) from the Yankees’ 2018 Season

These are my biggest takeaways from the 2018 Yankees season as the playoffs begin to conclude.

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I hate baseball. Last year, when everybody counted us out, Aaron Judge went from a no-name to the Aaron Judge and the Yankees (Yanks) tore up the league, reaching the American League Championship Series before losing to the World Series winning Houston Astros in game seven. This year, with Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen, and James Anthony (J.A.) Happ added either in the offseason or at midseason, the Yanks were one of the favorites to win it all throughout the year (I predicted the Yankees were going to defeat the Chicago Cubs to win the World Series an earlier issue… whoops).

Instead, they took a step back, losing to their arch-rival Boston Red Sox in four games in the American League Division Series (ALDS). But before the offseason kicks into high gear, here are my five biggest takeaways from this season as a whole:

1. Aaron Boone was… mediocre. The new managerial hire came into the season with high expectations and was looking to fill the shoes of longtime incumbent Joe Girardi. And while winning 100 games looks good on the surface (and is a testament to the Yankees’ resilience), Boone didn’t do all that much. He heaped praise when necessary, but his role as a leader remained a little unclear.

Catcher Gary Sanchez, for example, was a player who was supposed to break out for a career year. Instead, he dealt with numerous injuries, finishing the season with only 89 games played, a .186 batting average in those games, and a league high of 18 passed balls. Girardi called Sanchez out for his defensive miscues in 2017, but Boone never seemed to have such a confrontation. His lack of experience may have also lost him the American League Division Series (ALDS), leaving in pitchers Luis Severino and C.C. Sabathia for too long in games three and four. The Yankees were clearly the worse team in the ALDS, but Boone’s managing did not help matters. He will hopefully take a step forward next season.

2. Giancarlo Stanton has to do better. We’re paying you almost $30 million per year until 2028. In the regular season, he did alright—.266 batting average, 38 home runs, and 100 Runs Batted In (RBIs). However, diving under the surface, Stanton has been an issue. As the fourth hitter of a dangerous Yankees lineup, he should be a capable hitter in high leverage situations. Instead, according to a Bleacher Report article by Zachary Rymer, Stanton is the worst player in clutch situations in the MLB. And, come playoff time, he choked. He hit a homerun in the Wild Card game, but in the four game series against the Red Sox, Stanton finished 4-18 at the plate with… four singles. Nada. New York is going to need a lot more to justify this mega contract.

3. 267 home runs… so what? People thought the Yankees would have a shot at the previous record, 264 hit by the 1997 Seattle Mariners. In this regard, the Yankees exceeded expectations. Every single spot in the Yankees lineup had at least 20 home runs. They can rake. If only they could hit for average with men on base, too. This home run barrage will continue next season and beyond with the core all returning, but it takes more than just home runs to win a World Series.

4. What to do without “Sir Didi?” Shortstop Didi Gregorius recently had Tommy John surgery after the Yankees’ elimination from the playoffs, opening up a gaping hole both at shortstop and in the lineup. Until he returns (which could be anywhere in the season—it’s too early to have a set timetable), the Yankees will lose their best defender and a top hitter. Gregorius hit 27 home runs, drove in 86 RBIs, and finished with a .268 average last season. It seems like a combination of Gleyber Torres and Ronald Torreyes will fill in the hole, but neither are as capable defenders. Adeiny Hechavarria (assuming the Yanks re-sign him) could provide the defense, but his offensive production is nowhere near the same level as Didi’s.

Fun fact: Gregorius can speak four languages and was actually knighted, hence the nickname “Sir Didi.”

5. Baby Bombers are LEGIT. No one quite knew what to expect from rookies Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. While both had their ups and downs throughout the year, they clearly exceeded any expectations. Torres finished with a .271 average and 24 home runs, while Andujar had a .297 average and 27 home runs, finishing as a probable Rookie of the Year winner. Despite their many struggles on the defensive end, they played with heart and will improve through practice and experience. Andujar is 23 and Torres is 21. Their growth, coupled with the continued maturation from ace Luis Severino and the rise of notable Yankees minor leagues such as Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield, will ensure the Bronx will not fall out of World Series contention any time soon.