We are now officially at the halfway point of the 2021 MLB season with the All-Star Game being played this past Tuesday night. The first half did not disappoint as MLB fans were blessed with a solid dose of no-hitter gems, walk-off dingers, and miraculous game-saving catches. Shohei Ohtani and Jacob deGrom are putting up numbers the game has never seen before and are shifting the sport to an area fans aren’t as familiar with.
With each team having played around 90 games or so, we have come to understand the legit teams that will likely be around come the month of October, playoff baseball time.
There are a couple of certainties that carry themselves around the league. The best division in baseball belongs to the NL West including the Giants, Dodgers, and Padres. Surprisingly, the worst division around the league is none other than the AL Central with the Indians, Tigers, Twins, and Royals all underperforming well below expectations.
We have also had our fair share of teams surprise us with a combination of stellar pitching performances and dominant hitting. Teams on that list include the Red Sox, Astros, and Brewers.
With each season, a new wave of disappointing teams storms the league. This season the biggest disappointment would undoubtedly belong to the Yankees; however, it’s not too late for them to make a push for a top spot in the AL East or snag the second Wild Card spot. In addition, the NL powerhouse Cubs sit eight games behind the Brewers and are below .500 winning percentage for the first time in a long time.
All-Star Break | Yankees Race to the Top
Returning from the All-Star break, the Yankees will find themselves in an unfamiliar position: 4th place in the AL East and eight games behind the first place Red Sox. This is an usual time for the Yankees because in recent years the bullpen was always the last issue. Hitting struggles were consistent throughout the lineup with Judge, Stanton, and Sanchez all striking out left and right.
Now, those three names carry the weight of the entire team on their shoulders. Each with 15+ home runs, they are no longer the reason for their downfall. Instead, the attention has been shifted to longtime reliable relievers Chad Green and Aroldis Chapman who can’t seem to buy an out late in games recently.
Chapman Latest Struggles
7/4 vs. Mets – 0 IP, 1 H, 3 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB (Blown save, Loss)
6/30 vs. Angels – 0.1 IP, 1 H, 4 ER, 1 HR, 3 BB
6/23 vs. Royals – 1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB (Blown save)
6/19 vs. A’s – 1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB
6/12 vs. Phillies – 0.1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER (Loss)
6/10 vs. Twins – 0 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 2 HR (Blown save, Loss)
The numbers tell the story and don’t lie. What else needs to be said? MLB teams are 493-2 (.996) when leading by 4+ runs entering the 9th inning this season. The Yankees are responsible for the only two losses.
As poorly as the Yankees have played to this point of the season, they still have a remainder of 13 games to be played against division rival Boston Red Sox. Winless against the Red Sox this season, the Yankees need to start by getting that first win of the series tomorrow night on their home turf.
Not only do they have 13 future contests with the leader of the AL East, they face the Orioles, Marlins, and Rangers for a total of 15 games, which can easily result in 15 wins. However, the team today realistically won’t come away with all 15 wins, something needs to change coming out of the All-Star break.
Trade Chapman, sit Chapman, change Chapman. It’s hard for the Yankees to play to the level they’re capable of without their ace reliever. Either the Yankees need to make a blockbuster deal at the trade deadline or find a solution to Chapman’s struggles.
Either way, the opportunity for the Yankees to make a push late in the season lies directly beneath their eyes, now it’s all about how hungry they are for that first pennant since the 2009 season.