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We hope the Yankees perform well in a losing season, but what the team does in that case won’t really matter

The Yankees are 10-20 and in the AL East race. They still hold an eight-game lead, but it has been shrinking as of late.

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There are low points and roadblocks, and then there is what has happened in the Bronx over the past month: A complete collapse from the World Series-ready New York Yankees, whose second half play had them on the verge of greatness.

The panic mode is on.

Okay, so there is definitely cause for concern during this perplexing stretch of awful baseball. And after the squad dominated the field in the first half, Yankees supporters desperate for the club’s first championship since 2009 would have believed they would have a relatively easy trip back to the Fall Classic.

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That won’t happen, I assure you. If this Yankee slump, during which they are 4-14 since August 2, 10-20 in the second half, has dredged up anything, it is two questions that might not receive an answer until mid-October:

How excellent are they exactly? How embarrassing is this cold snap, exactly?

Let’s investigate as their season heats up once more with the commencement of the second round of the Subway Series against the New York Mets on Monday night.

What caused the Yankees’ recent decline?

According to statistics, it’s a little bit of everything, like the song states. However, if you’ve followed this game for even a brief period of time, you know that starting pitching continues to be its foundation despite the glamour of the long ball and the mind-numbing quantification of stats.

And that 180 in the club’s funk is possibly the most significant.

The Yankees are now in a severe hitting slump with three or less runs in 13 of their last 17 games. Hitters will occasionally go through collective slumps. Anthony Rizzo, a power hitter, is hitting.173 this month with three home runs, and DJ LeMahieu has a.668 OPS with one home run. Josh Donaldson, a third baseman, is below the league average hitter with a 98 OPS + for the season. DH Giancarlo Stanton, who has a.498 slugging percentage, is on the disabled list while undergoing rehabilitation for an Achilles issue.

When the big boys fight, the season-long sinkholes at shortstop and left field are even more obvious.

But everything is possible with run prevention, and the bigger long-term worry is undoubtedly a deterioration in the beginning pitchers’ effectiveness.

The 4.65 ERA that New York’s starters have recorded, a sharp decline from the 2.78 average through May, has coincided with their 4-14 losing streak. The rotation’s 1.09 WHIP for the month was consistent with the rest of the season, but their 7.69 strikeouts per nine is a 17% decrease from the group’s 9.24 average through July.

Right-hander Jameson Taillon’s ERA has increased by more than half a run (3.86 to 4.45) from the first to the second half, and this is most likely where the biggest regression occurs. Due to the fact that he has given out more free passes (13) in July and August than he did in the preceding three months combined, his strikeout-walk ratio has decreased from 7.8 through May to 2.78 this month (11). The team could use Luis Severino, who started 16 games in the middle of the season before suffering a lat injury that kept him out until mid-September. Severino, why? To mask his own team’s offensive shortcomings, he is striking out nearly 10 batters every nine innings, drastically reducing the randomness of balls in play.

However, the way the rotation is set up right now makes you wonder if the team should have done nothing at all.

Was there any point to the trading deadline?

Maybe. The Yankees traded a mid-rotation starter (Jordan Montgomery) for a center fielder (Harrison Bader), who won’t be available until at least September, in one of the more bizarre moves done at the deadline.

Undoubtedly, you could see them at work. Right away after bringing in Oakland’s Frankie Montas, New York saw him as a postseason lockdown pitcher. Throughout this season and his six years in Oakland, Montas struck out more over one batter per inning. By August, the Yankees were planning to defeat the dreaded Astros in the ALCS, not to win the AL East.

Montgomery, a contact-friendly lefty who pitched well from April to September but was far from unbeatable in October, served as a proxy for more of the same when examining the Yankees’ most recent playoff failures. They struggled in the 2020 ALDS with J.A. Happ and Montgomery himself getting hen-pecked by the Rays, and they failed to defeat the Astros in the 2019 ALCS with J.A. Happ and James Paxton handling the ball.

Theoretically, by preventing Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman from putting the ball in play in the first place, Montas may muffle their October clamor.

He’s been a wreck ever since the Yankees bought him, which is the problem.

His single appearance in the sixth inning saw him hand the fast-closing Blue Jays six earned runs. The Yankees have lost two of his three starts. Although Montas has constantly compiled encouraging ancillary data, he was inconsistent with Oakland and now exposes himself to the “Can he pitch in New York?” myth, which hovers halfway between a cliche and the truth.

Funny thing is, it’s at least some of the justification for shipping out slugger Joey Gallo following a 12-month stay in the Bronx that turned out to be the most unsuccessful period of his career. While his deadline replacement, Andrew Benintendi, has been mediocre, Gallo has at least partially righted himself with the Dodgers, where he conceded it’s great to see folks “walking around in flip-flops.”

Benintendi, who has a.211 average and a.691 OPS, did not hit a home run until his 23rd game for the Yankees on Sunday. He may be all right. Montas may also clear things up, which would calm the Yankee-hating audience in Minute Maid Park in a few months.

Although we are constantly informed that playing for the Yankees brings a different kind of pressure than playing in other big league cities, both players are now leaving open the possibility of how they might perform in that role.

Is the manager at blame for any of this?

Even in the best of circumstances, running the Yankees remains a no-win position, and criticizing Aaron Boone has been more fashionable as the Yankees have struggled. Boone has not run from the criticism despite appearing friendly and solid in public; last week, as Yankee Stadium supporters screamed for his dismissal, he ascended to the top step of the dugout.

He can’t win for losing at this point. A couple of heated news appearances over the weekend during which he pummeled the table in front of him may have calmed some of the boobirds, but it also drew ire from those who believed the move was purely symbolic.

In actuality, the manager can only take so much of the blame.

Not to be forgotten is the fact that Boone was hired to more accurately represent the goals and plans of a front staff that felt Joe Girardi did not adhere to said values frequently enough (which is to say, virtually all of the time). There isn’t much evidence that Boone has “lost the clubhouse,” but it’s wise to pay attention to what former Angels manager Joe Maddon had to say about the challenges facing contemporary managers in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times.

It’s reached the stage when a general manager should really adopt a jersey and head to the dugout, or their main analytical membrane, according to Maddon. “Because they attempt to use a middleman in some way. And when the performance isn’t up to par, it’s never the acquisitional procedure that’s at fault. It always comes down to managers and coaches not being able to bring out the best in a player. And it’s from there that this enormous disparity develops.

However, you cannot jeer the quants, right?

Is there anyone who can help?

Hold on there, whoa.

Even if their lead over the Blue Jays and Rays in the AL East has decreased from a season-high 15 12 games on July 8 to the current eight-game advantage, this team does not require an intervention.

However, now that the deadline has past, Oswaldo Cabrera’s new energy will undoubtedly help the team.

Cabrera made his debut on August 17 and has since played in right field, third base, and shortstop, which is hardly a coincidence.

It’s past time to issue warnings to a few Yankee bats. Donaldson is losing steam, shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa is still catching the ball but not hitting (one home run, 82 adjusted OPS), and Aaron Hicks is also struggling at the plate (.215,.636 OPS). Although Cabrera might not be able to fix all of these problems, or even all of them, his athleticism and optionality, as the cool kids like to say, can help enliven a squad that is at least temporarily inactive.

Any of this even matter?

perhaps not! The next seven-game road trip to Oakland and Anaheim for the Yankees, who are still the clear favorites to win the East, would be the ideal opportunity to escape the city lights.

They can also find several instances of comparable problems in history.

The Dodgers were practically invincible in 2017, outscoring opponents by more than three runs per game and winning 91-36 on August 25.

They then dropped 16 of their following 17 games.

A portion of it involved practicing; the Dodgers attempted, but failed, to turn rookie Walker Buehler into a power reliever for the postseason. But as October drew closer, a team that had been winning games unexpectedly lost.

The 2017 World Series was then decided in seven games by Houston after the Dodgers destroyed the National League playoff field.

Heck, the Yankees may even look to their own past, specifically the year 2000, when they were the two-time reigning champions and went 3-15 down the stretch while winning a meager 87 games and appearing stale and worn out.

They subsequently won the World Series.

It’s impossible to predict how this squad will do. They are aware of how rapidly fortunes can change, whether for the better or worse, if nothing else.

Originally published on USA TODAY, this article says: Has panic mode been set? It might not matter in the end what the New York Yankees have going wrong.