How early is too early to panic about the Yankees?: Diving into the Bronx Bombers’ struggles

DJ LeMahieu Yankees
DJ LeMahieu and the Yankees have the worst record in the American League.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

How long does it take before the panic button is pressed regarding the New York Yankees’ slow start?

Well, 15 games, apparently. 

The Yankees have the worst record in the American League at 5-10 this season, fresh off a home sweep at the hands of the Tamp Bay Rays — who have clearly owned them over the last two seasons.

You don’t need me to tell you that there’s more than enough time for this team to turn things around after getting off to their worst start since 1997. 

They were similarly sluggish in 1998 and look how well that all turned out (they won the World Series that year, for those of you who are too young or just refuse to read a book). 

But if you look at the cracks along the faultlines at Yankee Stadium, it’s largely concerning why the Yankees are in the situation that they are currently in; and why this isn’t as easy a fix as some might think.

The most glaring issue of the Yankees’ early-season slump is an offense that cannot find its gears.

On paper, they are one of the most feared starting nine’s in the game. In reality, they rank 25th with an average of 3.67 runs per game.

What’s the deal?

An over-reliance on the home-run ball — a ball that has been admittedly deadened by Major League Baseball this season while playing in spring conditions that don’t lend the old pill to fly out of the ballpark as easy as it normally does in the summer.

Of course, things could pick up when the weather warms and the ball starts flying a little more quickly out of Yankee Stadium and elsewhere. It’ll also help when Luke Voit returns to the fold and allows DJ LeMahieu to move back to second base while demoting Rougned Odor — who couldn’t cut it at second base with the lowly Texas Rangers — to the bench full-time.

But it remains to be seen if that would resolve the kind of discomposure that the Yankees currently are showing at the plate.

New York has struck out 139 times over their first 15 games — that bulk number actually coming in under the league average so far this season. However, in 491 at-bats, the Bronx Bombers are striking out at a 28.3% clip. That means that a little more than one in four batters is being punched out, which is obviously a poor recipe for success or finding any sort of momentum.

The offense is doing nothing to support a starting rotation that was already entering the 2021 season with enormous asks from the organization.

Behind Gerrit Cole — who is expected to be in the running for the AL Cy Young Award — Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon are being tasked to be full-time, lockdown No. 2 and 3 starters despite having pitched a combined 74 innings since the start of the 2019 season and just one inning combined in 2020.

They’ve combined to sport a 6.92 ERA in 2021.

This is an awful lot to sift through and solve for a team that is already 4.5 games back of first place in the American League East. If they don’t do it soon, that deficit will only grow.