COMMENTARY | The New York Yankees' postseason hopes remain very much alive.
New York is 3 1/2 games back in the wild-card standings and faces one of the two teams ahead of it -- the Baltimore Orioles -- in a three-game series this weekend. A week later, the Yankees travel to Baltimore for a four-game series, but not before a four-game set against the Chicago White Sox, who sport the second-worst record in the American League.
The Yankees have a legitimate chance to make up some ground in the standings and, in my opinion, need to make at least three adjustments to continue their playoff push:
Make Austin Romine the primary catcher. Chris Stewart never appeared in more than 67 big league games in a season before this year, and he's beginning to show signs of tiring -- both offensively and defensively. In 26 games since the All-Star break, the journeyman catcher is batting .192 with a .259 OBP while collecting a mere 5 extra-base hits. During that span, he's thrown out 4-of-21 base runners (19 percent).
Meanwhile, Austin Romine appears to be adjusting to major league pitching. Since the break, he's batting .361 with a .442 OBP in 14 games. He's also benefiting from some luck, as his batting average on balls in play is .500 during that period. Romine, who started only 25 games in the first half of the season, appeared over-matched at the plate at the start of the season. However, he appears to have settled in and, unlike Stewart, is able to drive the ball to the outfield. The former second-round draft pick may not be the Yankees' catcher of the future, but he should definitely see more at-bats than Stewart if the team expects to compete for a postseason berth.
Exile Joba Chamberlain. There appears to be a reason why Brian Cashman was unable to unload Joba Chamberlain before the trade deadline: He's awful. Yet somehow the Yankees sent down Preston Claiborne -- not Chamberlain -- this week to clear a roster spot for Derek Jeter. Claiborne has posted a 2.78 ERA this season and has excelled as a seventh-inning set-up man. Chamberlain has posted a 4.46 ERA and has shown no signs of being to excel at anything other than mop-up relief duties. He could be showing signs of an early-season rib-cage muscle strain, as Joe Giradi hinted at earlier this month, or he could really be a mediocre pitcher -- not the ace hurler he was once projected to be.
Whatever the case, the Yankees need to exile Chamberlain -- who couldn't even be trusted to finish the ninth inning of a game with his team ahead by seven runs -- so Claiborne and, perhaps, Michael Pineda and Dellin Betances can get innings and give the team's aging starters a break.
Keep running. Since the All-Star break, the Yankees have almost doubled their stolen-base attempts, a move that has aided in producing more runs. Before the break, the team attempted to steal 2 percent of time (75 attempts in 3,523 plate appearances). Since the break, the team has 47 stolen-base attempts in 1,238 plate appearances (3.5 percent). As a result, the team has gotten more runners in scoring position and is benefiting from being aggressive on the basepaths. It's something the team needs to do, along with sacrificing runners, if it wants to win close games.
Howard Z. Unger is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, New York. For the past 15 years, he has written about sports, media, and popular culture. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, New York Post, and New York Times.
- Sports & Recreation
- New York Yankees
- Joba Chamberlain
- New York
- Austin Romine