We’ll get this out of the way first: The New York Yankees never had a shot at making the playoffs without the rise of Aaron Judge. Even after a prolonged slump that began in June, Judge leads MLB with a 6.0 WAR (per Fangraphs) among position players. During the first months of the season, he demolished pitchers with home runs, base hits, and walks at will. In short, he became an elite offensive player.
However, Judge ranked 124th in WAR among position players between July 9 and August 8. During that stretch, he struck out 37.6% of the time and hit .185 with 5 HR. Judge basically became the 2016 version of himself, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi began benching him with alarming regularity. As the club struggles to hold its playoff position, Judge often looks lost at the plate.
The Gary Sanchez situation looks even worse. Sanchez, New York’s 2016 rookie sensation, has struggled so much as a catcher he was benched for back-to-back games in early August. (Girardi said a message about his sloppy defense came with it.) Whether it works remains to be seen, but Sanchez and Judge could actually hurt the Yankees’ playoff chances if these trends continue. Here are the problems the Yankees face with their young superstars, and the club’s options down the stretch.