LAS VEGAS — If one player currently symbolizes the sad state of the Yankees, it’s Giancarlo Stanton. In a cameo pinch-hit appearance Sunday, Stanton stepped to the plate and appeared menacing and powerful. He went down without a fight, weakly waving at the third strike.
Stanton is stuck in a miserable slump, but he’s not alone. The Yankees, the preseason American League favorites, have slipped to fourth in the East standings after getting swept in a three-game weekend series by the Red Sox.
“A lot of people are sick of watching the Yankees, but they still bet them, and they bet them again Sunday,” said Vinny Magliulo, VSiN oddsmaker and veteran Las Vegas bookmaker. “There’s no way they could get swept by the Red Sox, right?”
The Red Sox found a way to win 6-5 in 10 innings on Sunday. The game ended on a groundout by DJ LeMahieu, who’s batting .253 a year after he led MLB by batting .364. The Yankees rank 27th in the majors in runs per game — only the Mets, Tigers and Pirates are worse — and that’s just the beginning of the list of their offensive failures.
At the 60-game mark, which represented the entire number of regular-season games in 2020, the Yankees (31-29) entered Monday 6¹/₂ games behind the first-place Rays (38-23) in the division while also looking up at the Red Sox (36-23) and Blue Jays (30-27).
Still, BetMGM lists the Yankees as the +375 second choice to win the AL, behind the favored White Sox (3/1) and ahead of the Rays (9/2). The Yankees are the 17/2 fourth choice to win the World Series, ahead of the Rays (15/1) and Red Sox (20/1).
Do the oddsmakers know some kind of secret? The Yankees’ lofty standing on the odds board is due mostly to the amount of money they have attracted and the liability the books face.
“Overall, the Yankees are perceived as a better team than the Rays by oddsmakers and that’s reflected by the World Series odds,” MGM Resorts director of trading Jeff Stoneback said. “Also, the public perceives the Yankees as a better team, reflected by twice as many Series tickets written on them than the Rays. If it was a playoff series starting today, the Yankees would be favored against the Rays.”
The Yankees were odds-on favorites to win the East in the preseason and have dipped to the +175 second choice, with the Rays favored at +145. Tampa Bay’s favored status in the division is based more on reality and its 6¹/₂-game cushion.
“With about 100 games left in the season, it would be tough for the Rays to stay so hot, and the feeling is the Yankees will play to expectations,” Stoneback said.
The Yankees’ season win total was set at 95 — far above the Rays (88) and Red Sox (79) — but it’s now obvious those expectations were too high. The problems start with an offense that’s batting .228 and scoring 3.72 runs per game.
“I guess we all overrated the lineup,” said Dave Cokin, a Las Vegas baseball handicapper. “It’s supposed to be a 100-win lineup, but they can’t hit and it’s not phony. The Yankees are just a bad offensive team.”
Aaron Judge is the only regular in the lineup who’s sniffing a .300 batting average. Judge is leading the team by hitting .295 with 14 home runs and 32 RBIs. In addition to the struggles of LeMahieu and Stanton, Gleyber Torres has only three homers in 184 at-bats, Gary Sanchez is batting .210 and Clint Frazier and Brett Gardner are below .200.
“The Bombers have played 60 games and may soon be forced to forfeit that nickname, considering they have scored three runs or fewer in 33 games,” said VSiN analyst William Hill, who admits to being a frustrated Yankees fan. “It’s June, it’s no longer a small sample size, and while the Yankees are still within striking distance of a playoff spot, it’s clear this isn’t the title team many hoped or thought it would be.”
Regular first baseman Luke Voit, who led MLB with 22 homers last year, has been injured and limited to 12 games. Torres has totaled only six homers since the start of the 2020 season after he hit 38 in 2019.
“If you look at the last couple seasons, Torres is just a middle-of-the-road guy and that’s about it,” Cokin said. “Unless he gets going, I don’t think the team gets going.”
Gerrit Cole has played his part as the ace of the pitching staff. But aside from signing Cole to a nine-year, $324 million deal in December 2019, Hill said, “the Yankees have become extremely frugal and careful, both in free agency and in the trade market.”
The Yankees whiffed on opportunities to land left-handed power hitters Bryce Harper and Shohei Ohtani, and GM Brian Cashman will be under pressure to fix the roster flaws this summer and try to reload for the second half.
While public perception of the Yankees, who have closed as betting favorites in 56 of 60 games, might finally be deteriorating, oddsmakers will resist major adjustments.
“As a bookmaker, you have to bear in mind they are the Yankees and they have resources,” Magliulo said. “There is plenty of time to turn it around. You can’t overreact just yet.”
Matt Youmans is senior editor of VSiN.com.