These five Yankees need to step up and help save season

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Don’t look to the nerds for help with these 2021 Yankees.

Sometimes the underlying numbers, as we nerds call them, can offer hope to a team with a bad record, or a warning to a club to a good record. We’re talking team figures, such as run differential, or individual metrics, such as exit velocity and FIP.

This Yankees group, though, largely is what it is at 33-30. Their run differential, 245 runs scored against 244 allowed, indicates they actually have outperformed their expected record by one game. Those succeeding and flailing largely belong where they are.

Hence, fundamental change must occur if these Yankees, who resume their season Saturday against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, are to steer away from a dark fate. With 99 games remaining, if they don’t face 99 problems, they’ve got plenty … although none of them is No. 99, Aaron Judge, who has avoided the injured list and put up excellent numbers.

Here are the five people whom the Yankees need to step up, to reach previous or expected heights, in order to make this thing work.

The Yankees focused their entire winter strategy around his return and paid him $90 million over six years, but he sports a .653 OPS, an astounding 358-point drop from last year’s 1.011. That the infielder hasn’t faced more wrath must speak to the goodwill he built up the prior two seasons, not only with his numbers, but also with the way he compiled them, with a Jeterian consistency. Alas, the only consistencies he has displayed this season are a lack of power and a preponderance of strikeouts. In 2020, LeMahieu totaled 22 extra-base hits against 21 strikeouts, and in 2019, his last full campaign, he put up 61 XBHs and 90 K’s. This year? Ten extra-base hits and 46 strikeouts. LeMaYeesh.

Zack Britton, DJ LeMahieu and Luke Voit
Zack Britton, DJ LeMahieu and Luke Voit
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg (2); AP

Clint Frazier

If LeMahieu ranks as the biggest concern, given that contract, Frazier should win Best Disappointment honors. Finally getting his chance, with Aaron Hicks injured and Brett Gardner sliding over from left field to center field, Frazier owns a 76 OPS+ — 24 percent worse than league average OPS, factoring in ballpark effects — and a team-worst negative-0.8 defensive wins above replacement. What happened to the guy who hit like crazy and drew Gold Glove Award finalist honors last year? He has cut back considerably on line drives and has increased his pop-ups dramatically. It’s a tough look.

As of now, the longtime general manager’s focus figures to be center field, because Hicks will miss the rest of the season (further damning the seven-year, $70 million commitment the Yankees gave him) and Gardner has been unable to get much going offensively. With just a few million bucks leeway, unless Hal Steinbrenner agrees to go over the $210 million luxury-tax threshold, can Cashman and his deputies find themselves another Arbitrage All-Star like Gio Urshela or…

… Luke Voit?

(hat tip to ESPN’s Jeff Passan for that trick.) In between two lengthy stays on the injured list, the 2020 major league home run leader has put up a .182/.280/.250 slash line with one homer in 44 at-bats. He could begin a minor league rehabilitation stint (from his strained left oblique) as soon as Sunday, welcome news for the Yankees. When he’s right, Voit gives the Yankees lengthy at-bats and dugout/clubhouse fire in addition to his power.

Zack Britton

The lefty reliever, with five minor league appearances on the books as he rehabs from March surgery to remove a bone chip from his pitching elbow, could rejoin the Yankees very soon. They really could use the bullpen help, especially if their offense continues to struggle and so many games stay close late. Two other veteran relievers, Darren O’Day (strained right rotator cuff) and Justin Wilson (strained left hamstring), are sidelined. O’Day pitched well this season, while Wilson’s success with the Mets the past two years offer a tad of hope that his current 6.08 ERA may not reflect his actual quality at this juncture.

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