What’s better than New York sports right now?
New York is home of the Madison Square Garden, the Mecca of sports – but the Knicks play there. It has two teams in the midst of the NFL season – actually, three teams if you count the Bills, who have just as many wins at MetLife Stadium as the Jets and Giants. And, Brooklyn has Kyrie Irving locked up long-term – but maybe not with his history.
With not much to actually look forward to, and, despite ending recently, baseball in the Bronx and Queens is still the talk of the town due to extreme optimistic outlooks.
Although the New York Yankees have made the playoffs for three straight seasons, as well as solidifying their 27th winning season in a row by finishing 103-59, the ultimate goal of capturing a World Series once again was halted by the Houston Astros in the ALCS.
The Bronx Bombers lived up to their reputation as a heavy hitter offense all throughout the season, even with 25 players rotating on the Injured List. The Yankees totaled 306 home runs on the season, accounting for the second-most club homeruns all-time in a season, smashing their previous team record of 267 in 2018. Even with the priority of power, the Yankees still had the fourth highest team batting average in the Major Leagues at .269, as well as the fourth highest on-base-percentage in the MLB. The franchise also placed third in slugging percentage and on base + slugging percentage. No moves seem necessary as of right now to bolster the bats.
What hinders the Yankees is the lack of star power and depth in the starting rotation. The lowest earned run average of any hurler was James Paxton with a 3.82, and no other pitcher possesed a sub-four ERA. The inability to constantly keep opposing offenses down did not hurt during the regular season due to historic offense, but it was ultimately exposed with one series to go before the World Series. Heading into free agency, the Yankees will most likely look for only one frontline pitcher, as they only lose C.C. Sabathia from the staff and will eventually call-up number one prospect Deivi Garcia sometime in the beginning of the season. Yet, with a projected salary of $195 million according to Spotrac, a Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg type pitcher will not be sought after, as the Yankees will most likely target the next tier of starters such as Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zach Wheeler, and Madison Bumgarner if they do not go the trade route.
As for the New York Mets, the clear weakness is the bullpen. Edwin Diaz, the star closer who was the centerpiece of one of the most notable trades in Mets history last off-season, regressed from a 1.96 ERA in 2018 to a 5.57 ERA in 2019. Diaz’s WHIP also inflated from .791 to a 1.379 in the same timeframe, displaying no potency as the assumed game-changer of the bullpen.
Even though Diaz severely underperformed expectations, the majority of the Mets bullpen did not pull their weight as well. A cumulative ERA of 4.99 from the bullpen was the fifth worst in baseball, also ranking third-to-last in batting average on balls in play, signaling that when contact was made by opposing hitters, they had an above-average opportunity of reaching base from lack of effective pitches.
To bolster one of the worst group of relievers in baseball, the Mets will most likely target the top-flight group of available arms. With their transactions under the tenure of general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, the Mets clearly are in ‘win-now’ mode and, as a result, may be unconventional in their approach compared to years past and dish out large contracts to the likes of Will Smith and Dellin Betances to solidify the weakness that kept them out of the playoffs.
Robert Fallo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @rob_fallo.