Connect with us


Yankees, Dodgers, and Astros No Longer Reigning Supreme?

Yankees, Dodgers, Astros

In the last full MLB seasons dating back to 2017, three teams have had the most regular season wins: The Houston Astros (512), New York Yankees (485), and Los Angeles Dodgers (519).

Each of these teams has made yearly playoff appearances, cementing themselves as three of the best teams in the MLB. The Dodgers, in particular, had a remarkable winning record, securing seven straight division titles from 2013 to 2019.

Once feared and revered, these powerhouses are now grappling with a range of issues that have shaken their dominance and left fans questioning their trajectory.

Ready to Reign?

Even before the first crack of the bat in spring training for the Houston Astros, fan favorites such as Jose Altuve, Lance McCullers, and Michael Brantley were sidelined by injuries. McCullers’ absence, in particular, has dealt a heavy blow, as the talented pitcher is set to miss the remainder of the season due to a debilitating bone bruise and flexor surgery.

More Pitching Woes

While the Astros managed to weather the initial injuries after the first month, the injury bug didn’t stop there. The back end of the rotation in pitching rotation suffered severe hits in early May, losing both Luis Garcia to Tommy John surgery and Jose Urquidy to shoulder inflammation in consecutive days.

Houston is forced to rely on inexperienced arms and a less-than-stellar replacement to man the back end of the pitching rotation. Even so, the pitching staff is #1 in ERA in the MLB. However, they haven’t been given enough run support. The Astros offense is completely underperforming, ranking in the bottom 15 in most offense categories. (18th in AVG, 21st in OBP, 16th in SLG).

Yordan Out For A Month

As if that wasn’t enough, the Astros’ offensive woes were compounded by the recent oblique strain suffered by Yordan Alvarez. The slugger had been shouldering the burden of the team’s underperforming offense, leading the league in RBI (55) and ranking second in home runs (17) prior to his injury. Since his absence, Houston has struggled to find consistent offensive production, with a lackluster 5-7 record in their last 12 games. Desperate for stability, the Astros are yearning for the return of their everyday slugger.

It was easy to understand that the Astros might start their season slow to begin with. After James Click left following owner Jim Crane lowballing him, they were without a General Manager following a World Series win. Despite being without a GM, Houston still made moves that they believed would bolster their roster and solidify their position to defend their AL West crown.

Signing Without A GM

Houston took the unprecedented step of extending RP Rafael Montero‘s contract without a General Manager in place. Based on statistics, Montero had an outstanding performance the previous year. He pitched in 71 games, covering a total of 68.1 innings, and secured an impressive ERA of 2.37 and a FIP of 2.64, which put him in a crucial position as the Astros’ main setup man behind closer Ryan Pressly.

However, prior to 2022, Montero was regarded as a non-factor on his previous clubs, as he didn’t perform well with the Seattle Mariners. He struggled in 2021 as a Mariner, with a 7.27 ERA in 43.1 innings, including a .311 opponent batting average.

In what felt more like a minor league transaction, the Mariners traded him to Houston, essentially for cash considerations. This trade also included Kendall Graveman, the player who originally piqued Houston’s interest.

Montero stayed in Houston the following year and had a career season. This earned him a three-year, $34.1 million extension from former Astros 1B Jeff Bagwell, who was the acting general manager at the time. Baggie hoped the thirty-two year old would continue performing well and become a mainstay in Houston’s stacked bullpen.

How is Montero doing now? Well, not great. Pretty terrible honestly. Montero 2022 campaign at this point seems like an outlier in his rocky MLB career. After 31 games this year, Rafael is sporting a dreadful 6.67 ERA. He’s given up ten more hits than his innings pitched and cannot seem to get anyone out these days.

With his 1.75 WHIP and 11.8 H/9, Montero’s being thrown around like a punching bag. Most of Houston’s losses are at the hands of Montero, He assumed the setup man role initially at the start of the 2023 season, but that has now been replaced by hard-throwing reliever, Bryan Abreu. Abreu is continuing his dominance on the mound coming off his masterful playoff campaign last year.

Smoke And Mirrors

Another player that Bagwell signed was 1B and 2020 MVP in Jose Abreu. Although Abreu has been a quality slugger throughout his career, his power took a nosedive in 2022 launching only 15 homers in 601 at-bats. Nevertheless, he put up solid numbers from a contact standpoint, slashing (.304/.378/.468) in 157 games.

In hindsight, this was a great signing in replacement of their aging 1B in Yuli Gurriel. In reality, it’s completely backfired. Abreu at 36 years old is having the worst season of his major league career. All his numbers are career lows, including an OPS plummeting to .587 in 276 at-bats, nearly 300 points lower than his lifetime average of .846.

Abreu is striking out more than he gets base hits and his power has worsened from last year, with only four dingers in the middle of June. His first home run this season came on May 28th, nearly two months after the season began. His job in the 4-5-6 spot in the lineup is to score runs. Having a -1.1 WAR and .257 AVG with RISP isn’t going to get the job done on the offensive end.

A three-year, $58 million contract for an aging star in Abreu did the opposite of what Bagwell hoped to maintain Houston’s chances to remain dominant in the American League. Houston chances to repeat as King of the AL West are still possible, yet very slim as they are hovering between 2nd and third in the West behind the Los Angeles Angels and the Texas Rangers, who are ahead of the ‘Stros by five games.

It isn’t just Abreu that’s struggling. The entire Astros offense is struggling as a whole. Most of their offensive numbers are near the bottom ten in the league. At 41-34, their team has treaded water arguably due to their pitching. Led by Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier, Houston’s hurlers continue to perform well throughout the season.

Trouble In The Bronx

The New York Yankees, perennial contenders in their own right, have encountered a different set of challenges. Following a disheartening sweep at the hands of the Astros in the American League Championship Series, the Yankees failed to fortify their offensive arsenal during the offseason.  While they managed to secure the re-signing of Aaron Judge, their hyper focus on retaining the star outfielder overshadowed their need for supplementary firepower. Aaron Judge was getting shopped around like a hot potato, nearly signing with the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants.

Not Addressing The Offense Issue

They could have signed complementary All-Star shortstops in Carlos Correa, Xander Bogarts, or Trea Turner. Instead, the Yankees decided to promote Anthony Volpe, a highly-touted prospect, to the big leagues following a strong Spring Training. Heralded as the next Derek Jeter, the 21-year-old infielder has struggled to find his footing in the big leagues, posting lackluster numbers well below the Mendoza line. Coupled with the underperformance of established stars like Anthony Rizzo, Giancarlo Stanton, and DJ LeMahieu, the Yankees’ once-formidable lineup has fallen alarmingly silent.

2015 MVP Josh Donaldson is far from the hitter he once was over the past couple of seasons. Despite this decline, Aaron Boone insists on keeping him as a regular in the starting lineup, much to the chagrin of disgruntled Yankee fans.

Brian Cashman believed the answer to their problems was more starting pitching. While they were able to sign All-Star Carlos Rodón, he’s been sidelined with a forearm injury, as well as a setback to his lower back. After two months, he is finally throwing rehab stints and is expected to make his season debut in the coming days.

Unlike 2022, fan favorite Nestor Cortes is having a rocky start this year, as his ERA has ballooned to 5.16 and a 1.30 WHIP in 11 starts. Compare that to a 2.44 ERA and 0.92 WHIP across 28 starts last year.

The primary focus on starting pitching overshadowed their lack of offensive firepower. This has translated to 25th in AVG, 28th in OBP, and dead last in RISP.

Sticky Substance Issue

To make matters worse, the Yankees have found themselves embroiled in controversies surrounding the use of illegal substances by their pitchers, most notably Domingo Herman. The fallout from these scandals has further overshadowed their struggles. For example, Herman was throwing three perfect innings to start a game against the Minnesota Twins back in April. This left Twins manager Rocco Baldelli to call upon an examination of his hands. Sure enough, they found stickiness and asked Herman to wash his hands. Following his wash. Herman immediately struggled on the mound.

Herman was caught again with sticky substances and served a 10-game suspension last month.

Luis Severino is also struggling badly and hasn’t been the pitcher he once was since 2018.

All Rise, The Judge And Cole-Train Is Moving

Despite these issues, the Yankees have managed to find minimal upside with the number one ranked bullpen along with outstanding performances of Aaron Judge and ace pitcher Gerrit Cole.

Cole stands alone as their best pitcher in the rotation. He is having his best season as a Yankee so far, with an 8-1 record and fourth in the league in ERA (2.64) across 99 IP and third in the league in strikeouts (106). Judge is having arguably a better year than his MVP year, with 19 homers and a 1.078 OPS in 175 at-bats. Unfortunately, Judge has already been on two IL stints this year, currently out with a sprained right toe. When Judge is in the lineup, the Yankees boast a notable record of 30-19. However, their record dips to 11-14 in his absence. Evidently, the potency of the Yankees’ offense dwindles significantly without Judge’s presence on the field

It might still be early in the season, but there’s ample opportunity for the Yankees to bolster their offensive lineup before the trade deadline looms. Unfortunately, they’re contending within the powerhouse that is the AL East – the toughest division in the American League, where no team has a record falling below .500.

The Yankees are currently trailing the Tampa Bay Rays by 9.5 games, with the Rays seemingly sprinting towards the AL East title. Unless we see an unexpected downturn from Tampa Bay, coupled with an impressive series of victories from the Yankees, the realistic course of action might be to aim for the top Wild Card slot to ensure home field advantage.

City Of Cracks In The Stars

It’s been nearly ten years that the league has seen the Dodgers struggle throughout the regular season. Since 2013, LA has won 9 division titles, establishing themselves as a mainstay MLB playoff contender. Yet here they are, standing around the same spot as the Astros and Yankees: Third place with 41 wins.

Thankfully for the Dodgers, this division isn’t completely out of reach. They are four games back from the first place Arizona Diamondbacks, who appear to be completely out of their rebuilding years and are back in MLB playoff contention. While it’s amazing that the Dodgers have been able to hold this division for so long, it was bound to happen soon, especially after their collapse in last years NLDS.

Bullpen Struggles

This season, the Dodgers’ vaunted pitching staff has faltered, with a team ERA that ranks a lackluster 24th in the league. Their once-reliable bullpen has been their Achilles’ heel, posting the second-worst bullpen ERA in the majors, next to the dumpster fire that is the Oakland A’s.

The main reason why the Dodgers bullpen is due to their injuries. Eight pitchers are on the IL, with six of them on the 60-day. This includes notable names in Daniel Hudson and Blake Treinen, who are both recovering from long term injuries they suffered before the season began.

To compound their bullpen woes, injuries have taken a toll on the Dodgers’ once-dominant starting rotation. Key pitchers such as Dustin May, Noah Syndergaard, and Julio Urias have found themselves on the IL, reflecting the same issues as the Houston Astros. The loss of ace Walker Buehler for the entire season due to Tommy John surgery has only heightened the team’s challenges.

One notable regression has been observed in left-hander Alex Vesia. Acquired from the Miami Marlins in 2021, Vesia was a revelation for the Dodgers last season, pitching to a. However, the 27-year-old pitcher has struggled mightily this year, with an inflated ERA of 7.58 over 19 innings pitched. His performance represents a stark departure from his previous success and has left the Dodgers scrambling for answers.

Remarkably, the Dodgers have managed to weather the pitching injury bug with commendable performances from their replacements, including rookies Bobby Miller and Emmet Sheehan, showcasing the depth of their organization. Clayton Kershaw, a mainstay of the Dodgers’ rotation, has continued to excel when healthy, providing a glimmer of hope amidst the team’s pitching struggles.

Offense Leading The Way

Aside from this, the Dodgers’ offense continues to perform well at the expense of their pitching. While their team AVG is in the bottom 20 (.239), they are 3rd in the league in home runs (118) and 4th in the league in runs scored and RBI. The Dodgers are looking more like the Bronx Bombers than the Yankees themselves.

LA is relying on a “three true outcomes” offense to score runs this season, and it’s been working just enough so far in the first half of the season.

Leading the way are Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts, Will Smith, and the newly acquired DH, J.D. Martinez.. While they are still capable of remaining competitive in the NL West with their potent offense, it may not be enough to compensate for their pitching deficiencies. The once-heralded bullpen find themselves surrendering leads, leaving the offense with the challenging task of overcoming them.

Still Reigning Supreme?

As the baseball season progresses, the Astros, Yankees and Dodgers continue to battle mounting challenges; injuries, underperforming players, and bullpen struggles are causing these franchises to lose ground. Currently, each of them are hovering in the third place slot in their respective divisions with 41 wins.


But don’t write them off.

With a long history of success and ample resources, these teams have shown resilience in the face of adversity, even during their reign of six full seasons. Now, they’re grappling with an important crossroads as the league evolves.

The question remains: Can they rise to the top once again, or is the league witnessing a shift in the baseball landscape?


Jeremy Gretzer is a contributor on Back Sports Page. Along with receiving his MBA in Marketing, He has over a year in sports journalism, and has interviewed various NBA figures such as Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy, along with players such as Jarred Vanderbilt, Jabari Smith Jr. and Alperen Sengun. Gretzer has a podcast on YouTube called Cut The Nets which airs every Tuesday night along with his co-host Brian Ramos. For more on Jeremy, his Twitter is @Jr_Gretzer and Instagram (@J.r.gretzer).

For more baseball articles by Jeremy, click here



Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Featured Articles

Featured Writers

More in Features