NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees not only survived their brutal 11-game road trip, they came out the other end with more wins than losses and with an improved roster.
The Yankees' 6-5 road trip was a success because they stayed within striking distance of the Red Sox for first place in the East (they're just one game back in the loss column), while maintaining their hold atop the wild-card standings. Meanwhile, GM Brian Cashman added Todd Frazier to the infield and Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson to the bullpen.
The additions of Kahnle and Robertson give manager Joe Girardi what should be a fearsome bullpen. There was a need to reinforce the relief corps, because, besides Tyler Clippard's ineffectiveness, their should-be ace starter (Masahiro Tanaka) and their should-be lights-out closer (Aroldis Chapman) haven't looked right.
Though the Yankees might as well go all in on 2017 and add another starter, what they really need, with the deadline just a week away, is for Tanaka and Chapman to be who they were supposed to be.
If you look at their remaining 65 games, the Yankees need to play a little better than their current .526 winning percentage. They are 51-46, which puts them on pace for 85 wins. With the American League lacking an abundance of top-flight teams, that might be enough to win a wild card. Still, the division should be the goal, and, if the Yankees are going to get there, Tanaka and Chapman need to be leaders.
Tanaka continues to be an issue after his awful first half. He's 7-9 with 5.37 ERA. The Yankees have lost 11 of his 20 starts. Last year, when he finished 14-4, the Yankees were 23-8 in his starts. This is an incredible swing.
Tanaka was a huge factor in the Yankees finishing six games over .500 -- at 84-78 -- in 2016. This year, he might be why the Yankees miss the playoffs. Since the Yankees insist he's healthy, and besides any juiced-ball (or juiced-bat) theories, there's been no concrete explanations for Tanaka's funk. He's given up 26 homers, tied for the most in baseball.
If the Yankees were even 12-8 in Tanaka's starts, they'd be in first place. On top of that, he hasn't helped the bullpen. An ace is supposed to give his relievers needed rest. And Tanaka said his goal for the second half is to give the team more length. He went 7 2/3 innings in his first start after the break at Fenway and six innings in Saturday's game in Seattle, the team's lone loss in the four-game series. That's not a terrible start, but he still did not pitch well enough at Safeco.
If not for the offense, Tanaka's season would look even worse. The Yankees have bailed him out, scoring six or more runs in six of his games, though Tanaka still managed to lose one of them. It seems a pretty sure bet he won't be able to opt out of a $155 million contract that still has three more years on it.
Chapman's issues are not as defined statistically, though he's not passing the eye test. He hasn't been dominating, which might be a result of his usage last season in helping the Cubs break their curse, and that's a worrisome sign for a player the Yankees have invested five years and $86 million in.
There are some stats, though, that demonstrate what's wrong with him. Chapman is allowing too many runners to reach base. To begin the second half, he's faced 26 batters -- and they've reached at a .426 clip. For the entirety of the first half, over 90 plate appearances, that number was .323. In his career, opponents' on-base percentage is .268.
This seems to indicate that hitters are much more comfortable facing him, even if he can still light up triple-digits on the radar gun. The Yankees don't feel as secure in the ninth as they'd hoped.
Cashman will be on the phone until the final moments of next Monday's trade deadline. Since he has already made one big deal, it seems likely he will add at least one more piece. What the Yankees really need, though, is for Tanaka and Chapman to pitch like they are paid. If they do that, the Yankees' playoffs chances look very good.