Yankees Report: 6/12- The Bronx Bombers
(Photo Credit: Tom Scibelli/WFUV Sports)
The Bronx Bombers are back, and they’re for real.
For awhile, this Yankee team seemed to good to be true. It felt like the other shoe was eventually going to drop. That’s not the case anymore. Now the question isn’t if they’re good, it’s how good they are. At this point, this team is more likely to win the World Series than they are to finish with a losing record. Anybody who thought this would be the case two months ago is a liar, or just a delusional Yankee fan (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
We’re more than a third of the way through the season, and the Yankees are one of the best teams in baseball. Here are some stats, with the team’s MLB rank.
Record: 37-23 (3rd)
Runs Scored: 353 (1st)
Runs Allowed: 238 (2nd)
Run Differential: +115 (1st)
Home Runs: 102 (1st)
OBP: .351 (1st)
wRC+: 122 (1st)
ERA: 3.60 (3rd)
K/BB for pitchers: 3.17 (5th)
They are legitimately great at everything. And it’s not a small sample size either. We’re not far from the halfway point of the season. The Yankees are for real, and it looks like they’re here to stay. So what’s been working for them?
The 8th Wonder of the World
Thirty years from now, scientists are going to look back at Aaron Judge’s career in which he hit .370 and mashed 1,200 home runs and decide that he’s the 8th wonder of the world. I’m sort of kidding, but I’m sort of not. The guy is unreal. A 6’7”, 282-pound man who hits baseballs 500 feet, throws missiles from right field, hits 120 MPH line drives, and runs like a tight end is more impressive to me than some canyons in Arizona.
Saturday, he hit a ball 121 MPH. Sunday, he hit a ball 495 feet. He’s also hitting .344. If the season ended today, he’d win the AL Triple Crown. The massive home runs are impressive, but we knew he had power. The most impressive thing to me is his .344 average and .450 OBP. Being 6’7” and covering the zone like he’s Jose Altuve should be illegal.
Watching Judge is more exciting than anything Yankee fans have experienced in awhile. When he hit the 495 foot bomb yesterday, my jaw actually dropped. When he hit a missile dinger out to right in his next at bat, I started to laugh out loud. During the night, I woke up at 4 AM. I went to the bathroom, and then I watched the highlight of his home run. This Yankees team is fun, and Aaron Judge is the biggest, no pun intended, reason why.
The Other Aaron
Michael Kay called them the “Yank Aarons” yesterday, and I love it. Hicks is having a breakout season at 27. With more playing time, he’s slashing .317/.429/.584. He has 10 homers, 36 RBIs, and has swiped seven bags. He also plays great defense. The same guy who was the butt of all Yankee fans’ jokes last year is the fourth best player in the AL, per fWAR.
He may not be able to keep this up, but it’s not fair to just dismiss this as a fluke. He was a first round pick for a reason. He was seen as a five-tool player, and now we’re finally seeing it come together. It just took awhile. When Jacoby Ellsbury gets back, he has to be the fourth outfielder. He’s so clearly the worst outfielder they have. In addition to the Aarons, Brett Gardner is quietly having another awesome season too. The Yankees have the best outfield in baseball, and it’s not close.
The Rest of the Bats
I’ve talked about Judge and Hicks, but the previously mentioned Gardner has 13 home runs in the leadoff spot with a .349 OBP. The middle of the infield has also been outstanding. Starlin Castro is having a breakout season (325/12 HR/41 RBI) and Didi Gregorius has been swinging a hot bat since he’s returned from the DL, hitting .327. Middle infielders can traditionally be light-hitting players. Not in the Yankees case.
Matt Holliday is looking like the best signing of this past offseason. He’s slashing .284/.384/.538 and has 13 homers with 44 RBIs. He’s also had a number of clutch hits.
Additionally, Gary Sanchez is starting to swing a scorching hot bat. After getting dropped from second to sixth in the order, he’s hit three homers and driven in 13 runs in five games. He looked like 2016 El Gary all of a sudden. Despite missing almost a month of the season, he still has a good chance to hit 30 home runs. I have a bet with my uncle, a Yankee hater, about how many home runs he’ll hit. The line is 25 homers. It’s a very fair bet. If he hits 25 or more, he treats me to a steak dinner. If he hits less, I’ll take him to a fast food restaurant of his choice. I didn’t feel good after the injury, but now I can almost taste the steak already.
It’s an incredibly balanced lineup, and they’re beautiful to watch. They work deep counts, draw walks, come up with big hits, and hit A LOT of home runs. They’re doing this all with almost nothing from their corner infielders, Chris Carter and Chase Headley. With Greg Bird coming back soon, and Gleyber Torres looming, the scary part is that this offense may get even better.
Coming into the season, the rotation was Masahiro Tanaka and four question marks. So far, it’s been the complete opposite. Leading the way is Luis Severino, who is pitching like a legitimate Cy Young contender. The 23-year-old has figured it out in this breakout season. He’s 5-2 with a 2.75 ERA (5th best in AL), and he’s striking out 4.67 batters for every walk. His fastball routinely sits in the high-90s, even late in the game, and he also has a solid slider and developing changeup. He figured things out pitching in the bullpen last season, and it’s paying off. Over his last five starts, the righty is pitching to a 1.35 ERA.
Michael Pineda has been their second best starter. His strong peripherals are finally leading to actual success; he’s 7-3 with a 3.39 ERA and has been their most consistent starter. He has 8 quality starts in 12 tries. He’s allowed 3 earned runs or less 10 times. He’s gotten through at least 5 innings in 11 straight starts. Mr. Inconsistency has become a beacon of consistency.
CC Sabathia is looking like 2009-2012 Sabathia. He’s 7-2 with a 3.66 ERA. Over his past five starts, he has a 1.11 ERA and 5 wins. He had a rough stretch of four games, but 8 of 12 his starts have been dominant. In those 8 starts, he has a 1.24 ERA and 7 wins. So for 67% of his starts, he’s been absolutely filthy. Fans are actually confident when Sabathia takes the mound again. It’s very reminiscent of the Sabathia that fans fell in love with when he first wore pinstripes.
Rounding out the fantastic four is rookie Jordan Montgomery. The lefty has had rookie struggles like you’d expect, but he always finds a way to bear down and give the Yankees a decent start. Overall, he’s 4-4 with a 3.55 ERA. He’s allowed three earned runs or less in nine of his 11 starts. He does struggle with going deep in games sometimes, but he’s coming around lately, pitching to a 1.50 ERA over his past four starts.
The weak leak in the rotation has been Tanaka, with his abysmal 6.55 ERA. It’s almost an automatic loss every time he takes the mound. I’ve been patient with Tanaka because he’s been one of the best starters in baseball over the past three years, but enough is enough at some point. If he has another bad start tonight in Anaheim, the Yankees need to DL him with some bogus injury so he can figure things out. Between Chance Adams, Chad Green, and Domingo German, the Yankees have options. They basically can’t be worse than Tanaka has been.
The Yankees are out west this week for three in Anaheim followed by four in Oakland. It seems like the Yankees play four in Oakland every single year. The goal should be to go 4-3 or better on the road trip. Just have to keep winning/splitting series.
Think of it like this. If the Yankees play just .500 ball for the rest of the season, which would be underperforming, they’d still be 88-74. 88 wins may win the AL East and should definitely get a wild card.
Things are great right now in Yankees Universe.