- Adam Hunger/Getty
- The New York Yankees are on fire, winning 15 of their last 16 games.
- While the Yankees top stars have struggled to start the year, their offense has been carried by Didi Gregorius and impressive rookies like Gleyber Torres.
- The Yankees’ offense already ranks among baseball’s best, and when star players like Giancarlo Stanton get warmed up, the team might be a genuinely formidable offense.
After a slow start to the season, the New York Yankees are on fire.
The star-studded Yankees lineup was sluggish out of the gates, starting 9-9 while offseason acquisition and reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton got booed by home fans for his whiffs at the plate.
But over the last two-and-a-half weeks, the Yankees have exploded, winning 15 of their last 16 games to move 24-10, just one game behind the Boston Red Sox as they prepare for a division face-off starting on Tuesday in New York.
Coming into the season, most expected the Yankees to be virtually un-pitchable, thanks to the trio of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Stanton. However, those three have gotten off to relatively slow starts this year while the supporting cast around them has popped.
Shortstop Didi Gregorius has put in a monster season for the Yankees, batting .311 with a 1.025 OPS to go with a team-leading 10 home runs and 30 RBIs.
Of late, the Yankees have gotten a boost from rookie second basemen, Gleyber Torres. The 21-year-old call-up has been a revelation in two weeks, batting .327 with a .857 OPS and 11 RBIs. On Sunday, Torres hit what he said was the first walk-off home run of his life, capping off a seven-run rally to complete a sweep of the Cleveland Indians.
Comeback Kid. pic.twitter.com/fuhJBFEm4f
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) May 6, 2018
The Yankees have also gotten good production from rookie third baseman Miguel Andujar, who has filled in for Brandon Drury, the Yankees starting third baseman who has been rehabbing from an unspecified issue that was giving him blurry vision and headaches.
Andujar, batting .306 over the last 16 games with a walk-off home run, has been so good that Yankees manager Aaron Boone admitted that the team has some tough roster decisions to make once they’re healthy.
And that is perhaps the scariest part of this Yankees surge – they’re not entirely clicking yet. They’re getting excellent production from call-ups and rookies who may tail off. While Gregorius may have a case for AL MVP to start the season, the Yankees top stars haven’t rounded into form yet.
Judge, for instance, is hitting .296 for the season, with a .952 OPS and eight home runs – a strong start. However, he hasn’t been the same force at the plate that he was last season. He still strikes out an alarming rate (29.9 K%) and struggles away from the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. He’s put a high percentage of balls in play and still draws walks, but his bat hasn’t gotten back to what it was pre-All Star in 2017.
Stanton is a more puzzling case. He’s had his moments, like two multi-home-run games, but is still batting just .227 on the season with a .768 OPS. He has seven home runs, but has set records for strikeouts this season and hasn’t drawn walks at the rate of Judge. Over the last 16 games, Stanton is only batting .237.
Sanchez has cranked home runs but has hit worse than Judge and Stanton, with just a .198 batting average and .192 batting average on balls in play (BABIP).
The Yankees are challenging for the best team in the American League without any of their star players playing up to their standard. And despite this, they rank first in runs scored, fourth in home runs, second in walks, and third in on-base percentage.
The Yankees have been helped by their bullpen and a starting rotation that has fared better than expected. Some of the production from their youngsters is likely to taper off, but what happens when Stanton, Judge, and Sanchez warm up? The Yankees offense might closer resemble preseason expectations, and that would be impressive considering their already strong start.