After a thrilling nine-game homestand, the New York Yankees have exceeded expectations. But are they contenders, or merely pretenders?
After starting the 2017 season 1-4, the New York Yankees got on the right track and won nine of their last 10 games. They’ve received timely hitting, quality pitching, and a dominant performance from the bullpen.
While the Yankees have been one of the hottest teams in baseball, you have to wonder whether any of this is for real? Last season, the Yankees were one of the hottest teams after the All-Star break, but the team fell short the last week of September and were essentially labeled pretenders.
We’re only approximately three weeks into the season, but after watching this team’s performance, are they contenders, or are they once again pretenders?
The Case For Contenders
Last season, the Yankees rode the coattails of Gary Sanchez, who hit 20 home runs and drove in 40 RBI during the final two months of the season. This year, the Yankees are getting production from different players, and it’s never the same player two days in a row. One day it could be Chase Headley, the next day it could be Ronald Torreyes. There’s never one hero, which means the talent is more divided.
2. Starting Pitching
The Yankees have received dominant pitching from Luis Severino, Michael Pineda, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery. Severino had two of his best games during the Yankees nine-game homestand, while Montgomery made his debut and received his first Major League win.
Sabathia appears to have successfully transitioned from a power pitcher to a finesse pitcher, with help from former Yankee Andy Pettitte, and Tanaka is slowly rediscovering his powerful arsenal after an off-April.
Pineda, who was known last season as a ‘Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde’ pitcher, has been consistent so far. The starting rotation isn’t perfect, but it isn’t as much of a question mark as many perceived.
1. The Bullpen
The Yankees once again have a dominant bullpen, but unlike in year’s past, it’s consistent dominance. All of the pitchers in the pen — Tyler Clippard, Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Bryan Mitchell, Tommy Layne, and Jonathan Holder–have been strong against the Tampa Bay Rays, St. Louis Cardinals, and Chicago White Sox. If their workload isn’t intense, this could be one of the most dominant pens in the Major Leagues.
The Case for Pretenders
3. Will It Continue?
While the Yankees offense is off to a torrid start, it’s hard to imagine they’ll all continue to hit this way for the remainder of the year. Baseball is a game of ups and downs, and just as easily as the Yankees are hot right now, the bats could go frigid cold. If the Yankees are contenders, they’ll immediately work out of any funk they get themselves into. If they’re pretenders, they’ll probably look lost at the plate until one player attempts to carry the team on his back.
2. Rotation Is Good… For now…
While the Yankees rotation looks good now, there’s also to be concerned. Sabathia had a similar good stretch last season before he struggled in the rotation. Tanaka hasn’t looked sharp at all during April, and even though he came away with the win on Wednesday, he had to labor through seven innings of work.
The Yankees are still unsure what they’re going to get from Pineda; he’s shown flashes of brilliance in the past, but he hasn’t been consistent enough. And the Yankees haven’t really seen how Montgomery adapts when he eventually has a rough start. Will he unravel or will he do his best to hold it together?
Another worrisome thought is the rotation doesn’t pitch deep enough into games. While it’s not a problem when the Yankees have multiple days off on the schedule, it will become a problem when they’re playing almost every day.
1. Tired Arms
The bullpen has dominant arms, but if the starters can’t go deep into games, the bullpen will become overused and they’ll end up being ineffective. The effectiveness of the bullpen solely relies on the rotation, and you can’t compete for the pennant in September if your bullpen is wiped out by July or August.
The Yankees have the pieces and the talent to be legitimate contenders, and if the Yankees continue performing the way they have, there’s no doubt they could give everyone a run for their money. However, everything would have to go right for the Bronx Bombers, and in a season of unpredictability, no one knows when the team’s Cinderella run will eventually come to an end.