The New York Yankees have climbed back into relevancy but the question remains on if it is enough to propel them to new heights.
When the New York Yankees departed for their last West Coast road trip, they were sitting uncomfortably in the last place in the American League East with each defeat feeling like a deliberate dagger to their playoff probability thanks to the worst team start in a quarter century.
In April, New York strung together it’s worst start since the 2005 season by going 10-14 in the inaugural month of the baseball season. In the last 17 games of that month, the team managed to score four runs only once.
Overall, the mere 74 runs the team scored were dead last in all of Major League baseball with the National League’s Atlanta Braves sitting above them.
Pitching-wise, their overall ERA ranked second to last in the American League and their starting pitchers put together an overall record of 4-10 with a 4.94 ERA. The earned run average of their bullpen ranked fourth-to-last in the AL and was responsible for four losses in the month.
So, if you didn’t know already, the Yankees’ were a horribly rotten ballclub just 25 days ago and it may have dug a grave for the team and their hopes for number 28.
According to Stats, in Major League Baseball’s Wild Card era, only five out of 124 teams that declined to eight games back of first place through the first 35 games of the season have soared out of the cellar and entered postseason play. That’s a whopping four percent.
The last Yankees’ team to do it was the 1995 club featuring the soon-to-retire Don Mattingly that overcame a 14-21 start to clinch a Wild Card spot. Thanks to a torrid month of May for the Bombers, they have the optimism to yet again defy all odds and reach October baseball yet again.
Here in the month of May, the New York Yankees own the second most wins in MLB including the most wins (13) in the last 18 games.
Nathan Eovaldi has led the charge by allowing a total of three hits in his last two starts including 10 strikeouts in 12 innings of work. He also owns a 2.16 ERA over his last four starts including a strikeout to walk ratio of 19-to-5.
Offensively, it has been Carlos Beltran with two or more RBI in three of the last five games including a .440 batting average and ten RBI during the team’s current six-game surge. The 39-year old also owns a six-game hitting streak.
Additionally, the team has scored already scored 36 more runs in May than they have in April thanks to timely hitting mixed in with solid starting pitching featuring the “three-headed monster” which has been called upon in the seventh inning to guarantee a victory.
All of these factors helped the Bombers even their record up (22-22) for the first time since they sat at 4-4 on April 15. This is the hottest New York has been since their eight-game winning streak June 1-9 of last year.
So, who are the 2016 New York Yankees? Are they a team that have found their way and will use this formula of getting through the sixth inning to ignite them to a divisional crown?
Not a single individual expected the starting rotation to be able to provide exceptional statistics. And although it is a compact stretch of six games, there is a justifiable expectation that these Yankees’ starters can turn this lightning in a bottle into consistency.
It is, however, still the biggest question mark and one reach for the elbow can change the optimism behind it.
Presumably, within the next few days, we’ll witness the return of the man who spoke out and said: “There’s no reason we can’t score five runs per night.”
Alex Rodriguez will rejoin his squad with the belief that the designated hitter will only make the lineup, that has averaged 4.8 runs since his absence, much more of a threat.
It’s obvious we’ve seen the Yankees at their worst in April, and when A-Rod returns this week we could see them at their maximum potential, which is a spine-chilling thought.
Next step? Reach five games over five hundred, then ten, and eventually make a run for the division title that has no favorite to win it.
“Just try to climb our way up in the standings,” Chase Headley told the NY Times. “I don’t ever set a number of wins; we want to finish first in the division. We have ways to go. Obviously, there are a lot of games left, but you have to give yourself a chance. That was getting back to .500. now that we’re there, we have to keep playing good baseball and keep climbing.”
The division race seems to be wide open as the Orioles, Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Yankees could be seen taking the division crown. The winner is tough to forecast and every team in this division has its weakness, but it’s not moronic to think the Yankees can’t do it.
Their monster ‘pen has already lowered the pressure on the starting pitching, the offense has busted out of its slump, and the bench has been coming through as well.
Ronald Torreyes came through with a tie-breaking RBI triple in Oakland, Rob Refsnyder hit a two-run double off the top of the wall last Saturday, and Dustin Ackley came through late in a game against the Kansas City Royals with a game-tying hit.
With A-Rod’s inevitable return to the lineup, Aaron Hicks will return to where he can help the team the most: as a fourth outfielder and starter against lefties in which he owned a .870 OPS against last season.
Also, what this bench has proven to us is that this team is, even more, prepared once an injury occurs to an integral part of the organization.
So, we revisit the question. Who are the 2016 New York Yankees?
This Yankee team is a team that has tapped into their potential of being a winning ballclub following stretch in which their struggles were magnified.
They are a team that will take things one game at a time in order to eliminate the deficit caused by a disappointing initiation to the season. As long as this current stretch can turn itself into something greater, there’s no reason to believe that the Yankees can’t do something special.