The New York Yankees are on a roll that just won’t stop and it’s time the rest of the league takes them serious as postseason contenders.
The New York Yankees are on some sort of extraordinary run which, before this month, was nothing more than a feel-good story.
How couldn’t it?
After declaring as sellers at the deadline thanks to a mediocre 52-52 record, general manager Brian Cashman bartered two of his best relievers in Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller along with their best hitter in Carlos Beltran to teams expecting to contend.
With that, up came the kids as the rebuilding youth movement was officially underway in the Bronx. The farm system was now stocked and 2016 became an opportunity to check out what the kids had to offer.
That would likewise mean, however, that playoffs were no longer a reality and the Yankees were about to showcase a sub-.500 second half.
Don’t mention that to Tyler Austin or the Baby Bombers.
In last night’s 5-4 triumph over the Tampa Bay Rays, the rookie drove a 3-2 offering from Erasmo Ramirez to right and by the time it landed, the Bombers would go on to win their fifth consecutive game.
A Baby Bomber walk-off … Tyler Austin, #Yankees win 5-4 … pic.twitter.com/NVmDE0zqN5
— Elite Sports NY (@EliteSportsNY) September 9, 2016
With that win, New York is now 22-13 since selling off the “best” components of their team which is the third-best record in all of major league baseball in that time frame.
Additionally, the team somehow sits a mere two games out of the second AL Wild Card spot and just four games out of first place in the AL East.
Despite where the Yankees now stand, however, the doubt continues to rain over in the Bronx as “experts” find their remaining schedule “too difficult” or that it’s “too late” for the Bombers to sneak in.
“‘Experts’ say we Yankees have no chance to make the playoffs… Well we may just be young and naive enough to disagree.”. -Gary Sanchez via Twitter
Well, the Yankees are in the midst of a brand of extraordinary runs that has become customary.
Whether it’s Austin drilling a walk-off blast, Brett Garnder making an epic catch to seal a win against the (then) divisional frontrunner, or Bryan Mitchell and Luis Severino shutting things down, there has been varying heroes that rise when the moment calls.
That, like this improbable march towards the postseason, is what makes this Yankees’ team so unprecedented.
However, it goes beyond the knight in shining armor that comes to the stadium day in and day out. Every aspect of this team can be compared —and is perhaps superior—to every contending team in the AL.
In the month of August and September, Starlin Castro is hitting .283 but has clobbered nine home runs while driving in 26 runs in just 37 games. You saw what kind of influence he had during the Chicago Cubs’ celestial end to 2015, and he’s doing the same exact thing in New York.
Chase Headley entered the series with Tampa Bay slashing .296/.370/.479 with a grand OPS of .849 while making some cat-like plays at the hot corner.
That, accompanied by Gary Sanchez, his unbelievable 1.100 OPS, and the rest of the youngsters following his leadership, the offense has turned into a horrifying one for the opposition.
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Pitching wise, the sneaky addition of Tyler Clippard has managed to give up just 10 hits in 16 innings of relief while allowing just one earned run (0.56 ERA).
The former ninth-round draft pick of the Yankees has helped brace the blow taken when Cashman dealt Miller and Chapman by actually helping the bullpen function better than it was before the deadline.
How, you may ask? The bullpen’s overall ERA with “No-Runs DMC” was 3.78 and since the break has been at a steadfast 2.95. The home run rate has declined, the batting average against has reduced significantly, and even the percentage of runners left on base has shot up.
1st Half: 264.1 IP, 3.78 ERA, 1.26 HR/9, .221 BAA
2nd Half: 171 IP, 2.95 ERA, 0.95 HR/9, .205 BAA#YCPB
— Christian Kouroupakis (@ckouroupakis) September 9, 2016
Dellin Betances as the closer is still dominant while his 44% strikeout rate makes this bullpen unit a tad bit superior (as a whole) than it was with Chapman and Miller. As irritating as it is to understand.
The staff is anchored by the oh-so-authoritative Masahiro Tanaka who has been the representation of an ace during his third season in the United States.
Over his last six starts, the righty has maintained a 2.08 ERA with 38 strikeouts corresponded with just four walks. Additionally, the Yankees are 21-7 when he takes the hill and haven’t lost a game with Tanaka as the starter since August 2.
Thanks to his rotation leadership, New York’s starting pitchers led all of major league baseball with a 3.50 xFIP in the month of August, according to FanGraphs.
Most importantly, however, the kids —who have made succeeding at the big league level a bonafide habit— have encouraged everyone in Yankee land believes that there’s something special going on here.
Every day features a new hero to keep this innovative push marching forward. Each victory by the red-hot Yanks brings them one step closer to October baseball, something that was thrown in the back seat at the deadline.
The odds of making the postseason now sits at 10.8%, according to MLB.com, but with 23 games remaining and 20 of them being against AL East opponents, the opportunity to make this glimmer of optimism a reality, is there.
If New York proved anything over this latest stretch —especially after sweeping Toronto— it’s that no one should take them lightly. They are as real as any contenders listed in the American League.
That conversation, however, will still be influenced highly by their ability to keep pushing and as long as the magic keeps on coming, how can you say this postseason will be Yankee-less for the third time in four years?
At the very least, this young group now has the experience of playing in significant contests in the heat of a playoff run (a la 1995).
These Baby Bombers, however, want a little bit more than a first-round exit.
Will the #Yankees make it to the 2016 postseason?
— Christian Kouroupakis (@ckouroupakis) September 9, 2016
NEXT: Tyler Austin Lifts Walk-Off Home Run (Video)
Christian Kouroupakis covers the New York Yankees for ESNY. Interact with him and view his daily work by “liking” his facebook page and follow him on Twitter. All statistics are courtesy of Baseball Reference.com unless otherwise noted. Don’t hesitate to shoot him an email with any questions, criticisms, or concerns.