The first month of the 2017 major league baseball has come and gone, so what kind of grades are the New York Yankees taking home?
The New York Yankees have been fun to watch, to say the least.
Infused with young talent but a healthy veteran presence in the picture, New York has managed to finish the month of April with a 15-8 record, a share of first place in the American League East and the best record in baseball since April 9 (14-3).
If you want a comparison, the Yankees didn’t reach the 15 win mark until May 10 last season and didn’t reach seven games over .500 until September 6. The Bombers are back.
With that, it’s time to open the grade book, be the critic and break down just how great the month of April was for these Yankees:
Coming off a season in which they ranked 22nd among major league teams in runs scored, the Bronx Bombers made sure to live up to their nickname as the 2017 season commenced.
Led by the monstrous Aaron Judge, New York entered May ranked inside the Top-5 in offensive WAR, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs and runs scored.
Their 43+ run differential is first in the AL and second to the Washington Nationals (48+, thanks to a 23-5 rout of the New York Mets on Sunday) for the sport’s best.
When looking at the AL leaders in wRC+, the Yankees employ three (Judge, Chase Headley and Starlin Castro) of the Top-20 qualified hitters in that category. Only the Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays have as many players ranked inside the Top-20.
In terms of where they rank, the improvement from a season ago and overall explosiveness of this lineup, it’s hard for the professor to NOT give these Bombers an A.
Starting Rotation: B+
Sure, the argument that the way this rotation has exceeded expectations early on warrants at least an A- is there, but here at ESNY, extra credit to bump that grade up a tad doesn’t exist.
The Yankees’ rotation finished with the ninth-best ERA (3.76) and fielding-independent pitching (3.82) in major league baseball last month including the 11th-most strikeouts. Thanks to Masahiro Tanka’s masterpiece against the Boston Red Sox last week, New York’s starting unit is one of just five rotations to register a shutout in the early going.
Unfortunately, there are some aspects of the rotation’s April performance that’s keeping this section to be full of sunshine and rainbows.
First, they have pitched in just 136.1 innings which ranks 19th in the sport and puts a ton of pressure on the bullpen to not only perform at a stellar rate for sometimes four-plus innings but to also maintain that throughout the rest of the season.
Furthermore, they rank towards the upper half in the AL in home runs allowed (19, seventh-most). Yes, the pitching is a heavenly surprise for the unit that was open to question marks entering the year thanks to the stabilization of Luis Severino and Michael Pineda, but they’re just a couple ticks off from earning a 4.0.
Once again, this unit is the team’s strong suit.
The back-end tandem has combined for a 1.04 ERA including 29 strikeouts in 17.1 innings (15.3 K/9). However, what’s holding them back from a perfect grade for the month is that all of the other arms have posted a combined 3.04 ERA, have surrendered four home runs and own two of the three losses that were charged to the bullpen.
This is still a lethal assembly and is the reason why the team is 12-0 when leading after seven, but the middle relief, while still relatively effective, is the reason this team’s ‘pen is not at the top of the mountain.
However, when you look at what their record is (15-8) and its adjusted margins, the argument can be made that this team is (dare I say?) underperforming.
Baseball Prospectus has a measure called 3rd order win percentage which is a team’s projected win percentage based on underlying statistics and adjusted for quality of the opponent.
New York’s current winning percentage is at .652, tied with the Baltimore Orioles for the second-highest in the game. However, Prospectus’ 3rd order percentage has the Yankees’ at .723 meaning they should have won roughly two more games than they lost (16.6-6.4).
Sunday was a perfect example of mismanagement, as Girardi used Dellin Betances during the lower-leveraged (1.37 leverage index) seventh inning rather than the high-leveraged sixth inning (2.38 leverage index).
He instead sent out Jonathan Holder, who served up a RBI double to Jonathan Schoop then a RBI ground out to Craig Gentry which gave the Orioles a 4-2 lead. Betances, on the other hand, struck out the side in the seventh.
Then there was the whole lineup fiasco with Bryan Mitchell at first base, but overall, Didi Gregorius‘ game-tying single in the ninth could have been a walk-off if there was some bullpen flexibility issued by Girardi. Sure, he’s one of the better bullpen managers in the game, but we still have to be picky when the time calls for it.
What do you think, folks? What grades do you give the Yankees for their performance in April? Let your voices be heard in the comments below!