Baseball’s biggest surprise is clearly the New York Yankees, but after yet another win, it’s becoming less than a shock and more of an expectation.
Following a 10-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds in front of a crowd of 25,960 at the Great American Ballpark, the New York Yankees astonishing ascension to the top of the Major League standings continued.
Now, through the team’s first 30 games of the regular season, the Bombers lead the American League in home runs (51), runs scored (177), batting average (.274) and lead all of major league baseball with a 9.2 WAR and an xRC+ of 130. The offense can do no wrong.
Obviously, Aaron Judge has been the prominent story of the young season as he’s still on pace to record 75 home runs, but from top to bottom this team is thoroughly mashing.
Fourth outfielder Aaron Hicks (.342) and Starlin Castro (.358) are both in the AL’s top ten in the batting average category. Brett Gardner has hit six home runs over the last nine games while Chase Headley and Matt Holliday are giving the team not only a veteran presence but essentially career rejuvenations.
From top to bottom, contributions are coming. Even when ace Masahiro Tanaka wasn’t on his game on Monday, the Bombers well-rounded offense pulverized Reds’ starter Rookie Davis and the team’s relievers for 10 runs on 13 hits. The big blows came from Matt Holliday and Brett Gardner, who powered the Yanks to their sixth straight win and helped extend their record to baseball’s best (21-9).
Yes, the team we all claimed (even myself) that this team wasn’t ready to compete or that, at best, can shock the world are making us all eat our words. But we’re starting to get the vibe that this team is a little more than an early-season, good-story wonder for the experts.
Their run differential of +58 leads the majors and the 2017 Baby Bombers are off to their best 30-game start since 2010 (also 21-9), a year in which the Yankees made an appearance in the American League Championship Series.
Whether you want to be optimistic, cautiously optimistic or completely pessimistic, the starting rotation is the only aspect of this Yankees team that’s struggling. Which, by where they sit compared to the rest of the league. is stretching the term “struggling.”
The rotation ranks 12th in ERA (4.02) and fielding-independent pitching (4.09). Michael Pineda and Luis Severino seemed to have found some consistency, rookie left-hander Jordan Montgomery is impressing the brass early on and CC Sabathia owns a 10.43 ERA over his last three starts after posting a 1.47 ERA in his first three.
Tanaka hasn’t been the 2016 version of himself, but that shouldn’t change. Anyway, Joe Girardi is still getting the job done thanks to his bullpen — which owns the fourth-best ERA (2.60) in the sport.
Monday’s win also marked the first time since finishing the 2015 season at 87-75 that the Yankees reached 12 games over .500. But, the context surrounding this start amidst this “rebuild” makes one believe that perhaps the organization is there’s something special in store.
2017 marks the 21st time in team history that New York has started 21-9. In 18 of those seasons they have reached the World Series and in 15 of those appearances, they have taken home the commissioner’s trophy.
The argument regarding whether or not this team can be contenders or not has pretty much been settled: they are legit. Which, if you think about it, is pretty uncommon. This season was destined to be yet another selling year or rebuilding year to give the next core of young talent a tryout in the Bronx before going all-in 2018-19.
Now, without the debuts of super prospects like Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres or James Kaprielian, the Yankees have managed to go 93-69 over their last 162 games (since 5/9/16) and put themselves in an unusual yet intriguing position as the summer draws near.
If the Yankees are still leading the way and turn from the biggest surprise to the biggest threat to take home a potential pennant, do they make a big move at the deadline in 2017 to bring themselves closer to that reality? Or do they make a couple of low-key moves without selling the farm, something the organization is plenty passionate about?
Lots of Yankee fans are excited to see Red Thunder or Gleyber join Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and the other Baby Bombers. But imagine the impact a Gerrit Cole or Jose Quintana would have on the chances of winning right now, after an abrupt step out of the major league spotlight.
Surely it’s a predicament every team, especially those that rebuild, wish they had. For now, enjoy the winning if you’re a Yankees fan. To experience both a roster breakdown and contention is rare, yet that’s exactly what Brian Cashman has been able to accomplish in just half a year.