Hot Septembers by both clubs left plenty of promise for the coming season. While April is a month that sees many pitchers searching for their “mid-season form,” there is no denying their improvements.
The Yankees and Braves took somewhat similar roads to this improved success. They both went through rebuilds, although the Yankees were much more of a restructure, dumping high-priced All-Stars for fresh young talent. The Braves were completely gutted, torn down and aside from their ace in Julio Teheran and heartbeat Freddie Freeman, pretty much everyone left town.
The front office has even traded people they traded for again. Like when the John Hart reversed his terrible decision of trading for Hector Olivera and turned him into Matt Kemp. You know, three-home-run-in-one game Matt Kemp?
matt kemp with 3 bombs tonite. since he got there, he has transformed the braves offense. he also looks much more svelte.
Kemp has really been on fire since becoming a Brave. He slashed .280/.336/.519 and hit 12 home runs and 15 doubles in just 241 plate appearance on the East Coast. Of course, that’s because he has arguably baseball’s best hitter since last All-Star break hitting in front of him.
What Freddie Freeman has done to a baseball since the All-Star break last season isn’t even fair. He slashed .323/.433/.634 over the last half of 2016 with 22 doubles and 18 home runs, driving in 57. He has picked up right where he left off, slashing .383/.485/.778 and nearly half of his hits have gone for extra bases (six doubles and eight home runs). Kemp and Freeman have combined as a lethal heart of the lineup.
When you add in Ender Inciarte — who had the most hits in the second half of last season — and even a struggling Dansby Swanson atop the lineup and absurdly hot Brandon Phillips and Tyler Flowers at the bottom of the lineup, suddenly the Braves become a tough out. Much like the Bronx Bombers, who have seemingly brought the moniker back in full effect. They’ve done it with simply two words.
The end of last season saw the Yankees fueled by catching prodigy Gary Sanchez. Rookie records fell one by one after his call-up, with Sanchez going .299/.376/.657 with 20 home runs and 12 doubles in just 229 plate appearances, walking 11 percent of the time, remarkable for a rookie.
2016 saw Judge’s big swing exposed on the big league level. The flaws in the minor leagues couldn’t keep up, and he looked lost at the plate. He worked hard this offseason, shortening it up and learning how to lay off the breaking stuff. Now he has tied the rookie record for most home runs in April with 10. The Yankees have won four in a row and have scored 26 runs in the past two days. They are in the top five in most statistical categories and have been getting help from mysterious places. Ronald Torreyes filled in admirably for Didi Gregorius, and Austin Romine made Sanchez’s absence hardly noticeable. Chase Headley is a new person laying off garbage pitches and Starlin Castro is who he is. A streaky player, riding a smoking-hot streak right now.
The point is the Yankees offense, like the Braves, is only getting better.
This was seen by many as a transition year for both teams. Improvements were expected, but most saw them ready to compete by 2018. While the Braves have bullpen issues that will likely prevent them from being a true player in the loaded National League East, the Yankees now have the best record in the American League.