Despite their many doubters, the New York Yankees have impressed in the early going. The season opened with a wide array of concerns, yet, New York has responded instantly with great on-the-field play.
The New York Yankees were a highly anticipated show entering the regular season. They finally moved on from some of their depreciated players and entered the year with an exuberant, optimistic club. New York is headed in the right direction, but there is no clear path to the postseason this year, and the coming years are still unclear as well. There were plenty of concerns entering the regular season. Therefore, the opening month was key in terms of encouragement and realistic projections.
In eye-opening fashion, the Yanks have impressed in the first three weeks. They’re off to an 11-7 start, placing them in second place in the American League East. It has been smooth sailing so far; the Yankees have played clean baseball through 18 games. All of the critics have been shut out early as the preseason question marks have been answered favorably by the Yankees.
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Does C.C. Sabbathia have anything left in the tank?
C.C. Sabathia will be turning 37-years-old on July 21st and is currently pitching in his 17th MLB season. He’s had an astounding career, earning the Cy Young Award in 2007 and accumulating over 2,700 career strikeouts. When it’s all said and done, Sabathia should place himself in Hall of Fame consideration. Presently, however, Sabathia continues to pile on to his already 3,000 plus career innings pitched. In most cases, it would be okay for numbers to slide given that kind of mileage. But C.C. Sabbathia is a New York Yankee, and excuses do not exist as a Yankee, regardless of past success or age.
So far this regular season, those excuses haven’t been available for the Yankees left-hander, as he has pitched with great success. Sabathia is 2-1 in four starts in 2017, averaging nearly six innings per start. His strikeouts are down, however, his overall effectiveness is all that truly matters to the Yankees. His arm is obviously at its freshest currently, so we’ll see how the remainder of the season treats him. As of now, C.C. Sabathia has responded to his questioned durability by contributing fully to the Yankees’ early success. He’s not the power pitcher that he once was, but who cares? Sabathia still has the intelligence to maintain his productivity on the mound.
The jury is still out on Gary Sanchez. The Yankees’ star catcher was sidelined early due to a biceps strain and has been limited to just 20 at-bats in 2017. Aaron Judge, on the other hand, is off to a very impressive start.
Judge has slashed .279/.343/.639 through 61 at-bats. He ranks 8th in the American League with an OPS of .983. Everyone knows about his superhuman power, but it’s the rest of his game which the Yankees and everybody else were interested in entering 2017. Aaron Judge has managed a respectable six walk thus far. He’s struck out a modest 17 times, a tally less than both Mike Trout and Jose Altuve.
All in all, it’s the plate discipline and maturity that the Yanks want to see from their 24-year-old slugger. Judge’s growth and belonging is the main course, once that has been served, the 450 foot home runs can be enjoyed as dessert.
Judge and Sanchez each have room to grow. New York expects them to reign in the middle of their lineup for many years to come. Furthermore, the club has a real shot in the current year if these two can just hit their weight. Combine Yankee Stadium with their great power…Judge and Sanchez could put together over 50 home runs this season.
Can the veterans hold their own after disappointing 2016s?
While Gary Sanchez stole the show towards the end of the 2016 season, many of the elder Yankees were completing disappointing seasons.
Obviously, the stats of Brett Gardner and Matt Holliday are lacking behind Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley. However, it is encouraging that Gardner’s and Holliday’s OBPs are exceeding .300 given their poor batting averages. They’ve counteracted their underwhelming batting averages through their combined 23 walks. Each Gardner and Holliday rank in the top ten in MLB in base on balls.
Weaknesses have been non-existent in the performances of Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley through 18 games. Ellsbury has shown some pop, knocking two home runs to start the year. He’s also succeeded in the stolen base category, already notching six–a good sign in comparison to his total of 20 stolen bases last season.
Meanwhile, Chase Headley quietly has three homers and five doubles already. Headley’s .991 OPS bests his teammate Aaron Judge. Any above average numbers from Headley in 2017 would be a bonus, as the Yankees likely weren’t expecting any eye-popping numbers from their generally average third baseman.
Who will step up in the starting rotation?
The New York Yankees pitching staff ranks second in baseball with a 3.17 ERA. Their team ERA is slightly reliant on the bullpen, as the relievers have posted a miraculous 1.39 ERA. That leaves a 4.05 ERA for the starters. The equation is simple for the Yankees pitching staff: average starting pitching + outstanding relief pitching (inevitable) = so you’re saying there’s a chance.
We’ve already admired C.C. Sabathia’s work this season. Some other notables are Michael Pineda, Jordan Montgomery, and Luis Severino. Per usual, Pineda has been masterful at times. By the start, Pineda can either fit in among the top arms in MLB, or fit in the middle of the pack among MLB starters. He remains perhaps the biggest key to the Yankees starting staff when considering their highest of potential. Montgomery has put forth a couple of quality starts, doing just enough before handing the ball to the elite bullpen. And Severino has impressed by going deep into his outings, notching seven innings in one start and eight innings in his most recent start.
Surprisingly, Yankee ace, Masahiro Tanaka has struggled to start the year. Tanaka’s 6.00 ERA skewers the starting rotation’s ERA in the wrong direction. Though, Tanaka still has a 2-1 record in four starts.
Starting pitching may be the most profound of team concerns. We will see how the season post-April will treat both the tiring arms and the inexperienced arms. As I mentioned, all the New York Yankees need is a decent starting rotation to compliment their bullpen.