At the commencement of June, the New York Yankees looked like toast. Their record sat at 24-28, they weren’t hitting, they weren’t pitching, and they sat 5.5 games out of the American League Wild Card.
But here today on June 11, the Bronx Bombers look much more like their old selves.
A recent surge has sent their record to 31-30, and they only sit 3.0 games out of the Wild Card. The Yankees’ bats have heated up and their pitching has been excellent over the past 10 games. In fact, this recent streak may have saved the Yankees’ season.
Here are some keys as for how the Yankees have turned it all around.
1. The Yankee Offense Looks Reborn
The first major key for the Yankees’ recent success is their lineup. Coming into the season, there was reason to be excited that the Yankees had one of the top lineups in all of baseball. Between leadoff dynamos Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, heart-of-the-order thumpers Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann, and latter-third potential in Starlin Castro, Chase Headley, and Didi Gregorius, the Yankee lineup looked like one of the toughest in Major League Baseball.
But for the first two months of the season, the Yankee lineup was the biggest pushover in baseball. The top of the lineup was streaky, the middle was injured and ineffective, and the bottom was a black hole.
However, the Yankees have changed their narrative over the past 2 weeks. The Yankees have been fueled by Ellsbury and Gardner’s propensity to get on base and swipe bags, which has led to RBI opportunities for Beltran, Rodriguez, McCann, and Castro.
Speaking of Carlos Beltran, the Yankee right fielder has had a truly unbelievable year so far. On the season, he is hitting .286 with 16 homers and an .890 OPS, which are All-Star caliber numbers. But over the past week, Beltran has kicked it into overdrive.
He hit .417 with 3 home runs and a ridiculous 11 RBI this past week, which should most definitely result in an AL Player of the Week Award.
While nobody can keep that pace up for the course of a season, the Yankees as a whole seem to have found themselves offensively. They have been hitting to all fields, and are winning with small ball and the long ball.
If the Yankees can stay healthy, they have the offense to keep them in the race.
2. Starting Pitching Has Stabilized
Arguably an even bigger problem than the Yankees’ dormant offense for the first two months was their frustrating starting pitching. While the back of the bullpen was dominant, the Yankees found it difficult to get 6 innings and less than 4 earned runs out of their starters.
But the Yankee starters have also turned it all around. Masahiro Tanaka has been an ace all season long, but now his supporting cast is catching up to him. CC Sabathia’s renaissance season cannot go unnoticed any longer; he has reinvented himself and is squarely in position for an All-Star appearance and the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award.
In every start that Sabathia makes, fans wait for the big lefty to at least allow one earned run and show signs of being human, but Sabathia just keeps churning out shutout innings. His revival has been a big part of the Yankees’ success.
Behind the top two Yankee starters though, the rest of the rotation has also picked things up. Ivan Nova has been surprisingly dependable since taking over Luis Severino’s rotation spot, Nathan Eovaldi has been more good than bad, and even Michael Pineda has had solid starts in 3 of his last 4 starts.
Don’t forget about Severino, either. Severino was projected to be a huge part of the Yankee rotation this year, and if he produces in AAA, he will surely be on his way back to the Bronx.
This recent success by the Yankee rotation actually does look sustainable, in large part due to the mechanical adjustments that the pitchers have made. Once again, if the rotation stays healthy, they may already have the 6 starters that they need to get to the postseason.
3. Home Cooking
The recent Yankee surge has also coincided with the beginning of a 10-game homestand that followed a 10-game road trip. Needless to say, the Yankees have done infinitely better at home than on the road.
The Yankees have been using the unique properties of the ballpark that they call home, Yankee Stadium, to their advantage recently. They have used the short porch for their home runs, have repeatedly found the spacious left field gap, and are overall winning ballgames at home.
It is natural for a team to be better at home than on the road, but the Yankees have had extreme splits so far, winning 60% of their home games and only 42% of their road games. The Yankees need to win games on the road to stay in the Wild Card race.
I really do believe that the Yankees’ recent success is here to stay. The batters have the talent to keep producing the way that they are, the pitchers have made crucial adjustments, and the Yankees are dominating at home.
The Yankees’ remaining schedule for June is fairly easy, so if the Bombers keep up this recent performance, the Wild Card could be in their sights before Independence Day, a seemingly impossible thought just two weeks ago.