The Yankees came in to the season with low expectations, which only got lower after the first week. Now, the team is competing, and forcing people to wonder, did we write off the Yankees too quickly?
The New York Yankees have been one of the surprise teams this season, as they are currently tied for first in the division with a 10-6 record. Not many people thought that the Yankees would have much of a chance, as their team looked extremely old and was surrounded by a team full of question marks. A flawed, messy first week to the season only added fuel to that fire. Right now though, the Yankees are playing like one of the better teams in the Majors and some are wondering if it is time for them to be considered a playoff-caliber team.
This surge for New York started at the beginning of the week, when they looked impressive against the Detroit Tigers. In their four-game series, New York outscored the AL favorites 21-9 while beating up on their starting pitching. The team was able to hit home runs even despite the frigid temperatures. The Yankees then returned home and beat the hottest team in the league in the New York Mets in the first of their three-game Subway Series. While they have been playing well though, this should not discount how poorly they played during the first week of the season that saw them drop six of their first nine games.
Two of the best parts of the team so far have been their offense and their bullpen. The combination of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller at the back of the bullpen has been close to lights out, as neither has allowed a run yet while striking out a combined 27 batters in 16.2 innings. If the Yankees can get average starting pitching from their rotation, they have the bullpen to make games short. Besides Betances and Miller, the Yankees have been getting good performances from mostly everyone, as their bullpen is third in the majors with a 1.98 ERA. Even if their starters do struggle a little bit, the offense has been able to pick up the slack.
Even though the Yankees are an old team, they are still veteran hitters who know how to hit for power. New York’s offense is currently second in the majors with 91 runs scored and they are tied for the Major League lead with 24 home runs. A big part of that offense has been the resurgence of first baseman Mark Teixeira and designated hitter Alex Rodriguez. Teixeira has been on fire as of late as he has hit four home runs in his last five games, despite his still-below-.200 average. Rodriguez, on the other hand, has four home runs all season, but is leading the team in on-base percentage. If these two players can stay healthy and continue to produce, this will provide some stability to a lineup that didn’t have much last season.
If there is one thing that can help the Yankees try and compete this season, it is the fact that their division isn’t the strongest. New York was able to beat up on the Rays in a three-game sweep, and they should be able to continue beating up on them. The Boston Red Sox have some major pitching questions and so do the Toronto Blue Jays. That would leave the Baltimore Orioles, who very well could be the most complete team. The Yankees should be able to benefit from their schedule, so if they can get hot at the right time, it is not too absurd to think that the team can compete.
While the team has been playing well, there are still some major doubts about their health, especially in their starting rotation. It is unknown whether or not Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia will be able to make it through a full season. Michael Pineda on the other hand is pitching well to start the season, but there should be some level of concern around him as well given his injury history. On top of the starting pitching, there should be some concern about their defense as well, as the team ranks 23rd in the league in defense.
The New York Yankees are playing well right now, but they shouldn’t be able to continue this pace for too long. While the league may need the Yankees to return to their former glory if for no reason but to be a public enemy, they are still a ways away from being a contender. The season is quite long and the Yankees have one of the oldest teams in the league. It would be incredibly lucky if this Yankees team can get through the season without their share of injuries. While the Yankees may not be a team that can win the division or realistically challenge for a wild card spot, they could finish above .500, which is something that not many people gave them a chance to do at the start of the season. If nothing else, they’re making us wonder, which deserves credit on its own.