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Despite Their Youth, the Yankees Are on Track for a Great Season

Updated on June 22, 2018

On April 6, the Yankees were off to a slow start at 4-4 when they lost their starting third baseman, Brandon Drury, to migraines. That forced them to start Miguel Andujar at third, who had played all of eight Major League games at that point. In the three he’d appeared in at the beginning of the season, two as DH, he’d gone 0-for-12 with four strikeouts.

Since then, the Yankees have gone 46-18 (.719).

On April 21 they had just won to go 10-9 but were still scuffling. Their free-agent second baseman, Neil Walker, was beneath scuffling, batting .179 with two extra-base hits and was on a 2-for-22 skein (.091). So the Yankees called up 21-year-old phenom Gleyber Torres who had played only 37 games at the Triple A level.

Since then, the Yankees have gone 40-13 (.755).

On May 13, the Yankees won to go 28-12. They then activated oft-injured Greg Bird, who remarkably had only appeared in only 94 Major League games in his career up to that point.

Since then, they’ve gone 22-10 (.688).

Rookies in the Rotation, Too

So with an infield that contains two rookies and a player with barely more than a half-season of experience, the Yankees have played better than anyone else.

Add to it that two of their premiere players, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, have fewer than two full seasons worth of games to their credit (Judge, 253; Sanchez, 238).

Now the Yankees have two rookies in their starting rotation as well – Domingo German, who has pitched six or more innings in his last four games, including a two-hit 7 inning performance in the last start; and Jonathan Loaisiga, who pitched five shutout innings in his first start. He gave up three runs Wednesday night, primarily because Chasen Shreve couldn’t pitch out of an inning with runners on base.

With almost any other team, if you’d heard before the season started that after 72 games they’d be forced to play with two rookies in the starting lineup, two more rookies in the starting rotation and several other players with less than two years of experience, you’d think their prospects didn’t look good. A .500 season with that configuration would seem like the best you could hope for.

Five Reasons the Yankees are Thriving

So how is it that the Yankees have the best record in baseball (by winning percentage)? How can they be on a pace to win 112 games (or 118 if you go by their winning percentage since their 9-9 start)?

There are a couple of reasons.

The Kids are All Right

1. The rookies are just really, really good. Miguel Andujar is hitting .290 with 23 doubles (third in the American League), two triples and 10 homers and 32 RBIs, which normally would put him at the front of the Rookie of the Year voting. Except that his teammate, Gleyber Torres, may be doing even better. Torres is hitting .291 with 14 homers and 35 RBIs in 52 games, including delivering a number of clutch late-inning hits.

Andujar and Torres Stats

Miguel Andujar
Gleyber Torres

Team Work

2. They’re team-driven. Many teams are centered around one or two players, like the Angels (Trout and Pujols) but all season so far the players have seemed almost in a rotation of whose turn it is to star that day. Almost everyone, even backup catcher Austin Romine, has had starring moments. Seven players have already reached double digits in homers and seven have 30 or more RBIs. At any moment, any player in the lineup might be the star. That allows everyone to relax and play their best.

Starting Off Right

3. The starting pitching has been better than expected. Part of that is new manager Aaron Boone allowing them to work themselves out of jams. In past years, Joe Girardi had a quick trigger finger, bringing in relievers almost as soon as runner reached base after the fourth inning, even with veterans like C.C. Sabathia on the mound. Already this year Sabathia has three 7-plus-inning starts, the same number he had all of 2017, and Luis Severino has gone 8-plus innings three times, equaling last season when he was a Cy Young Award candidate.

Everything Works in the End

4. A great bullpen. With the exception of Chasen Shreve and a few other spot relievers, the relief core has dominated. Boone has done a great job of mixing it up so none of them appears overworked. Allowing the starters to work through some of their own issues and work later into the games has also helped them stay strong.

Just Win, Baby

5. They have a winning attitude. Even though Joey Votto thinks this is bogus, the fact is, he’s wrong. It does matter and matters a lot. The Yankees have six walk-off wins and no walk-off losses. Wednesday’s game was a perfect example of this attitude. Even though they were down 5-0 halfway through the game and behind 5-2 after seven innings, there never seemed to be any panic or giving up, just a quiet confidence that they always had a chance to win as long as there was one out remaining for them. So when Sanchez, batting below the Mendoza Line, hammered a two-run homer to tie it in the eighth, and Giancarlo Stanton crushed a two-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth, it hardly seemed like a surprise. Fans and players alike had been anticipating it.

They May Get Even Better

The question is, can the Yankees keep this up? They almost have to because of how well Boston is playing. Rookies have a way of fizzling in the second half in the grind of a pennant race, so Andujar and Torres may taper off.

But consider this: So far Sanchez, Bird and Stanton have been playing well below their potential, and Judge hasn’t yet had one of his insane hot streaks like he had last year. If they start to get hot, they could get even better – Sanchez, for example, has had an extraordinary of hard hit balls go straight to fielders. If some of those start finding holes, Stanton and Judge approach even three-quarters of where they were last year, and Bird lives up the promise he showed in last year’s post-season, they could be even better than they have been so far. Especially if all the rookies stay hot.


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