5 Things We've Learned About the New York Yankees Through the First 22 Games
The New York Yankees have fought their way to a 13-9 record through their first 22 games of the season.
The Yankees have been playing much better baseball recently, as they have won eight of their last 11 games to move atop the standings in the AL East.
They’ve only lost two series this season and are 5-2 against the Boston Red Sox.
Currently owners of the second-best record in the AL, it is safe to say the Yankees are surpassing most experts’ expectations.
Here are five things we have learned from the Yankees thus far this season.
Yankees Will Need to Add a Starting Pitcher Before the Trade Deadline
The Yankees will be looking to add a starting pitcher before the trade deadline passes.
They almost have to as a form of insurance.
Obviously they will look to replace Ivan Nova, who will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery, per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com.
They currently have Vidal Nuno replacing Nova. They can also use David Phelps, who is filling in temporarily for Michael Pineda after the latter was suspended for 10 games for using pine tar, per Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York.
Neither is a great long-term solution if the Yanks wish to contend all season long.
Adding Nova’s health to the unreliability of Pineda and the ages of CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda, it's clear the Yanks could use an extra arm.
Neither are jaw-dropping moves, but they are veterans who would be cheap.
If the Yanks get desperate and really want to make a splash, and the Kansas City Royals fall out of the race, James Shields could be a name that starts floating around.
In the end, it isn't as much a matter of if but when the Yankees will bring in another arm.
Offseason Money Was Well Spent
Critics could say the Yankees haven’t always spent their money well in free agency.
That can’t be said so far about the free agents the Yankees brought in this offseason.
Through three weeks worth of games the trio of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann have not disappointed.
McCann got off to the slowest start of the three but has come along recently, batting .333 over the past week. Among AL catchers, McCann ranks in the top five in runs, home runs and batting average.
Beltran has provided most of the power for the Yankees this season, leading the team with five home runs and 13 RBI. Beltran also has a team-high .580 slugging percentage.
Ellsbury signed the biggest offseason contract this winter for the Yankees, and all he has done is perform like an MVP candidate. He's batting .337 with eight stolen bases on the season and has been the offensive catalyst no matter where he has batted in the order.
Ellsbury has been beyond impressive at the plate already this season, despite having failed to hit a home run yet.
If this trio continues to play as they are, then the Yankees will have a bright future for this season.
It's very early, but as they sit now the Yankees couldn’t be happier with their new additions.
The Core of the Bullpen Is Really Good
One worry for the Yankees heading into the season was how their made-over bullpen would work out.
The season numbers are a bit deceiving due to poor performances from relievers on whom the Yankees don’t plan to rely. But the pitchers of importance look dominant and represent a real strength for the team.
New closer David Robertson has successfully saved both his opportunities this season and has yet to surrender a run.
Shawn Kelley filled in tremendously for Robertson while he was on the disabled list, picking up four saves during his stint. Kelley posts a 1.86 ERA on the season and has earned the trust of his manager in the event Robertson goes down with an injury again.
Lefty specialist Matt Thornton has been spectacular in the role with six holds on the season and an ERA under two.
The nicest surprise of the group comes from Dellin Betances, who has been nearly unhittable. Betances has an ERA of 0.93 and has struck out 16 hitters in less than 10 innings pitched.
Combined, the four have only allowed four runs on the season and are pitching to a 1.29 ERA on the year.
Bronx Bombers No More
The Yankees have long catered their lineup to hitting the long ball and have had success in doing so. The short right field stands make it tempting to bring in guys who can reach that with a light flick of the wrist.
This season, however, the Yankees' lineup has displayed more gap power than homer power.
It wasn’t until the sixth game of the season when the most unlikely of batters, Brett Gardner, hit the team’s first home run of the year.
The team currently sits in the middle of the AL pack with 19 homers on the year. The Yanks have finished in the top three in AL home runs four times since 2009, with only last season being the outlier.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Yanks have the second-best batting average in the AL at .272 and lead the league in doubles with 50.
It is a trend I expect to continue, as the team really has only three real long-ball threats in Beltran, Alfonso Soriano and McCann. Mark Teixeira was once a reliable source of power, but his chronic injuries seemed to have sapped his strength.
The Yanks should accept this change as the all or nothing approach has hurt them in the past come October when facing the elite pitchers.
Masahiro Tanaka Is the Real Deal
Through four starts, it is very possible that Masahiro Tanaka might have been a bargain at $155 million.
According to Mike Petriello of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required), that very well may be the case as we witness Tanaka’s historic start.
Tanaka set a Yankees record with 28 strikeouts in his first three starts with the team. He has upped that number to 35 following his first taste of the Yanks-Sox rivalry, an easy victory on the road at Fenway Park.
Tanaka is 3-0 on the season with a 2.15 ERA. He pitches with a sense of belonging and confidence.
Tanaka is so confident in his abilities that he believes going undefeated this season is not out of question. He told Ian O’Connor of ESPN NewYork that he expects to win every time he pitches.
Some may say it is still way too early to judge Tanaka, but his performance is more than just numbers. Anyone who has watched him pitch this season can see his stuff is some of the best in the bigs.
25-year-old starters are rarely available in free agency—certainly not with Tanaka’s ability.