Last week, Baseball Prospectus took a look at some of the unanticipated stories that have developed in the 2014 season. Today, let's take a look at some of this season's unforeseen events from a Yankees-centric perspective. This list is in no particular order, and may not be all-inclusive.
Although his star has begun to fade with further exposure, Solarte has easily been the most unexpected performer of 2014. A career minor-leaguer with a mediocre track record in the upper levels, Solarte was more or less a warm body for Spring Training. Once he made the team out of camp, he was simply supposed to be a utility guy. Instead, the Yankees had their best hitter on their hands for essentially the first two months of the season. His recent slump makes it easy to wonder if this is finally the end of the line for Solarte, but his output early in this campaign has been a huge boon to the offense.
Whitley, not on the 40-man roster entering the season and a career reliever with solid but unspectacular minor league numbers, was a long shot to provide any contribution this season. Now, his move to the rotation has afforded him the chance to round out the big league rotation with mainstays CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, and Michael Pineda gone. Whitley making six starts was enough of a surprise without any other context, but him pitching to a 2.41 ERA and 2.58 FIP is truly shocking.
3. The Bullpen
It's kind of funny how little we've talked about the Yankees missing Mariano Rivera in 2014. That isn't to say good riddance, obviously, but more of a credit to the organization itself. David Robertson and Shawn Kelley have been excellent in pinstripes, but the bullpen's depth was a huge question mark entering 2014. There were plenty of free agent relievers available like Grant Balfour, Fernando Rodney, Joaquin Benoit, etc. Yet, Dellin Betances' pure stuff has turned him into one of the game's premier relievers, and Adam Warren's arsenal has played up out of the 'pen as well. What was a potential weakness has now become perhaps the team's greatest strength.
4. Brian McCann
Brought in to replace Chris Stewart with one of the game's best bats for a backstop, McCann has performed more like his predecessor. With nearly 250 trips to the dish, McCann has posted a disappointing 74 wRC+. Most concerning are his drops in walk rate and power. He hasn't been the lone Yankee struggling with the bat, but he's unquestionably been a letdown.
5. The American League East
There's still a long way to go, but who would have thought the Rays to be the worst team in baseball? The Blue Jays to be atop the division? The Red Sox to be seven games under .500? The division hasn't played out like the preseason general consensus, but the Yankees are still in the thick of things, despite a plethora of injuries and poor performances.
6. Home/Road Split
The Yankees are 22-17 on the road and 13-16 at home. Granted, it's still early to look at these splits, but most teams tend to be at their best in their own confines.
7. Masahiro Tanaka's dominance
Tanaka was expected to be good, but not this good. In the majors, he's third in ERA, eighth in FIP, first in xFIP, and also first in SIERA. The Yankees would be in a dark, dark place without him.