The regular season is (almost) over. We know that the Yankees will be playing at least one postseason game, but we don’t know what the playoffs have in store for them. With any luck, they’ll continue to shock everyone and bring home the championship. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens. For now, let’s reflect on the biggest surprises of the regular season.
This team is good
The Yankees were not supposed to be good this year. In fact, they weren’t expected to be decent for a few more years, given the whole rebuild that started in 2016. Prior to the start of the season, FiveThirtyEight predicted that the Yankees would finish the season with a 80-82 record and thought that they had just a 27% chance of making the postseason. We know ESPN loves them some Red Sox, but only one of 35 of their “experts” thought the Yankees might win the division this year.
You can never say that the PSA staff doesn’t believe in the Yankees, though. Before the season started, four out of ten staff members predicted that the Yankees would win the division, while four more expected them to take second place. Jake was the only real naysayer, expecting the Yankees to finish in fourth.
The good news is that we were mostly right. The Yankees started the season strong, but faded a bit as the All-Star break approached. Just imagine how many wins this team might have ended up with if they hadn’t dropped seven games in a row in June. Unlike past seasons where they have had to fight tooth and nail for a postseason spot, they clinched a wild card spot over a week before the end of the season. Remarkably, they had a chance to sneak in and win the division up until the very end. It sure would have been fun to see game 163. Regardless of what happens in the playoffs, this team has far exceeded any and all expectations that most Yankees fans had when the season started.
Aaron Judge has been incredible
Oddly enough, Judge kind of fell off the PSA staff’s radar when it came time to the previously mentioned season predictions. While we predicted how many home runs we thought that Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird would hit, we left Judge off entirely when it came to team predictions. Maybe his short stint with the Yankees in 2016 left a bad taste in our mouths.
If you had asked me in March how many home runs Judge would have to hit in order to have a successful season, I might have said 30. Judge has hit 52 home runs (as of writing this). He won the Home Run Derby! He should win Rookie of the Year, and should at least be in the discussion for MVP. He leads the league in WAR, and the only player who has hit more home runs than him is Giancarlo Stanton. Despite his slump in the second half, Judge has had an incredible season that caught most people by surprise.
This team is fun
It’s one thing to watch a baseball team that is good and enjoy that as a fan, but it’s a whole different thing to watch a team that is good and seems to have fun together. This Yankees team is very likable, and the players seem to jive well together. This team is entertaining both on and off the field, which makes it the best of both worlds. On the field we’ve got the Toe-Night Show and the thumbs down gesture, just to name a few of the Yankees’ recent antics. Behind the scenes, we’ve got the Yankees On Demand videos and the hilarious tweets and emojis of Didi Gregorius. It would be even more fun to see this team keep winning well into October. Fingers crossed.