For a team that ranks among the best in baseball this season, the Yankees are the source of a lot of complaints. Whether it’s the batting average of Gary Sanchez, the strikeouts by Giancarlo Stanton, or the minimal playing time for Clint Frazier, the amount of quarrels Yankees fans have with their team is perplexing. That’s especially so after glancing at their record.
One of the main issues that is consistently brought up in the social media world is the lack of small ball played by the Yankees, and their inability to move runners over when balls aren’t flying out of the park. Some fans want to see some old fashioned rallies, where the Yankees pepper opposing pitchers with a vicious collection of singles to push runs across.
Every concern raised by Yankees enthusiasts is centered around October, and whether the Bombers will be able to use their home run heavy approach to success against some of the better teams and pitchers in the game. Instead of looking ahead to the postseason, our eyes should be on the here and now, where the Yankees are already proving themselves against the best teams in baseball.
After Tuesday night’s shutout win against the upstart Phillies, the Yankees went to bed with a 25-9 record against teams above .500, better than any other team in baseball. They’re 3-3 against the Red Sox, and 5-2 against the Astros, likely the two most formidable foes that will stand in the way of the Bombers and their first American League pennant since 2009.
Oh, and they also swept away the Mariners last week in the Bronx, who entered the series as one of the hottest teams in the game. The Yankees have stepped up against the baseball’s powerhouses, and it hasn’t been because of their ability to make productive outs or hit behind a runner. They’re doing it by hitting baseballs over the wall.
The Yankees score more runs via homer than any team in baseball, and they also beat good teams more than any team is baseball. Surely a connection can be made between the two, right? Well, using the season series against the Astros as an example, one can see how crucial the long ball has been to the Yankees’ success.
In game one of that four game series, it was Sanchez and his big three run blast to seal a thrilling win, and inspire closer Ken Giles to do his best impersonation of Edward Norton in “Fight Club”. In game two, Stanton and his two dingers accounted for three of the Bombers’ four runs in another 4-0 victory. Back in the Bronx against the defending champs, it was two bombs from Brett Gardner to steal game two of that three-game set, and sent them on their way to another series win against one of the best teams in the league. In short, homers played a major role.
As YES researcher James Smyth presented on Twitter over the weekend, Yankees fans shouldn’t draft the team’s playoff obituary simply because they don’t always benefit from a timely single or double when runners are in scoring position. They’d rather wait for their turn to clear the bases with a long ball from one of their many capable home run hitters, which actually plays well to the state of playoff baseball lately:
Just 2017: MLB Guillen Number was 42% of runs scoring on HR. In the postseason, it soared to 51%! Of the nine playoff rounds, only two were won by the less-HR-reliant team. Astros beat the Yankees in ALCS, then beat Dodgers in World Series by scoring 65% of their runs on homers!— James Smyth (@JamesSmyth621) June 24, 2018
The Yankees possess two of the best home run hitters in the game in Aaron Judge and Stanton, so it’s a no-brainer that their game plan should revolve around their greatest strength. That’s how the Yankees have approached every game this season, and given their success against baseball’s best, it seems to be working so far. With their incredible power and shutdown bullpen, the Yanks have two of the most crucial tools to postseason success, and it’s already showing itself through the first three months of the season. There’s no reason why that can’t continue when October rolls around.