Last year, the Yankees set the single-season record for home runs as a team with 267. In reality, the record and the Yankees’ chase of it wasn’t much more than a fun thing to follow as the season went along. They still ended up losing in the playoffs to the team they broke the record against. However, it was a nice moment when it was finally broken. It will be a fun thing to look back on as we get further away from the disappointment of the way last season ended.
Between the way baseball is currently played and the lineup the Yankees will put out, chances they will have a shot to re-break that record again in 2019. For similar reasons, the Yankees might have another record in their sights next season.
In 2018, the Astros broke the all-time single-season record for strikeouts by a pitching staff with 1687. That record had only just been set in 2017 by the Indians with 1614, who had gone past the 2016 Dodgers with 1510. Every staff within the top 100 came from a year that begins with a two.
Here’s why the 2019 Yankees have a real chance to progress the record even further: the 2018 team is second on the all-time record list. They just finished 53 behind Houston with 1634. They came quite close last year and have made additions in the offseason that could take that total even higher.
Most recently, the Yankees signed Adam Ottavino, who struck out 112 batters in 77.2 innings last season. That K/9 rate was 12th in baseball of anyone who threw 50 innings or more, and would have been third on the Yankees, behind Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances. Ottavino was one of the strikeout relievers in baseball last year, but still wouldn’t have been the best on the Yankees.
The bullpen is not the only place where they just added a ton of strikeouts either. The Yankees also added James Paxton to the roster. The new Yankees’ starter had one of the highest K/9 rates for starting pitchers last year, and he’ll in essence be replacing Sonny Gray (who may be officially traded by the time this post goes up) in the rotation. Gray struck out less than a batter an inning last season, and had only ever done that once in his career anyways.
Beyond just those two, even the lesser pitchers could arguably strikeout more hitters than last year’s did. Stephen Tarpley struck out 13.0 per nine. Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga both had K/9 rates over 10 and spent large chunks of their time in the bigs as starters. If injuries happen, they may end up back in the rotation for periods, but for now they’re likely to be back of the bullpen and/or Scranton shuttle candidates. If the Yankees keep Tommy Kahnle and he remembers how to baseball, he’s pretty good at striking people out too.
At the end of the day, this record doesn’t matter all that much. Even if the Yankees do break it, with the way baseball works in this era, some team in 2020 may beat it anyway. But again, like the home run record last year, it’s still a fun thing to keep an eye on as the season progresses.