The Yankees won the American League East for the first time since 2012 last season, largely due to the fact that the Bombers posted a 54-22 record against division opponents. That stellar record marked a ten-game improvement over the 2018 Yankees, who went 44-32 against AL East foes. Every Yankees regular besides Didi Gregorius posted a wRC+ above 100 against AL East opponents in 2019, but a few players stood out above the rest against divisional opponents last season.
Want to be well received by Yankees fans? Join the team at the end of spring training and proceed to wreak havoc against AL East opponents to the tune of a .340/.436/.691 slash line, including a 158 wRC+ against the Red Sox. Tauchman was the beast of the AL East for the Yankees in his relatively small sample of 110 plate appearances within the division.
As great as Tauchman was against the Red Sox, he was even better against the rest of the division. In only five games against Toronto, Tauchman blasted three home runs, driving in six and scoring three more. The 28-year-old left fielder didn’t have a whole lot of trouble adjusting to a new league in 2019.
In 2018, Torres was a below-average player against AL East competition. He registered a line of .243/.321/.402 and a wRC+ 25 points below his season total. That would change in 2019, helped mightily by his historic dismantling of the Baltimore Orioles. Torres belted 13 home runs in 18 games against the Orioles alone, driving in 20. Combine that with Gary Sanchez’s 10 home runs and 22 RBI against Baltimore, and the Orioles never really stood a chance.
Torres also led the Yankees with five home runs against Boston, just one year after batting .226 with two home runs against them. All in all, Torres slashed .289/.370/.603 against the AL East in 2019, playing a key role in the Yankees’ dramatic improvement within the division.
Much like Tauchman, Urshela also learned quickly that you can become a fan favorite by beating up on the Red Sox. Among Yankees with 20 or more plate appearances against Boston, Urshela led the way with a .720 slugging percentage and a 187 wRC+ in 2019. In 15 games against the Red Sox, Urshela slashed .380/.396/.720, driving in 11 runs and scoring 12.
He tacked on a .320 batting average and 10 RBI against Tampa Bay and finished second on the team with 12 RBI against Toronto. By the end of his breakout season, Urshela owned a .330 batting average against AL East opponents, second only to DJ Lemahieu among Yankees with at least 150 plate appearances.
You don’t finish fourth in AL MVP without doing some serious damage against your own division. Lemahieu took no time getting acclimated to a new division after seven seasons in Colorado. He led the Yankees with a .341 batting average, 54 RBI, and 54 runs against AL East opponents, good for a sparkling 147 wRC+.
The veteran infielder got it done across the board, leading the Yankees in both runs and RBI against Boston, Tampa Bay, and Toronto. While Torres and Sanchez stole the show in Baltimore, Lemahieu quietly batted .403 in 16 games. Lemahieu also drove in 18 runs in 17 games against Boston. The Yankees needed to perform better against their AL East rivals in order to win the division in 2019, and Lemahieu was as influential as anyone in their ability to not only hold their own, but dominate the 76 games played against division opponents.