The Yankees have had an incredible May to date, going 13-5 and launching themselves into first place in the American League East. What’s wild about that is they continue to win despite having a below-average offense over the course of the month.
At the end of April, the Yankees had one of the league’s top offenses; they were second in Runs Scored with 141, fourth in home runs with 42, and sixth with a team OPS of .781. Despite injuries to countless starters — and at one point able to field a starting lineup of injured players — the Yankees’ offense kept clicking.
Then the calendar hit May, and the offense took a dive. Over the past three weeks, the team has scored only 91 runs and have posted an OPS of only .750, both of which are below average in the American League; these stats were even worse a couple of days ago, before three consecutive games scoring double digits. Thanks to slumps by Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier, and pre-surgery Miguel Andujar, as well as a comparatively slow month by Luke Voit, (.789 OPS, compared to .873 on the season), the offense has struggled to find its footing.
Even so, the Yankees keep winning.
Much of this has had to do with the dominant performance by the pitching staff. The Yankees have routinely found themselves in the upper echelons of the team-wide pitching leaderboards this season, and the month of May has been no exception. The team ERA of 3.47 places them in the top six in the American League, and way above the AL average of 4.35. The team also ranks fifth in batting average allowed (.231) — more than ten points better than the league average of .246.
Despite James Paxton missing most of the month to knee inflammation and the continued absence of Luis Severino, Yankees starters have routinely dominated. Masahiro Tanaka and Domingo German, two solid picks for the All-Star team, lead the charge. The bullpen, which struggled to start the season, has rounded into form with Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton, Tommy Kahnle, and even Jonathan Holder putting together elite performances in the month of May.
Unfortunately, this model of winning is not sustainable with the way the Yankees’ roster is constructed. While the team expects to get Paxton back soon and Severino after the All-Star break, the club’s pitching depth is dangerously thin. If Tanaka or German go down in the immediate future, the Yankees’ rotation will be plain scary instead of scary good. Clutch hitting and elite pitching have driven the Yankees hot month, but for the success to be sustainable, the team’s bats need to come around.
That said, the name of the game is winning, and the Yankees have found a way to win despite their low offensive totals by making each run count; their May record even outpaces their Pythagorean record of 11-7 for the month by two games. Such a lackluster month at the plate could have sunk the team in what will certainly be a tightly-contested division. Instead, the Yankees have thrived.
And that could make all the difference come September.