Last week, the New York Yankees became champions of the American League East for the first time since 2012. Having won 100 or more games for the second consecutive season, not every Yankee fan has their attention on winning regular season games. Many have already shifted into playoff mode, and are looking to win a World Series. However, there is about a week left before the postseason begins, and the Yankees are in the mix for some team, and individual achievements.
Yankees vs. Twins
Just last year, the Yankees broke the single-season home run record for a team with 267 total bombs. That eclipsed the previous record set by the 1997 Seattle Mariners with 264 homers in a season. But being in the year of the juiced ball, four teams have already shattered that record this year. Though, only two of those teams are in a race to hold the new record: the Yankees and the Minnesota Twins.
While the Yankees are currently ahead of Minnesota by just a couple home runs, the Twins once owned a 30 homer lead. From the first game of the season, all the way up to August 1, the Bombers had 180 long balls compared to Minnesota’s 210. Through August and September, the Yankees steamrolled their way all the way back by smashing 119 bombs and now sit ahead of the Twins with 299 total homers on the season. It’s going to be a wild ride to the finish to see who comes out on top. If the season ended today, these two clubs would face each other in the ALDS. Pitchers beware.
DJ LeMahieu has without a doubt been the MVP of the Yankees this year. He set new career-highs in hits, runs, home runs, and RBI all in 2019. When he was signed in mid-January, no one would have thought we’d be saying that. In fact, many fans were disappointed knowing that the acquisition of LeMahieu most likely dropped New York out of the Manny Machado sweepstakes. Little did we know, he’d be in a chase for the batting title with four games to play.
He currently owns the second-best batting average in the league, only behind Tim Anderson of the Chicago White Sox. LeMahieu sports a .328 average, while Anderson displays a .334 average. The Yankees will face the Rays for one more game, then head to Texas to play the Rangers. The Rangers pitching staff as a whole are towards the bottom of the barrel in ERA, which should be good news for the Yankee infielder. Anderson and the Chi Sox will go up against the Indians and then the Tigers to finish their season. Cleveland has a top three team ERA, but the Tigers own the worst record in the majors thanks in part to their pitching, so Anderson will get a taste of both good and bad this week.
Besides being known for their offense, the Yankees are also known for their daunting bullpen. It’s anchored in the back by All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman. He’s been named AL reliever of the month two times this year, and is at the top of the league in many different categories. In fact, he’s in the top 4% of the league in strikeout percentage, and top 7% in expected batting average against. However, he sits tied for the American League league with Houston Astros closer, Roberto Osuna for the most number of saves, 37. Chapman and Osuna can’t necessarily control when they’re called upon, especially since their managers may want to rest them up before a grueling postseason begins. We’ll have to see how it shakes out to lead the AL in saves, if it doesn’t end in a tie.
Gardner vs. Judge
The home run race we all saw coming: Brett Gardner vs. Aaron Judge. Who will finish with more homers before seasons end? Gardy has mashed a career-high 27 bombs in his age-36 season. Judge has blasted 26 long balls, all while playing under 100 games. Obviously Judge has the power to beat Gardner, but there’s something about Gardy’s personality that tells me he won’t lose this battle.
Out of everything listed, this has to be the race that most Yankees fans care about. The Astros are just 1.5 games better than the Yanks for HFA throughout the playoffs. Though, the ‘Stros do own the season series between the two teams, 4-3., so barring a tie in record, it would go to Houston. I don’t believe home-field advantage will determine who comes out of the American League. To put it frankly, if a team can’t win a game on the road, they have a problem. During the 2017 ALCS when neither team won a game in the opponent’s ballpark, it was one of the few times that has ever happened in that setting. While many fans are afraid of the Yankees playing in Houston, I don’t think the players are.
With only a handful of games left to play, we’ll wait and see how all of this shapes out. Until then, enjoy the rest of the regular season!