The Yankees’s offense is firing on all cylinders in the postseason. Before Tuesday’s games, they had scored more runs in the playoffs than the Dodgers, Marlins, Braves, Blue Jays, Brewers, Twins, Cubs and Reds combined, with 31.
Much of it has to do with health. The Yankees were, at different points in the regular season, without DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton because of injuries. They also had to deal with some unexpected under-performers, such as Brett Gardner, Miguel Andújar and Gary Sánchez.
But thankfully, the unit got to October relatively healthy, and boy, what a difference that makes. It sure is nice to have all those names playing and raking, but two of them stand above the rest: Judge and Stanton.
For the Yankees, they are the X-factors. They are two of the most talented and complete sluggers of their generation, capable of changing the outcome of any given game with one swing. This is not to say that they can’t be vulnerable to certain pitches, but more often than not, they excel at mashing baseballs.
Having both of them healthy has been a challenge for the Yankees, though. Just to clarify: it’s not their fault that they get hurt rather frequently, but every time one or both of them are forced to miss time, the lineup suffers.
Judge has played 397 out of 546 possible games since becoming a full-time regular in the 2017 season. He has been productive, with a 151 wRC+ and plenty of home runs. You can argue that a fully healthy Judge is a top 10 player in the league, capable of putting an 8+ fWAR season like he did in his rookie year.
Stanton is surely an under-appreciated slugger, one of the premier power bats in the league. His career wRC+ is 142, and in his last fully healthy campaign with the Yankees, which was in 2018, he was a disappointment in the eyes of more than a few people, slashing .266/.343/.509 with 38 homers, 102 runs and 100 RBI. Most players would do anything for that kind of line.
In the last couple of seasons, the former Marlins star has suffered calf, hamstring, quad, knee, biceps and shoulder ailments.
A promising start of the playoffs
The Yankees are sure hoping that both players, who only recently came off the injured list with calf (Judge) and hamstring (Stanton) ailments, can catch fire at the right time. And you know what? They seem confident at the batters’ box as of this writing, before Tuesday night’s Game Two against the Rays.
The impact of Judge and Stanton in the lineup has been felt in the 2020 postseason. Judge set the tone in Game One of the Wild Card Series against the Cleveland Indians with a two-run show off potential (virtual) Cy Young winner Shane Bieber, and he hit the go-ahead dinger against the Rays on Monday in the middle innings, well before Stanton himself put the contest on the freezer with a grand slam to dead center field.
That’s the kind of impact the Yankees are looking for with Judge and Stanton. When they brought the two together before the 2018 season, they wanted opposing pitchers to know that there would not be time to relax while going through the lineup. Face Judge, and not so long after that, Stanton will be there too. Pair them with OBP machines like Aaron Hicks, batting masters like LeMahieu, all-around hitters like Gio Urshela and Torres and fellow sluggers Luke Voit and Gary Sánchez and, well, there will be runs.
Both Judge and Stanton are capable of taking walks and getting on base at high levels, but when they connect the ball, they punish it. They hit it hard and do it often, routinely ranking among the league leaders in average and peak exit velocity.
In regular season contests since 2018, they have homered in the same game four times, all Yankees victories. That’s the kind of outcome that the club, the coaching staff, players and fans were hoping when they were paired. Stanton and Judge are, without a doubt, the premier power duo in Major League Baseball.
Anytime Judge and Stanton are in the same lineup, the Yankees have a chance, no matter the rival or the circumstances.