As they finished a five-game homestand with a 4-1 loss against the Atlanta Braves on April 21st, the New York Yankees were 6-11, buried in the AL East cellar. They couldn’t buy a hit, and more than half of the lineup was struggling to get anything going. The offense was mediocre, Jameson Taillon was plagued by the long ball, Corey Kluber was battling command issues, and Domingo German had a 9.00 ERA after two starts.
The Yankees were playing as bad as you would expect a 6-11 team to play. Yet, baseball is a game of adjustments, and the season is long. As some stats begin to stabilize and some stars start rounding into form, we see that the on-field product is looking more and more like a championship-caliber roster.
After yesterday’s 6-4 win against the Detroit Tigers, they have won seven of their last ten games and have managed to bring their record to 13-14. If they complete the sweep today, they will be back to .500. For the Yankees, the arrow is pointing up.
For starters, the offense is waking up in a hurry. The Yankees have scored 49 runs in their last 10 games, including yesterday’s triumph. And they started Saturday as the American League leaders in home runs with 38, one off the league lead.
Their two best offensive performers, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, are healthy and hitting their stride. The former is up to a .291/.396/.581 line with seven homers, 18 RBI, and a .977 OPS, and while the latter rested on Saturday, he is working on an eight-game hitting streak. Moreover, he is up to .269/.320/.495 after a sluggish start, and has at least three hits in each of his last three outings.
Gleyber Torres, still looking for his first home run of the campaign, has been hitting the ball hard more consistently in the last few games. In the past week, he has a .346/.433/.462 line with four walks and only two strikeouts. He is on the verge of breaking out of his early-season funk.
Luke Voit, out with a partially torn meniscus to this point, will play in rehab games next week with the Double-A Somerset Patriots and is targeting a May 11 return to the Yankees’ active roster. The team has had a hard time replacing his production, and given that he led the majors in homers during the shortened 2021, should provide another boost to the lineup.
Even Rougned Odor has hit four home runs and driven in 11 runs, and his expected numbers say he should be a decent hitter at least until Voit comes back. It seems like several sluggers are starting to heat up, and those who still aren’t have the track record to suggest they eventually will.
As for the pitching, we are running out of adjectives to describe Gerrit Cole’s 2021 season. He has a 1.43 ERA and a 0.44 FIP, with a 44.3-percent strikeout rate and a 2.1-percent walk rate. His 2.4 fWAR so far indicates that if he continues his torrid pace, he could finish at 10 or more at the end of the season, which is insanely good.
Other pieces of the rotation are starting to improve after rocky starts. Domingo Germán has settled into a nice groove, allowing just two earned runs in his last two outings, while Jameson Taillon is coming off his best game of the season yesterday against the Tigers (5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K).
Corey Kluber still need to improve his command, but is showing signs of life after a somewhat disappointing start. For all his issues in the early going, his 4.15 ERA is pretty decent. He does have a low 18.8 percent strikeout rate and a high 12.9 percent walk rate, so there is work to do. Kluber will get another chance to do so this afternoon against the Tigers.
The bullpen has been fantastic, among MLB’s best. Aroldis Chapman had an immaculate April in which he didn’t allow any earned runs, Jonathan Loaisiga and Luis Cessa have been outstanding, Chad Green has also been lights-out, and even unlikely contributors like Lucas Luetge and Mike King have stepped up. The unit, before Saturday’s action, was comfortably leading the league in fWAR, with 2.4, with Boston a far second at 1.7; and ERA, with 2.24.
All of these factors lead us to believe that the Yankees are in for a big month in May. They started off on the right foot yesterday with that 6-4 victory, and recent trends suggest that this team will be comfortably above .500 when the calendar turn to June.