Despite a 5-5 start, including series wins against the Red Sox and Blue Jays, it feels like the bottom quickly dropped out on the Yankees’ season over the weekend. I suppose that’s what happens when you only manage to score six runs in a three-game set against the worst team in baseball.
After a weekend of poor performance like the one that we just had to sit through, we could all use a little positivity in our lives. These are some of the best Yankees storylines from the early goings of 2022.
Reclamation projects continue to shove
Last season, the Yankees bullpen was graced with the emergence of three big-time performers: Lucas Luetge, Nestor Cortes, and Clay Holmes. The Yankees signed Luetge to a super low-risk minor league deal with an invite to spring training. He blossomed into a trusted reliever for Aaron Boone, pitching to a 2.74 ERA, 2.84 FIP, and 25.9-percent strikeout rate in a career-high 72.1 innings. The next pitcher to make an appearance was Cortes — another former NRI — who came up in May and recorded a 2.90 ERA, 3.78 FIP, and 27.5-percent strikeout rate in 93 innings, including some high-pressure starts down the stretch. Finally, the mid-season addition of Holmes proved to be one of the most important moves at the trade deadline. In 28 innings with New York, Holmes twirled a dazzling 1.61 ERA, 2.10 FIP, and a 33-percent strikeout rate.
So far, this same trio has taken steps to prove that 2021 was no flash in the pan. All three have taken the mechanical changes they made last season and translated that into early success in 2022. In fact, the three of them have even made some further tweaks this season — Luetge added more sweep to his slider, Cortes has a newfound reliance on his cutter, and Holmes appears to have ditched his curveball and cut down on slider usage in favour of his power sinker — that appear to be paying off so far. Considering where their careers were before they came to New York, it’s hard not to root for these three to succeed.
Luis Severino is back with a vengeance
After pitching just 12 innings during the 2019 regular season, Luis Severino missed a ton of baseball due to Tommy John surgery before returning at the end of last season. His status was a gigantic question mark for the Yankees’ rotation entering 2022, as it was unclear whether he’d be able to return as a starter or not, or whether he would even be able to make it to the mound or not after a brief injury scare during spring training.
So far, the same electric stuff that made Severino a fan favourite as a 23-year-old ace seems to be there despite all the time he’s missed. He is still lighting up radar guns, he appears to have worked on developing a wicked change-up, and he’s still the same fiery presence on the mound we all came to love. Expectations will of course need to be tempered as Severino’s continuing to find his footing and the team needs to tread carefully to ensure he doesn’t get injured again. But man oh man, has his return been nothing short of electric, and he’s provided a pulse to a team that desperately needed it.
DJ LeMahieu might be on his way back?
It’s no secret that the Yankees offense has not been good to start this year. Yes, I know that’s an understatement, but this is a post about being positive so let’s keep with that motive.
One hitter who has not struggled out of the gate is DJ LeMahieu, who has looked a lot more like the version of DJ we saw in 2019 and 2020. It’s still far too early in the season to really dig into his statistics and metrics, so I’ll save that for a later date, but not to spoil anything, Josh is working on a mechanical analysis of DJ’s swing this year to explore how he’s been able to drive the ball to right with conviction again. I spent a lot of time in the offseason trying to convince a lot of people that LeMahieu had bounce-back potential this season, and to date, he’s been the brightest spot in the offense. While it’s far too early to claim “he’s back!” these early results are at least promising if nothing else. Right now, DJ is one of the hitters who needs to be in the lineup every day, and Boone needs to find a way to make that happen.
It’s only been 10 games, but it’s very easy to find fault with a lot of what the Yankees have put on the field so far this year, especially on the offensive side of the ball. I know that no one wants to hear this right now, especially after that performance in Baltimore, but it is still early in the season and there is a lot of baseball yet to be played. Let’s hope that, by the time the end of the season comes around, this list of positive storylines is more than three entries long.