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The Power of the Stache: The facial hair that’s fueling the Yankees

Ranking the best mustaches on the team.

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New York Yankees v Minnesota Twins Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

There’s something magical happening in the Bronx. No, I’m not talking about the Yankees’ MLB-best 44-16 record to start the season. I’m talking about the luscious patches of lip lawn cropping up around the New York clubhouse.

The Yankees have a rich tradition of magnificent mustaches. Thurman Munson, Catfish Hunter, Goose Gossage, Sparky Lyle, Don Mattingly, and Jason Giambi all laid claim to having the most luxurious lip hair in the league. And now it appears this year’s team has stumbled upon the ancient rites of their predecessors and are putting the “must” back in mustache.

That brings me to today’s task: ranking the best mustaches on the roster. As you’ll soon see, there appears to be a robust correlation between lip brow bushiness and performance on the field. It’s only a matter of time before every Bomber is flashin’ the ‘stache.

5. Lucas Luetge

We open our list with Lucas Luetge. To be fair to Luetge, he only just started growing his mustache, so he’s playing with an incomplete deck of cards relative to a few of his teammates. He credited teammate Nestor Cortes for inspiring him to grow one, and it’s easy to see why given the magical powers granted to the latter by his ‘stache.

As a part of the second tier of relievers in the Yankees bullpen generally used in low- to medium-leverage situations, Luetge has been serviceable in his 17.1 innings, pitching to a 4.15 ERA and 3.48 FIP (both inflated by a pair of meltdowns against the Orioles). His strikeout and walk rates have regressed from 2021, so maybe this new mustache is just what he needs to get back to the form that made him the Yankees’ third-most valuable reliever last season.

4. Marwin Gonzalez

Gonzalez is in the same boat as Luetge in that he too only just started growing a set of mouth curtains. You can definitely see more potential for his future mustache — whereas Luetge’s lip fuzz is a bit sparse, Gonzalez appears to have a solid foundation that may one day metamorph into a full-blown caterpillar. For now though, it just looks like he missed a spot when shaving the previous night’s five o’clock shadow.

Gonzalez has seen sporadic playing time as the team’s backup shortstop and general utilityman off the bench. He’s slashed a pedestrian .224/.284/.299 with no home runs, four RBI, and a 70 wRC+ getting reps at first base, third base, shortstop, left field, and right field. That’s not to say he hasn’t been valuable, as the rest days he’s provided the starters could pay dividends come the end of the season. And who knows, maybe his offensive production will tick up with each millimeter added to the mustache.

3. David McKay

David McKay is sporting a bodacious patch of furry facial fringe. It evokes memories of the Giambino’s mid-2000s sub-nasal comb. It’s also probably the most meticulously manicured mouth mop on the roster, with near-impeccable symmetry and uniformity.

It’s no wonder then that McKay is rocking a 0.00 ERA, such are the superpowers conferred by flaunting such a fabulous face fleece. So what if he has only pitched two innings? That ‘stache alone ought to earn him down-ballot Cy Young votes.

2. Nestor Cortes

I actually considered placing McKay ahead of Cortes. Not only is McKay’s mustache fuller than Nestor’s, but McKay and his 0.00 ERA put Cortes and his 1.96 ERA to shame. Out of deference to Cortes starting this facial hair trend, he gets the nod. I would however ask that Cortes pick an aesthetic and really lean into it. For now it appears he’s caught between two styles, unsure whether to maintain the ‘80s adult film look or let it lengthen into Fu Manchu territory (I personally cast my vote for the latter).

Whatever the case may be, it’s clearly working. Ever since showing up with the mustache to start the 2021 season, Cortes owns the fourth-lowest ERA (2.55) of any starting pitcher. Don’t believe the naysayers who try to sell some story about better conditioning, elite fastball spin, cutter command, deceptive arm angles, etc. They say correlation does not equal causation but it’s pretty safe to say the secret’s in the ‘stache.

1. Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter takes the cake for having the most ‘stache panache on the Yankees. I mean just look at that beauty. He’s channeling his inner prime Don Mattingly both at the plate and above the lip. His philtrum is positively hirsute!

As Aunt May said, with great mustaches come great responsibility, and boy is Carpenter delivering. He has clubbed six home runs in his first 10 games, slashing .333/.467/1.125. Among all hitters with at least 30 plate appearances, Carpenter is leading in almost every category, so I’ll just drop my two favorites here: his .792 ISO and 325 wRC+.

Will he eventually cool off and come back down to Earth? Unlikely. Certainly not as long as that squirrel maintains its residence between nose and upper lip. Some may trick you into thinking that an offseason analytics-driven odyssey is behind his renaissance at the dish, but don’t be fooled, it’s all in the ‘stache!

Dishonorable Mention: Michael Kay

I mean, what even is this? It looks like he just took a sip of chocolate milk. Calling that peach-fuzz would be an insult to stone fruit around the world. If we are to apply our rubric that mustache fullness reflects the quality of the wearer... well, the sparseness of Michael Kay’s ‘stache speaks for itself.