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A surprisingly powerful and resurgent offense is carrying the Yankees

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While many thought the Yankees pitching would have to be their strength this year, an elite offense so far is actually what is keeping the team near the top of the division.

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After a little more than a third of the MLB season, the Yankees have fallen from the top of the AL East, but they're still well within striking distance with plenty of baseball left to play.  All in all, while they don't look like the juggernauts of the 90s (few teams do), they certainly seem like a squad that should be in the hunt for the divisional title and a playoff berth all season long.  After being chosen to finish out of the hunt in many preseason predictions, the Yankees have surprised some by being the leader of the pack in the AL East for much of the season so far.

Perhaps even more surprising is how they're doing it.  With the acquisitions of Didi Gregorius and the re-signing of Chase Headley, they shored up the left side of the infield, and they already had two of the better defensive outfielders in Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury.  Despite the injury concerns, it seemed like common sense that their potentially elite pitching staff - stocked with killer arms like Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda - would have to be the main driving force for the team's success in order for the Yankees to be competitive.

However, at this juncture, the Yankees are actually finding success because of their elite offense.  Yes, their pitching has been good, but it hasn't been great (15th in ERA, 19th in runs allowed).  Tanaka has missed some time, and while Pineda has been quite good and Adam Warren was surprisingly dominant for a while, the rest of the rotation has been maddeningly inconsistent.  However, after two anemic years at the plate, it looks like the Bronx Bombers are finally back.  The Yankees rank fourth in runs scored in the majors, fourth in homers, and fourth in slugging.  For reference, last year they were 20th in runs scored, and only ranked 12th in home runs (in 2013, they were 16th and 22nd, respectively).  They're also among the league leaders in slugging percentage (4th) and wRC+ (6th), so while the pitching staff has been up and down, the Yankee bats have shown up in a way we haven't seen since they last made the playoffs in 2012.

Mainly responsible for this are the Yankees most expensive players bouncing back big time from down years (or in Alex Rodriguez's case, a year-long suspension) to show the skill that got them those big contracts in the first place.  Obviously, Mark Teixeira is the most apparent of these players, as he's regained his form as one of the most dangerous power hitters in the league in 2015.  After missing most of 2013 with an injury and being just a league average hitter last year ( .216/.313/.398 triple slash for a 100 wRC+), Teixeira has posted a 155 wRC+ this year while hitting .254/.368/.574.  In fact, Teixeira is having one of the best years of his career at the plate, and he is tied for second in homers in the American League with 18.  As far as RBI go, he's tied for the AL lead with 48, easily on pace for 100 by the end of the year.  While some may have had some doubt when he claimed his new diet should have him hitting 30 home runs and surpassing 100 RBI this season (especially after he claimed the same thing before the 2014 season and got nowhere near those thresholds), he's well on pace, and his return to his slugging ways is one of the main reasons the Yankees have one of the best offenses in the league through 65 games.

Alex Rodriguez has also returned in better form than anyone could've expected.  He's hitting .267/.369/.500 with 12 homers and a 142 wRC+ of his own.  And, as I wrote about recently, Brian McCann has turned back into the offensive threat he was in Atlanta, hitting .266/.330/.468 and displaying the lefty power that made him so attractive to the Yankees front office.  With bounce back years from these three, the Yankee offense is better than it's been in ages.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Yankees offensive success this season is that all of it is basically due to these three players already mentioned, plus Brett Gardner.  With Jacoby Ellsbury out, the Yankees certainly don't have a deep lineup, and their infield has disappointed greatly at the plate.  Headley is having a rough start to his new contract, hitting for little power (slugging just .367, well below his career average of .406), and everyone knows Gregorius and Stephen Drew have been atrocious at the plate.  With Beltran's bat coming and going (he had a hot May, hitting .298/.316/.500 with four home runs, but was useless in April and has been bad in June), a string of prospects filling in occasionally, and mediocre production from bench bats like Chris Young and Garrett Jones, the Yankees lineup is not nearly as deep as those of the other elite offensive teams, like Toronto or Washington.  Outside of Teixeira and Rodriguez, the Yankees have actually been pretty poor offensively.

Still, if these two keep mashing, the offense should be a force to be reckoned with, especially if Ellsbury can get back in a month or so to give them a speedy two-headed monster atop the lineup.  While the Yankees infield and back end of their rotation have disappointed somewhat, so far they've had enough pop back in their bats to be one of the better teams in the American League.  If the pitching picks up and Ellsbury comes back the rest of the division better look out, because the Bronx Bombers just might be back after a few years of dormancy.