If there was one thing missing from the 2013 and 2014 Yankees, it was offense. In those two seasons combined, they ranked third-to-last in wRC+, 21st in runs scored, and 17th in home runs despite the glaring park factors. Also, no hitter with at least 600 plate appearances (other than Robinson Cano) was better than a 120 wRC+ hitter in that time.
This year, the contrast couldn't be more stark. Now they have five players with wRC+ marks at or above 120, including Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brian McCann. Most of them were bounce-back candidates before the season, which only makes their bounce-back years even more tenuous considering their less-than-stellar past years.
I do think the Yankees' offense is better than last year, and most certainly better than the abysmal depths of 2013, but, I would say that our perception of this output is clouded by recency bias and I think it's important to understand that these past 300 plate appearances or so are blips on the scale compared to these players' full careers. Consider, for example, the difference between current wOBA and ZiPS' projected wOBA for the rest of the season:
|2015 wOBA||Rest-of-season wOBA|
Granted, there is also the positive regression candidate of Chase Headley, who will likely see a slight increase in wOBA (possibly 24 points!), but there are still these five to consider.
I think it's important to mention that these players' performances thus far have moved their median projection needle a number, but certainly less than we would think. Often times we consider a player's true talent to be a part of the sample we can last remember, and that's often thought of in terms of half-seasons and full seasons. But, also, I think there's a qualitative element that ZiPS, for example, misses.
Alex Rodriguez, for one, may not be as bad as projections might think. It takes into consideration the year he missed, and the samples for players his age are incredibly small; trying to find comparisons for a player such as him, with his track record/age/situation, is unprecedented. His performance this far, as well, is unprecedented. Only Ted Williams, Willie Mays, and Barry Bonds have beaten his wRC+ in ages 39 or older, so it's hard to consider his performance, at least at this level, to continue. But, he is still one of the better hitters in baseball history, and he now stays off the field. He's been relatively healthy, he gets regular days off, and his bat speed (and exit velocity) have been up to snuff. So while he may not be a 140 wRC+ hitter, he's certainly not 110 wRC+ either. I'd split the difference on that one.
Mark Teixeira is another interesting case. His wrist injury rendered him relatively useless for the past two seasons, but he is now back to vintage form, both offensively and defensively. For this one, the rest-of-season projections are probably pretty reliable. While Teixeira certainly still has power left in the tank, the past injuries can't be ignored. While two years removed makes it less of an issue, another year older could lead to nagging injuries, even if his talent level isn't harmed. Once again, he's definitely better than we thought, but probably better so far than we should expect going forward.
The cases of Gardner, Ellsbury, and McCann could largely be more so random fluctuations rather than big questions regarding the nature of the player's talent level. While all three have been over-performing, they're also getting older, and I'd expect them to regress a bit. It's nice to see McCann regress positively after such a poor 2014 campaign, and I think we can say he's better than that, but it also can't be ignored. It happened, it was real, and it definitely should change your perspective on his offensive output. He's probably a split between 2014 and 2015, and that is fine. He's a great defender and pitch framer, and that's good enough for me.
This all may seem alarmist and pessimistic, but I think it's a realistic dialogue given the impending trade deadline. If one were to truly believe the offense is as good as it has been, then there should be no concern about the team after the deadline passes. But if we consider the true talent of these players in a more holistic way, then we may consider the fact that we can't consider the offense a certainty. The front office shouldn't try to leverage their future for a big-time bat, but that doesn't mean they should remain idle. Essentially, the offense is by no means a weakness, but it's not the overwhelming strength we think it is.