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With 8 Games Gone, The Yankees’ Offense Has Been Solid
- Updated: April 13, 2017
At the time of writing this, the New York Yankees sit 4-4 on the season with their ninth game to be played against the Tampa Bay Rays Thursday night. The Yankees will be looking for the sweep against their AL East foes from Florida. After a dreadful first five games of the season, the Bronx Bombers have bounced back to go on a three-game winning streak. During the streak, the starting pitching has been the difference. The past three games have featured a strong C.C. Sabathia start against the Baltimore Orioles and Michael Pineda taking a perfect game into the seventh inning against the Rays. While the starting pitching has improved, the one constant for the team has surprisingly been the offense.
Last season, the offense for the New York Yankees looked like anything but the Murderers’ Row type of lineups that the organization normally features. Even with names like Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, and Jacoby Ellsbury, the lineup stayed stagnant for most of the season. Only Carlos Beltran and Didi Gregorius were notable hitters in the lineup. After the trade deadline, the call-up of Gary Sanchez added some fire to the offense for the remainder of the season. Still, going into 2017, the expectations were tame for the Bronx Bombers. With questions about the youth of the lineup (Sanchez, Greg Bird, and Aaron Judge) and the struggling veterans (Chase Headley and Jacoby Ellsbury), the offense looked as if it could be great or mediocre. Thus far in a young season, the offense is looking good.
Surprise, Surprise: Maybe These Veterans are Tired of Hearing About Their Struggles
Now, it is only eight games into the season. The glowing review here is a tepid one since everything can do an 180 in a blink of an eye. However, at the current moment, the Yankees’ offense is featuring five hitters with batting averages above .300. The surprising thing about this is the names who are starting the season off strongly. Currently, the best hitter (per average) on the team is Chase Headley. Headley, who batted a pathetic .200/.255/.380 in Spring Training, is leading the team with a slash line of .393/.485/.643. Throw in his 2 home runs and he is definitely the best hitter on the team currently. Even though this is early in the season, it is a welcome sign from a player who took over a month to knock his first extra base hit in 2016. After watching Spring Training, my expectations for Headley were low, to say the least.
Another surprise is Jacoby Ellsbury, who has been looking more comfortable at the plate. The move of placing him lower in the order seems to have had an upside, as Ellsbury has begun the year batting .321. He ranks third in batting average, trailing Headley and Starlin Castro (.333). Ellsbury, who has seen appearances at the top of the order with Brett Gardner’s rest and injury, can be a crucial part of this lineup if he can resemble this type of offensive performance for the season. There is no question that the lineup is a more complete unit when Ellsbury gets on base and is a speed threat against the defense.
Let’s Talk About This Miggy Thing
In an article on ESPN by Andrew Marchand, Headley is quoted as saying that Aaron Judge’s pure power resembles Miguel Cabrera. While my initial reaction is to sound the alarm and pull the reins back on the horses, there is a point to what Headley is saying. Judge has strength at the plate. He has hit 3 home runs this season, and none of them have seemed as if he has gotten “all of it.” That is a scary thought when his last home run had an exit velocity of 116 MPH and traveled 432 ft. Judge, who is one of the five Yankees batting over .300, has looked better this season compared to his call-up last year. His strikeout rate is at 23%, which is comfortable spot to be in, especially if Judge will be stroking balls over the fence regularly. It has been a pleasant sight to see Judge look more comfortable.
The Holliday Season Has Come Early
Besides Aroldis Chapman, Matt Holliday was the only big splash that the Yankees made in the offseason. On offense, the only position that needed to be filled by outside help was DH. Holliday has fit right in at the position and within the Yankees. He currently bats .308 with a whopping .486 OBP. He tied a franchise record with 5 walks in a single game (Sunday against the Orioles), which is a large reason to why his OBP is so high. Batting fourth in the lineup. Holliday has been the perfect addition to the young offense. He rarely has a bad approach at the plate. He is willing to cut down his swing with two strikes and poke the ball where the defense is not. While the offense can be boosted by strong seasons from Ellsbury and Headley, the offense will be dependent on Matt Holliday’s contribution.
The Best is Yet to Come (and Won’t it be Fine)
The offense has been surging in the early season. This has been while Gary Sanchez started slowly and then got injured, Greg Bird and Chris Carter are batting a combined .121 at first base, and Didi Gregorius is sidelined with an injury. It is a scary thought that the offense is averaging 5.125 runs per game with key components of the offense missing or not clicking. If Gregorius and Sanchez can come back strongly from injury at some point in the season (and the offense continues doing well), then the Yankees could have one of the most formidable offenses in the AL. Yes, it is early in the season. Anything can happen over the stretch of 162 games. However, the early indications are that the offense could carry this team.
Obviously, certain players will not continue their hot streaks. Headley will not be a near .400 hitter for the entire length of the season. Holliday’s OBP will come back to Earth in a series or two from now. On the flip side, Greg Bird will not be batting sub .100 all season. Gregorius and Sanchez will be back from injury. It is a mixed back at this point.
What can Yankee fans expect from this offense this season based on the first eight games? They can expect a better offensive team than the one that was out there in 2016. While that still keeps the expectations low, the Yankees should be happy for what the future holds. Most of the hitters look to have strong approaches at the plate barring a few exceptions (I am looking at you Castro). And honestly, that is what hitting really boils down to in the end. A strong approach can have a massive impact on the team. Perhaps there will not be numerous All-Stars from the offense, but as long as there is team success, who cares?
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