Pitching and Youth Fuel Yankees Historic Run

Jacoby Ellsbury will be fighting for a spot in the New York Yankees outfield when he returns from injury. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Start spreading the news! Boy, have these past few weeks been fun. Since I left you last, the Bombers played at historically great levels. At 25-10 and 16-1 in their last seventeen, this Yankees team is playing better than any since the 1998 champions.

The Yanks have not lost since we last spoke. They have scratched and clawed their way to seven straight wins, including multiple come from behind nail biters. All were against the best franchises in the MLB, including last year’s champs, the Houston Astros.

This week I’m going to highlight the critical success factors that have led them along this ridiculous run, as well as a potential concern.

Starting Pitching

If there was any worry about this Yankee team heading into the 2018 season it was their starting pitching, with the one exception being Luis Severino. At 37-years-old and in his 18th year in the league, MLB’s active strikeout leader CC Sabathia is on his way out.

“I want one more parade and pretty sure that will be it,” the southpaw informed the New York Post on May 6.

However that hasn’t slowed him down one bit.

Making the shift from power pitcher to location and deception oriented juggernaut, Carsten Charles Sabathia has rejuvenated his career and his case for the Hall of Fame. Sabathia is 2-0 on the year with a team low 1.39 ERA. The only concern being his health, as Sabathia has found himself on the DL five times in the past four seasons with lower body injuries.

With Jordan Montgomery now on the DL, right-handed reliever Domingo Germán has also been a revelation. After being thrown into the rotation on May 6 against the mighty Indians, he performed like a veteran. In his first big league start he tossed six innings of no-hit, shutout ball before being pulled by manager Aaron Boone. Collecting nine strikeouts with just two walks in the start, the twenty-five-year-old righty became the first pitcher since the MLB moved the mound back in 1893 to record nine strikeouts while allowing no hits in his first MLB start.

Since the start of the season Sonny Gray was looking like the weak link in the rotation; however, his last two starts have shown vast improvement. If Gray can return to anything close to his 2015 Cy Young caliber form, he will be the final piece in what is looking more and more like a top rotation in the American League.

The Kids

What more can we ask of these rookies? In the most recent series alone, both Miguel Andújar and Gleyber Torres had walk off hits in dramatic come from behind victories against the Cleveland Indians.

Looking back even further to the Houston series, the most recent wave of baby bombers were even more productive. In that four-game set, Torres went 4-12 with seven RBI’s, including a dramatic ninth inning bases-loaded 2-run single that evened the score at five en route to a 6-5 victory.

Andújar also played a big role in that game, as his single in front of Torres kept the rally going, assisting the team’s late game resurgence, resulting in a series victory over the reigning champs.   

Before moving on we can’t forget about everyone’s favorite Yankee, “Big Toe,” Ronald Torreyes. At 5’8’’, 151 pounds and 25 years of age, the tiny but mighty utility man does everything this team asks of him and more. From coming off the bench to his platoon-starting role in the infield,toe succeeds in every situation manager Aaron Boone presents him with. In 18 games played this season, Torreyes has started in 12; four at third base, two at shortstop and six at second base, while committing only two total errors and batting .362 (17-47) with six RBI’s along the way.

Congested Roster Raising Concern Under Rookie Manager?

The most important trait of any good leader is the ability to trust his or her gut. Great managers must rely on instinct in critical situations. The problem with this, however, is that instinct went out the window with the current saber metrics craze that has consumed our beloved sport.

Because of this, a rookie manager like Boone, who here in May has already had a rough time managing the stacked bullpen may run into the same issue with the starting nine.

Believe it or not, there is even more offensive talent on the way for Boone to sort out. Remember that ginger kid from last year? After suffering a concussion in spring training, Clint “Red Thunder” Frazier and his ridiculous bat speed will be returning to East 161st Street this summer. Pair him with the chronically-injured Jacoby Ellsbury, and the Yankees have six  potential starting outfielders: Ellsbury, Gardner, Hicks, Stanton, Judge and Frazier. 

Moving to the infield, the only true starter we have as of now is Didi Gregorious. Although Andújar and Torres have been fantastic, they are still young and unproven. First base is the biggest question mark of them all. From Neil Walker to Tyler Austin and even Austin Romine at times, the revolving door that is the Yankee’s first base situation is an issue. What happens if and when Greg Bird comes back? And what about Torreyes and Tyler Wade? What will their roles be? These are all questions that manager Aaron Boone needs to answer sooner rather than later. Hopefully the results will be better than his “trigger-happy” approach to the starting pitching.   

This sure is going to be an entertaining summer with so much to look forward to. From the development of young players, like Torres and Andújar, to the slick defense of Didi, combined with moon shots from Judge and Stanton, this is one of the most complete teams in baseball. It’s all a matter of execution, consistency and endurance throughout the 162 game schedule. See you in September, Yankees fans!