The team goal going into most series, particularly early in the year, is to simply win the series. Losing a game is not a big deal, especially in the context of a 162 game season. But winning series ensures that losses never pile up faster than wins. The New York Yankees have not dominated, but they have yet to be swept and have not lost more than a pair of consecutive games. That has added up to a 15-10 record through Monday, best in the American League East.
One of the oddities of the Yankees’ season thus far is that they have allowed more runs than they have scored. That notion will typically mean that a team should be sitting below .500 on the year. After all, the entire point of the game is to outscore opponents. If a team does that consistently, they should have more runs scored than runs allowed cumulatively. New York’s scoring statistics are slightly skewed because of the unusual number of blowouts they have been subject to early in the season.
Already, the Yankees have lost games by differences of 9, 15, and 12 runs. Their blowout wins have not been quite as dramatic. As a crude adjustment, if all of the games in which one side or the other lost by eight or more runs were removed, the Yankees’ run differential more clearly reflects their true record at 76 runs scored to 54 runs allowed. If anyone is worried that the Yankees have been unusually lucky, it may be true but it is not because of their skewed run differential. If one would want to argue about the luck New York has had this season, they can point to the fact that their team leader in runs batted in is Yangervis Solarte.
One of the underappreciated weapons the Yankees’ have deployed this season is their run game. As expected, Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury have been a terror on the bases. Both are in the top 15 in Major League Baseball in total steals, and they are a combined 14/16 in attempts. While no one else on the team has been as prolific, the rest of the squad is a combined 6/7 on the base paths, and the team as a whole is stealing at an incredible 87 percent rate. The Yankees are tied for the fifth most total steals in MLB, and have the second best stolen base percentage. The Yankees’ already solid .407 slugging percentage would look even better with all of those extra bases factored in.
After a month of play it has become obvious that the Yankees strength is on the mound. What has really made the team’s pitching special, however, is their ability to strike out batters. New York is fifth in baseball in total strikeouts. They are one of only three teams who average more than a strikeout per inning, with the others being the Washington Nationals and Cleveland Indians.
For a pitcher, there is no better outcome than a strikeout. Not only does it sit a batter down, but it removes any uncertainty from the equation. A fielder does not have to get to the ball, catch it, or throw it. Strikeouts limit the chances for errors or productive outs, and the Yankees have been racking them up from both their starters and relievers. While their rotation has taken a few hits with the suspension of Michael Pineda for 10 games, and the loss of Ivan Nova, the team has enough pitching depth to get through the rough patch, especially if CC Sabathia continues to look strong.
New York’s next series begins Tuesday, against the Seattle Mariners at home. They will then continue their home stand with three more games against the Tampa Bay Rays. If the team can rack up a few more series wins, particularly when playing their division foe Tampa Bay, the Yankees will be in as good a position as anyone could have expected before the year.
Commentary by Brian Moore
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering New York Baseball