If you were to speak to Yankees fans about the state of the team on April 21st you’d think the sky was falling. The Yankees had just dropped the second game of a two-game set to the Atlanta Braves and sat at a 6-11 record as they hit the road for 8 games.
What made the 6-11 start more brutal too was the fact that 11 of the 17 games through that stretch were played at Yankee Stadium. For a team that had high expectations not only for itself but from its fans, the sloppy play and lack of hitting (mixed with the return of fans) made for a toxic environment at Yankee Stadium.
I’ve been lucky enough to go to a handful of games at the beginning of this season, and while there are only 10,000 or so fans at these games, they are a vocal, emotional and excited bunch. Now when you mix that type of energy with the horrible play the Yankees graced the fans with, it made for louder than usual booing. There was tangible anger in the Stadium, and it came to a head when fans were launching baseballs onto the field when the Rays beat the Yankees 8-2 on April 16th. I think the Yankees actually needed to get away from home for a bit of a reset.
And reset they did. They went 5-3 on an eight-game road trip starting on April 22nd, taking three of four from the Cleveland Indians and splitting four games with the Baltimore Orioles. While it was just a 5-3 trip, it set them up nicely to come back to Yankee Stadium and sweep three straight from the Detroit Tigers.
So while it was all doom and gloom just two weeks ago, the Yankees have injected optimism back into their season, and there’s good reason to believe that the worst is behind them.
Since April 21st, the Yankees are tops in the league in wOBA (1st), BB% (1st), HR (1st), WAR (1st), OPS (2nd), and wRC+ (1st). The Yankees were also first in xWOBA over that stretch, and still have an overall team wOBA of .313 (9th) and a team xwOBA of .344 (4th). For all the hitting woes early in the season, the Yankees have made clear that they are still an offensive force.
The guys behind the offensive surge are no other than Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. Since April 21st, Aaron Judge is slashing .344/.488/.719 with three home runs a .502 wOBA, and a 235 wRC+.
Over that same time frame, Giancarlo Stanton is slashing .400/.415/.675 with three home runs a .467 wOBA, and a 211 wRC+. Additionally, despite a drop in power, Gleyber Torres has batted .326 with a .380 OBP while Rougned Odor has matched Judge and Stanton with three home runs of his own.
We of course can’t talk about the Yankees recent success without also talking about their pitching, which has not just been good over this recent stretch but has been great through the first 28 games.
The Yankees Starting Pitching is tops in ERA (9th), BB/9 (7th), and K/9 (3rd). The Bullpen has been even more impressive, as they are tops in WAR (1st), xFIP (3rd), ERA (2nd), HR/9 (6th), BB/9 (4th), and K/9 (6th). Very quietly, the Yankees might have one of the best bullpens in baseball. The Injury to Darren O’Day hurts, as he was pitching well, but the performance of Chad Green, Lucas Luetge, Jonathan Loaisiga, and Aroldis Chapman has been stellar.
One thing I had said after the 6-11 start was that I would be a lot more concerned if it was the pitching that was struggling, and the hitting that was playing to expectations. To me, this team was always going to hit, it was just a matter of time. What was a little bit more of a question mark, and still is even, was the pitching.
But now that the pitching has proven to be solid and the hitting is coming along, the rest of the 2021 Yankees season should be more of what we expected when the season started. It’s a long season with some expected turbulence, but it’s nothing the team won’t be able to work itself out of.