The Season as I See it (So Far)
by Owen Hetherington
The Yankees advanced their record to 7-1 overall finishing the sweep over the Red Sox last night in a 9-7 victory. The Yankees are tied for their best start ever through eight games at 7-1 (2020, 2003, 2002, 1999, 1988, 1958, 1956, 1949, and 1933). Amazingly, in only a week and a half of baseball, the regular season is just under an eighth of the way complete. With a shortened season in 2020, it’s imperative for any team to start the year out hot. In the Yankees’ case, they have lived up to and exceeded all expectations thus far. In a normal 162 game season, eight games would not be enough to tell the story of how a team will perform the entire season. However, this season is unlike any other, and the Yankees are making it known that they plan to live up to the hype set forth in the preseason.
In the season thus far, there have been stand out players who have played major factors behind the Bombers’ success. Clearly, there are many key factors to the Yankees recent success. Despite almost a perfect record through their first eight games and some concerns. We will take a look at the factors behind the Yankees’ hot start and players who will look to step up for the next 52 games.
Key Players Through the First Eight
If you’ve watched any of the first eight games for the Pinstripes, a lot of guys have stepped up to contribute to their hot start. From the bullpen to power hitters, these guys seem to be on a mission to bring a title back to the city that never sleeps. Let’s take a look at the main people stepping up for the Bombers.
.290 (9-for-31)/.371/.903, 6 HR, 14 RBI
If you’ve caught only a game or two of the Yankees’ first week and a half, chances are you’ve seen Aaron Judge go deep in critical spots when he’s needed most. With two big flies in the win over Boston last night, he has homered in five consecutive games. Only three other Yankees put together longer streaks than Judge (Don Mattingly (8, 1987), Roger Maris (6, 1961), and Lou Gehrig (6, 1931). With his sixth home run last night, he leads all of baseball in both home runs and RBI’s (14). Only two other players in Yankee history have had more RBI’s through the first eight games of the season (Babe Ruth, 16 in 1932; Alex Rodriguez, 16 in 2007).
In addition to hitting the long ball in five consecutive games, Judge has come through in big moments. In fact, every home run he has hit this season has either tied the game or given the Yankees the lead. There is no doubt that Judge has played the biggest role offensively for the Yankees. When healthy, Aaron Judge is a top five player in all of baseball. I do not envy anyone that has to face him when he is this hot. Is it too early to say he is the lead candidate for MVP through the first eight games? Not at all. This is the Aaron Judge that Yankee fans have been eager to see.
.320 (8-for-25)/.469/.640, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 6 BB
Giancarlo has also been lighting it up offensively for the Yankees in 2020. This is exactly what the Yankees wanted out of Stanton when they traded for him back in December of 2017. With multiple injuries that sidelined the Yankees’ slugger for most of the 2019 season, Stanton looked to make changes to keep himself on the field in 2020. Prior to opening day on July 23, Stanton lost around 20 pounds to prevent injuries and increase productivity. It is apparent that his theory has paid off as he is second on the squad in batting average and doubles.
Had the season started as originally scheduled, Stanton would have not made the lineup card on opening day due to a right strained calf injury. His injury history with the Yankees has played a factor into him seeing all of his action at the designated hitter position, despite Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone saying he is physically able to play the outfield. In my opinion, the Yankees have more than enough options in the outfield and Stanton should remain in the DH spot throughout the season. There is no reason to stick him in the outfield where he is at risk of injury. Keep Stanton as the full-time DH and allow his offense to contribute to the Yankees’ success.
.400 (12-for-30)/.419/.533, 1 HR, 4 RBI
Coming off the 2019 season where he placed fourth in the MVP race, LeMahieu is building upon last year’s success by starting the year hot. He currently leads the Yankees in average and hits. This season, LeMahieu has found himself in his natural position at second base with Gleyber Torres as the everyday shortstop. DJ continues to come up big in clutch situations to get on base for the Yankees in big spots. He is the ideal leadoff hitter that any team would love to have. Look for the Yankees to extend his contract at some point because he has been everything and more for the Yankees.
2-0, 3.09 ERA, 11.2 IP, 0.69 WHIP, 12 SO
In his first start in pinstripes on Opening Day against the Washington Nationals, Cole threw a complete game going 5.0 innings allowing only one hit off of a home run. The game ended in a rain-out which gave Cole the win in a 4-1 victory over Washington. Cole looked to be in control of the entire game aside from the home run he let up to Adam Eaton in the first inning.
In his second start against Baltimore on July 29, Cole went 6.2 innings allowing just four hits and three runs in a 9-3 win over the O’s. He struck out 7 batters and is the first pitcher to strike out five or more while allowing less than four hits in his first two starts since Sonny Gray back in 2017. Cole has not had a loss since May 22 in 2019 and has posted an impressive 1.88 ERA with 238 punch outs in 158.1 innings of work in that time. He has brought his star to New York.
So far, Gerrit Cole has looked good for the Yankees in his first two starts. His next start will be tonight vs. the Phillies. This will be his first start as a Yankee in Yankee Stadium. Cole is 4-3 with 3.38 ERA in seven career starts vs. the Phillies.
Struggling Players in the First Eight Games
0-1 (2 starts), 13.50 ERA, 4.0 IP, 12 Hits allowed, 5 K’s
Paxton had a rough first outing against the Nationals in the second game of the season on July 25. After getting through the first inning of the game without allowing a run, the second inning is where things fell apart for Paxton as he let up three straight singles to load the bases with no outs and an RBI double to Victor Robles that scored two runs. He walked the next batter he faced which ended Paxton’s night. The Yankees ended up losing the game 9-2 in their only loss of the season to date.
Paxton’s second start of the season came last night against the Red Sox (where he came into the game with a 27.00 ERA). Paxton got into trouble early in the first inning where he let up two runs. He finished the night off going just 3.0 IP with 4 K’s while allowing 7 hits and 5 runs.
For the Yankees to stay hot the rest of the season, James Paxton will need to dial in. The Yankees aren’t ready to give up on Paxton quite yet. Last night, Paxton’s fastball was averaging only 91.5 MPH which is the lowest in any game of his career. Last season he averaged his fastball at 95.4 MPH. This is troubling.
.091 (2-for-22)/.167/.136, 1 RBI, 12 K’s
In his first five games of the season, Gary Sanchez went hitless in 15 at bats while striking out 10 times. Aaron Boone finally scratched him from the lineup in the sixth game of the season on July 31 against Boston. His first base hit of the season came the following day on August 1 against Boston off Zack Godley in his first at bat on a single to right field.
In a 162-game season, I wouldn’t think twice about Sanchez’s recent struggles at the dish. However, this season’s circumstances are too different to start the year off so slow. Sanchez has always been a streaky hitter throughout his career and will have long cold and hot streaks. I think now that the monkey is off of Sanchez’s back that he will be major force in future games. Yankee fans can only hope that he will pick up the pace soon with limited options behind the plate.
.063 (1-for-16)/.250/.250, 7 K’s, 1 HR
Brett Gardner has gotten the nod as a starter in five of the Yankees’ first eight games. He has also struggled at the plate after coming off what might have been his best season of his career in 2019. He started off the season going 0-for-11 in his first four games before recording his only hit of the season against Boston on August 1. The hit was a two-run home run in the eighth inning with one out and one runner on base against Colten Brewer to give the Bomber’s their final two runs of the ballgame.
Although the Yankees are not in desperate need of Gardner to produce at the plate with multiple options in the outfield, he needs to start having success before he is not the everyday left fielder. The Yankees may begin to look to other options like Mike Tauchman and Miguel Andujar who pose bigger threats to pitchers. I really hope Gardner can bounce back from his recent struggles. I’m sure he is eager to contribute to the team’s wins since he is a big leadership presence in the clubhouse.
So Far So Good
As the Yankees enter tonight’s game against the Phillies sitting at the top of the AL-East at 7-1, they need to continue their current play to remain the best team in baseball. The Yankees have been living off the long ball for most of their offense and will look to continue to pile on the runs in early innings throughout the remainder of the season. This Yankee team has been exciting to watch in the first eight games of the season.
As long as players like Judge, Stanton, and LeMahieu continue to put up numbers and lead the offense, I can’t see how this team can’t make a deep run in the post season this year. The Yankees will need to rely on their starting pitching to bounce back in this next week to relieve the pressure off the offense. The starters need to get the ball to the bullpen to shut the game down in late innings. So far, the Yankees are living up to the hype this season through their first eight games.
Just like it is every season for the Yankees, it’s World Series or bust.
Let’s hope they bring home 28. They’ve certainly started in that direction!