Yankees Report: I’ve resisted doing this segment as I’m admittedly biased, but the New York Yankees are more exciting than they’ve been all decade and I can’t temper my enthusiasm any longer. At the beginning of the season I predicted they’d win 85 games in a highly competitive AL East and finish 3rd, just missing the playoffs. After completing 1/3 of the season, the team currently sits in 1st place, 10-games over .500. Despite being in 1st, the five AL East teams are only within 5.5 games of each other, so it’ll be interesting to see what trade-deadline moves are made, or not made. These and injuries will dictate who moves on this October. The Yankees outfield has played a significant role in powering the early season success, and rank 1st in most major offensive categories. The team must be ecstatic with the development of rookie right fielder Aaron Judge, who with Mike Trout’s thumb surgery, now is the AL MVP front-runner. In leftfield, Brett Gardner has experienced a power surge, hitting 12 homers from the leadoff spot and is fourth in the AL in Runs. The biggest surprise, even bigger than Judge’s MVP season, is Aaron Hick’s transformation from a .217 hitter with a .617 OPS, to a .321 hitter with a 1.016 OPS. In almost 200 fewer at bats, he’s already matched last season’s totals for HR and RBI. This past week, Hicks hit .462 with six doubles and knocked in 11 runs in only seven games – he’s unrecognizable from last year. If he keeps playing like this, Ellsbury can spend the rest of the season on the bench. Newcomer Matt Holliday has provided veteran leadership and is on pace for 36 HR and 105 RBI, after hitting three bombs this past week. At 27, Starlin Castro is having the best year of his career and is third in the AL in Hits. After missing the first five weeks with a WBC induced shoulder injury, shortstop Didi Gregorius, is hitting .308 and working on a seven-game hitting streak. Last year’s rookie of the year runner-up, Gary Sanchez, has yet to hit his stride but still has an .810 OPS and while some of the players listed above will inevitably cool off, Sanchez should heat-up. The lineup has been so strong, that first baseman Chris Carter and third baseman Chase Headley’s struggles have largely gone overlooked. Both first baseman Greg Bird and first baseman/outfielder Tyler Austin are on minor league rehab assignments, which could spell the end of Carter’s tenure on the team – it would be a wise decision. The pitching staff has been reliable with a 3.76 ERA, and the bullpen has been dominant but not unhittable. My favorite pitching stat might be that the Yankees have used only five different starters the entire season. Despite having a fairly fragile starting five, they’ve all taken the ball every fifth day. For perspective, their cross town rival has used nine different starting pitchers this season. Most importantly, 23-year old Luis Severino has developed into a front-line starter, thanks to the development of his changeup to compliment his blazing 99 MPH fastball. He leads the pitching staff in IP, K’s, WHIP, and ERA. Southpaw rookie Jordan Montgomery, has shown promise of developing into at least a number three starter, if not better. In 61 minor league starts, Montgomery never allowed more than four runs in a start, speaking to his ability of making adjustments on the fly and pitching savvy. He’s allowed three or fewer runs in eight of ten starts this season, while averaging almost a strikeout an inning. Montgomery and Severino could head the starting rotation for the foreseeable future. Supposed ace, Masahiro Tanaka, in his opt-out season, is doing a jeckle and hyde act. He’s leading the league in earned runs, and is on pace to allow a whopping 43 home runs. Earlier this season, he threw a 3-hit shutout against the Red Sox at Fenway, and last week struck out 13 A’s in a dominant performance, so whispers about an injury are unfounded. Masahiro – get it together. The bullpen has been dominant, but has also struggled in Aroldis Chapman’s absence. Chapman is on track to return June 15th, a much needed boost to an overworked pen. The Yanks also have top starting prospect Chance Adams dominating at AAA, who in 220 career minor league IP has an 0.92 WHIP and 23-3 record. This team has youth, athleticism, and depth previous Yankee teams this decade have lacked – and they’re only getting better.
Beast of the Week: Congrats to Edinson Volquez, who threw the first no-hitter of the 2017 season against the Diamondbacks. Volquez completed the gem with a 98-pitch effort, striking out 10 D-Backs along the way. Volquez, an unlikely candidate to throw a no-hitter while leading the league in losses, has no lowered his ERA to a respectable 3.79. Honorable Mention: Houston Astros, who went undefeated this week, extending their win-streak to 10 games. The Astros clubbed their opponents into submission with beastly weeks by Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and George Springer. All of whom, are 27 or younger.
Things to Know: We’ll be without the best player in baseball for two months as Mike Trout had thumb surgery after injuring it stealing second…let’s see if Aaron Judge can capitalize on Trout’s absence in the AL MVP race…another Angel made big news this week, as future Hall-of-Famer Albert Pujols hit his 600th career home run.
He’s now 9th all-time, and is on track to join Hank Aaron and Alex Rodriguez as the third member of the 3,000+ Hits, 600+ HR, 2,000+ RBI club in late 2018. Pujols is not only a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, but an all-time great and it’s sad this accomplishment got so little press. The steroid era has tarnished appreciation for home run records so much, that the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of apathy. Besides Miguel Cabrera potentially reaching 600 homers around 2022, we might not see another 600 home run career until close to 2030 with Giancarlo Stanton. Let’s take a moment to reflect and appreciate the incredible achievement that 600 home runs still is…another career milestone was reached this week by the best pitcher of this generation, Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw, fanned his 2,000th career batter, reaching 2,000 K’s in the 3rd fewest innings in history, behind only Hall-of-Famers Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez…Kershaw is settling into a two horse race with Max Scherzer for the NL CY this year. Not to be outdone by Kershaw’s 14-strikeout performance, Scherzer dominated again this week, throwing a CG while only allowing one run, no walks, and striking out 11…making strides in the AL CY race, Astros ace Dallas Keuchel improved to a major league best 9-0, 1.67 ERA, and 0.87 WHIP…the Red Sox got their $217 million dollar man back this week, and it feels like they’re about to make a run with Price finally healthy…trading places with him on the shelf, Royals ace Danny Duffy is out a minimum two months with an oblique strain…
in an incident that could have resulted in a DL stint for multiple players involved, Giants reliever Hunter Strickland plunked Bryce Harper with a 98 MPH fastball, which seemed intentional to the naked eye. Trading verbal barbs, Harper moved closer to the mound, and surprisingly Giants catcher Buster Posey was nowhere to intercept Harper before he finally threw his bat down and charged the mound, launching his helmet – supposedly at Strickland – in a throw more errant than Chuck Knoblauch trying to throw to first. Seemed like each connected somewhat with a punch before they were separated, leading to a 4-game suspension for Harper and 6-game suspension for Strickland…I’ve been impressed with Rangers SS, Elvis Andrus, who hit .520 this past week with 10 RBI and four steals. He’s already playing in his ninth season, which is shaping up to be his best, despite only being 28-years old…Nats second baseman Daniel Murphy raised his average from .319 to .340 this week, proving last year was no fluke…now to the not so impressive list – how ridiculously bad is Matt Harvey? He got rocked again on Friday, raising his season ERA to 5.43. The Mets are now seven games under .500 and 11 games out of first place. Their team ERA is 4.84, ranking 29th out of 30 MLB teams – what happened to one of the pre-season’s best rotations?