On Opening Day, all the young talent created a sense of the unknown the Yankees usually don’t have. In that unknown was something thrilling: the next generation of Yanks was becoming this generation of Yanks.
Sure, Greg Bird might struggle. In that way, he was a normal young player. But the Yankees vowed to put him in the right environment and to allow him to experience the ups and downs almost every young player experiences.
Since losing four of five to open the season, the Yanks have won eight in a row and done a pretty good imitation of the best team in baseball. During the win streak, they’ve scored the most runs in the Majors (49) and allowed the third fewest (22), which is a proven formula for success. Translation: be careful what you think you’re seeing. But there are also plenty of reasons for optimism. Here are five.
Michael Pineda has been dominant in his past two starts three earned runs, 17 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings. He has shown a very good fastball and a power slider. This is the Pineda the Yankees pretty much have to have to be competitive in the American League East. He’s healthy. He’s only 28 years old. Pineda has No. 1 starter stuff. For now, he’s doing it.
Sabathia was a long time making the middle age transition every veteran pitcher must make. Andy Pettitte had warned him that learning a reliable cutter would take at least a year. At times, Sabathia’s body seemed to be breaking down. Things came together down the stretch last season, and that has carried over into this season. Sabathia has allowed three earned runs in three starts. If he stays healthy, he might still be capable of doing big things.
Chase Headley, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner still have game. Headley has a .509 on base percentage. Ellsbury is hitting .326. Gardner has five stolen bases. At some point, the Yanks will they hope lean more on young prospects like outfielder Clint Frazier. To compete in 2017, they need these veterans to be more productive than they’ve been in the recent seasons. So far, so good. Then came word that the team’s top pitching prospect, James Kaprielian, would undergo Tommy John surgery. But there are still all kinds of bright spots. Right fielder Aaron Judge hit his fourth home run of the season on Monday night, and rookie left hander Jordan Montgomery was solid (three earned runs in six innings) in his second Major League start. Second baseman Starlin Castro, who is only 27, is hitting .365.
The Yankees’ rotation is 6 0 with a 2.77 ERA during the eight game win streak, which sounds good. But then there’s that bullpen: 1.35 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 25 strikeouts in 20 innings. It’s not just Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances, although neither has allowed a run during the win streak. Tyler Clippard has been a tremendous pickup, and right hander Adam Warren pitched 2 1/3 innings Monday night to get the game to Chapman.
But the Yankees always knew that if some of their veteran guys had another good run in them, they were capable of being competitive. Teams don’t sign Matt Holliday and Chris Carter if they’re in a full rebuild, which the Yanks will never do anyway.
Besides, baseball is more fun when the Yankees are good and when the AL East cheap elite jerseys
is a dogfight, which it just might be this season. After playing the White Sox twice more this week, the Yanks spend the weekend in Pittsburgh before going to wait for it Fenway Park next week. And that series suddenly seems more interesting.