The Yankees were great in May and they managed to continue that excellent trend in June – so important because Boston are showing no signs of slowing down. The Yankees are going to need to keep winning if they are going to finish ahead in this two-horse race. In June, they won exactly two thirds of their games. Let’s see who amongst the batters was lifting the most weight:
(Normally I would have far more coverage of Spring Training than I have this year but with Easter coming early, my other preoccupations have prevented that. My apologies to my regular readers).
If you would have asked me at the end of the 2017 which position the Yankees would sign someone new for in the off-season, my prediction would not have been rightfield. Rookie of the year, Aaron Judge, it seemed had that all stitched up.
Also, if you’d asked me who after Judge was the least likely player to leave, one of my first choices would have been 2b Starlin Castro who impressed so much at the plate and defensively and proved a fearsome double play combination with Didi Gregorius.
Aaron Judge was hot and untouchable in the first half of the season. Now either the opposition pitchers have caught up to him or something else is wrong. Fortunately, Gary Sanchez who was very much in his shadow before the All-Star break, has exploded offensively in the last month. The Yankees are clearly concerned about some defensive kinks he has behind the plate but it is thanks to him and guys like Didi Gregorius that the Yankees’ ship is still afloat and in a promising position to take the first wildcard spot -although they are looking increasingly less likely to catch Boston for the division lead.
The Yankees got off to a strong start in April – stronger than most had anticipated. They tussled for the lead in the American League East with the Baltimore Orioles.
In May, even more surprisingly, they maintained that trajectory whilst Baltimore faded slightly and the Boston Red Sox came into the picture. But by the end of the month, there was a couple of games clear lead that the Yankees had carved out ahead of their two rivals. Impressive.
The Yankees went into the regular season with a positive outlook. They had led the league in Spring Training game wins and the young heart of the line-up (Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez) had had a phenomenal spring. There were still large questions about the depth of durability of their pitching rotation but their bullpen was the strongest around. At the very least, they had given themselves hope.
…And then the season began…
The Yankees have to this point in Spring Training (22nd March) achieved more wins than any other team. On one hand this could be due to the fact that they have lost less players to the World Baseball Classic (WBC) nations than most teams, but, on the other, winning games can never be a bad sign. Spring Training is no great way of measuring the outcome of the regular season but being top of the Grapefruit League beats the heck out of being at the bottom.