By Jason Keidel
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Yes, some of us said the Yankees would be rather weak this year, based largely on the one diamond essential for any baseball club, starting pitching.
Then the Yanks, as projected, bombed the first week of the season. Aside from CC Sabathia, no one could sniff the sixth inning.
Now this. They’ve gone from the 1969 Yankees to the 1998 Yankees. The starters have been giving them length, and the bullpen has been untouchable. Speaking of length, the Bombers have lived up to their sobriquet, with bombs freckling the bleachers and beyond. Greg Bird hit a most monstrous shot Sunday night — one of 18 team home runs so far this young season — as the Yankees swept St. Louis out of the Big Apple, a sea of Cardinals red washing upon the banks of the Harlem River.
All this before the Yanks’ win Monday night over the White Sox.
Many of you could say you saw this coming, but most of you would be lying. On Patriots Day, a most sacred (and solemn) day in Boston, it’s the Yankees, not the Red Sox, who are the early surprise of the season. It is the Yankees who are tied for the AL lead with nine wins so far this season. It is the Yankees who are the only MLB team to start 7-0 at home this season. (Atlanta is 3-0.) It is the Yankees who are the most scalding squad in the sport, the only team to win eight straight overall.
The Yanks have scored the third-most runs (67) in Major League Baseball, are fourth in batting average (.267), fourth in home runs (18), fourth in slugging percentage (.452), and lead all of MLB in on-base percentage (.353), and walks (58). And while their reputation is as an Earl Weaver, station-to-station lineup, get on base then wait for the three-run homer, the Yanks are also second in stolen bases (12).
And they are doing all this, let me remind you, without Gary Sanchez, the Bomber who is supposed to be the king masher of them all.
While their rotation was rotten to open the season, the Yankees’ pitching has now swung (quite severely) the other way. Again, out of all MLB teams, the Yankees are fourth in ERA (3.19), sixth in BAA (.220), fifth in strikeouts (122), fourth in earned runs (36), third in walks (33), first in strikeouts per nine innings (10.13), first in strikeouts per walk (3.90) and third in WHIP (1.15). So essentially, the Yankees’ pitching is in the top five in the sport in every salient statistic. (BAA, K/per BB, and K/per 9 IP don’t include Monday night’s game against Chicago.)
Maybe the Cardinals are just slow out of the gate, but the Yankees are simply smoking teams, leaving vapors behind. Pick a pitcher, a batter, or night, and the Bombers are doing it all. It’s early, of course, and no pennant was ever won or lost in April. And while many of us branded the Bombers an averaged ball club — and we could still very well be right — there’s no nobility in hiding behind our keyboards or under our desks.
Of course, we prematurely lurch toward the good or bad after a small sample. But few saw 9-4. Not after their woeful start. Maybe it means nothing, but a late-inning rally against Baltimore on April 9 kept the Yanks from plunging to 1-5. They haven’t lost since. Their current pitching stats are even more eye-popping when you consider Sabathia was the only starter to reach the sixth inning that first week. When you consider their ace, Masahiro Tanaka had a swollen 11.74 ERA after two starts. When you consider the rest of the rotation after CC had hemorrhaged 18 runs over 16 2/3 innings.
For now, at least, the Yankees are making cynics, like yours truly, look silly. So if you’d like a pundit or two to eat some pinstriped crow, here’s one volunteer, at the carnival sitting gingerly on that seat while you chuck the ball that plunges us into the water.
For now, at least, we get wet, while the Yankees stay hot.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel