By Steve Silverman
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There’s something very special going on with the Yankees that the rest of the AL East is beginning to understand.
The Yankees are simply murdering the baseball on a regular basis. They are hitting home runs at a spectacular pace and they have wonderful offensive team. Aaron Judge is rapidly becoming a legend, as he is dominating old-school baseball numbers and modern metrics.
His .347 average with 22 home runs and 49 RBI in mid-June have made him look like a super-sized Mickey Mantle, and his slash line of .453/.728/1.181 is otherworldly. Judge has gotten plenty of help from Starlin Castro, Brett Gardner, Matt Holliday, Aaron Hicks, and Gary Sanchez, all of whom have hit at least 10 home runs to this point.
But we are not here just to laud the pinstriped sluggers.
The Yankees have been quite consistent on the mound, and in some cases flat-out stellar. Starters Luis Severino, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery are all pitching well enough to give the Yankees a great chance to win on daily basis.
It may not be fair to lump Severino in with the other three, however. He is ready to become a star capable of putting together dominating performances, as he did Saturday against the Orioles when he gave up one run in seven innings.
Severino has a 2.75 ERA along with 84 strikeouts and a 1.02 WHIP to go along with his 5-2 record. He is showing the kind of command that he couldn’t even dream of last season when he went through disastrous performance after disastrous performance on a weekly basis.
Now he looks like an All-Star.
Sabathia’s season to date may be even more unexpected than Severino’s, because he is simply going out to the mound, pitching effectively, and then going out and doing it again. Sabathia has not had a truly impressive season since 2012, when he went 15-6 with a 3.38 ERA spanning 200 innings. He was decent the following season, but had looked like a guy just hanging on due to injuries, conditioning and age since 2014.
Not so much anymore.
Sabathia is an old pro who will turn 37 next month. He came to the big leagues with the Indians as a 20-year-old phenom in 2001 and has been through the ups and downs that come with a long and productive career.
But this year he is relatively healthy and keeping things simple. He is not overthinking and worrying about what he can and can’t do. The results? A 7-2 record, 3.66 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP in 71 1/3 innings.
He said he is more concerned with the efforts of his teammates.
“I think this is just what I expected,” CC Sabathia said about the Yanks’ rotation. “If we can stay healthy, we have the arms and the talent in here to get stuff done.”
Pineda and Montgomery have been pleasant surprises. Neither one is an All-Star, but each hasn’t had to be with the way the Yankees are producing on offense. Pineda is getting deep into games, and his numbers suggest he’s a fine top-end of the rotation guy — 7-3 with a 3.39 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings.
Montgomery is just 4-4, but he has a 3.55 ERA, along with 61 strikeouts in 63 1/3 innings. The young left-hander is pitching like a man who knows he is going to get wonderful support every time he takes the mound.
Shockingly, Masahiro Tanaka has been the only problem in the rotation, and he may be the only reason the Yankees have not run away from the rest of the division to this point (four-game lead on the lukewarm Red Sox). He has already served up 18 home runs, allowing opponents to have a fighting chance to outslug the Yankees’ vaunted lineup.
He should be the Yankees’ best pitcher and could eventually turn things around, but general manager Brian Cashman almost certainly will be looking for another starter at the trade deadline later this summer.
The Yankees are bashing the baseball at a rate that few expected coming into the season. That kind of productivity is telling the starting pitchers that it’s not about perfection or domination. It’s about going out and simply executing.
At a certain point, the offense may slow down to a less-than-superhuman pace. But even if it does, with each passing day the Yankees’ staff is gaining confidence. And if Tanaka can get his act in gear, who knows?
We may be end up talking about serious October baseball.
Follow Steve on Twitter at @Profootballboy