1. The rebirth of A-Rod
While his place in baseball history may be up for debate, A-Rod’s powerful presence in the middle of the Yankees lineup has been indisputable. After playing only 44 games in 2013 due to arthroscopic surgery on his left hip and missing the entire 2014 season due to suspension, few believed the embattled Rodriguez could contribute at all to the 2015 Yankees campaign. However, through 73 games this season, Alex has been the Yankees most consistent player.
Rodriguez’s durability has been absolutely remarkable. A-Rod has played in all but four of the Yankees 73 games this season, which is more than any other Yankee regular besides third baseman Chase Headley, who has played in 71 games. He is currently on pace to play over 140 games in 2015 which would be the most games Alex has played in a single season since 2007, his fourth year with the Yankees.
Alex’s durability has been coupled with very productive statistics as well. In his 156 at bats in 2013, his last sample of professional at bats, A-Rod only managed to hit .244 with 7 homers and 19 RBIs. In only 86 more at bats this season, A-Rod has more than doubled both his homer and RBI totals to go along with a .289 batting average. Remarkably, if A-Rod were to stay on his current pace, he would have his best statistics since the 2010 season, in which he hit 30 homers, drove in 125 runs, and hit .270. It certainly remains to be seen if A-Rod can physically survive the dog days of July and August; however, his performance to this point in 2015 has made him the favorite for Comeback Player of the Year.
2. The Power surge
Through 73 games in 2015, the Yankees have already hit 98 home runs, good for second in the majors and are on pace to hit over 200 home runs this season. To put this number of homers in perspective, the reigning American League champion Kansas City Royals hit 95 homers all of last year. Although the Yankees finished 12th in homers in 2014, they are on pace to hit over 50 homers more than they did last year.
The power numbers of Mark Teixeira and Stephen Drew have been the biggest surprises so far. Due to injuries in 2014, Tex only hit 22 home runs the entire season. However, 2015 has been a different story for the Yankees first baseman. Through 73 games, Mark has already hit 18 home runs, nearly matching his total from all of last season. He also has racked up 51 RBIs so far in 2015, just 13 less than he had all of last year. If he remains on his current pace, Teixeira will hit close to 40 homers and drive over 100 runs, numbers that were definitely not expected from him in 2015.
Despite the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium, Stephen Drew’s power numbers have been astonishing. Drew’s 11 homeruns have eclipsed his 2014 total of 7 and he is on pace to hit more homers this season than any other season of his professional career. Drew will also most likely eclipse his 2014 RBI total of 26 by the All-Star break.
3. The Poor Infield Defense
The 2015 Yankees have been a defensive enigma. The right side of their infield, anchored by Stephen Drew and Mark Teixeira, has been excellent. The two have only committed a combined 6 errors through 73 games. However, the left side of the Yankees infield has been nothing short of abysmal. Didi Gregorious and Chase Headley have committed a combined 25 errors so far this season.
Ironically, the infield defense of the Yankees, which has been one of their most glaring weaknesses, was expected to be one of their major strengths in 2015. Just three years removed from actually winning the Gold Glove award, Headley has committed 16 errors, three more than he has committed in any other season of his career. To watch a former Gold Glove winner collapse defensively like Headley has this season has been unprecedented.
Didi’s defensive woes have been less shocking than those of Headley; yet, they have still been surprising. The Yankees inked Gregorious to a 5-year deal this offseason expecting him to be a lock down defensive shortstop who may struggle offensively at times. While Didi has certainly struggled offensively through much of the season, he has been anything but a lockdown shortstop. In fact, he has not looked like much of a major league shortstop on many of the 9 errors he has committed.
4. The stellar surprise from Adam Warren
At this point in the season, few expected Adam Warren to be second on the Yankees pitching staff in ERA. In fact, some probably did not even expect him to be in the rotation at all during Spring Training. However, thanks to an inconsistent rotation and an a surprising season from Warren, his 3.59 ERA is currently good for second best on the Yankees staff.
Although Warren was a reliable arm for Joe Girardi’s bullpen last season, his excellent performance as a starter in 2015 has truly come out of nowhere. Warren was not even a lock to be in the opening day rotation and had to compete for his spot in Spring Training with Esmil Rogers. Also, this season marks Warren’s first full season as a full-time starting pitcher, which makes his impressive numbers even more remarkable.
The other stunning fact about Warren’s breakout season is that he has allowed very few games get completely away from him. Even on days where he does not have his best stuff, like Thursday night in Houston, Warren is able to still get deep into the ballgame and give the Yankees a chance to win. Unlike Nathan Eovaldi, for example, who gave up 8 runs in just 2/3 of an inning last week to the Marlins, before being removed from the game. This sentiment is illuminated by the fact that he leads all Yankee pitchers in quality starts (this is based of outings, where you pitch 6+ innings and give up 3 runs or less).
5. The Record
Is it true that the New York Yankees do not simply strive to be competitive, that they strive be the best team in the league and win championships? Yes. However, the 2015 roster is anything but championship caliber. Their every day second baseman Stephen Drew is struggling to even reach base, let alone stay above the Mendoza line of .200. Their right-fielder Carlos Beltran did not hit a lick the first month offensively and is a liability in the field. Their third baseman Chase Headley has already committed the most errors he has ever committed in a single season through 73 games in 2015. Not to mention that their starting pitching has been inconsistent at best, and they have not had Ivan Nova for most of the season. Jacoby Ellsbury, the team’s best player, has also been sidelined since May with a strained knee.
Before the season began, almost everyone picked the Yankees to finish 3rd or worse in the American League East. These predictions were before the Yankees lost their best offensive player for an extended period of time and their ace, Masahiro Tanaka, to injury in late April. Now, the fact that the Yankees are 39-34, and just one game behind the division leading Tampa Bay Rays is remarkable. If the Yankees were to somehow sustain their play throughout the season and make the playoffs, it would be one of the more improbable postseason appearances in their history.
I understand that in the city that never sleeps fans demand success and greatness from their teams. With that being said, people need to be realistic about the 2015 New York Yankees.
And the reality for the Yankees is that they have done a tremendous job getting the as much as possible out of a flawed roster and should be exalted by fans for how well they have played.