Yankees exceed expectations but grey areas cloud the strong start

The New York Yankees celebrate their second win over the Marlins on April 9, 2024, at Yankee Stadium.
Inna Zeyger
Saturday April 13, 2024

Table of Contents

Despite missing ace Gerrit Cole and Aaron Judge struggling to hit big, the New York Yankees boast a phenomenal 10-3 record to begin the season. Even the most optimistic of Yankees faithful would have gladly accepted such a promising start when the team departed Tampa at the conclusion of spring training.

While the Yankees haven’t hit their stride entirely in the early going, they have managed to secure victories in each of their first four series. They’ve relied on a few players with scorching bats, adopted a renewed offensive strategy to grind out every at-bat, received encouraging performances from their starting pitchers, and benefited from a solid bullpen despite retaining only two pitchers from last year’s relief corps.

Manager Aaron Boone stressed the significance of these early wins, emphasizing that they carry just as much weight now as at any other juncture of the season. The Yankees manager acknowledged the nascent stage of the campaign but expressed contentment with the team’s competitive drive and unity. Boone underscored the need to maintain focus and continue competing at a high level moving forward.

“You can’t take ’em [wins] off the board and they matter now as much as any time,” he said. “I would say it’s early. It is, and there’s a long way to go. But any time you can play a stretch of games like this, you sure sign up for that and you take it. More than anything — wins, losses, whatever — at this point in the season, I’m just pleased with how the group is competing and how they’ve come together, their purpose. We gotta keep that same focus going.”

Aaron Judge, celebrating the Yankees' victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, on April 3rd, 2024
San Diego Tribune

The Yankees’ big bashers

Juan Soto’s sizzling start with the Yankees was expected given his elite hitting talents. The 24-year-old superstar has tormented pitchers with a keen batting eye and one of baseball’s sweetest swings, slashing .360 with an incredible 1.008 OPS so far.

However, Soto’s instant impact isn’t the only reason the Yankees have matched the second-best start in franchise history at 10-3. Several other players have provided surprising boosts over the first four series.

Soto’s excellence was anticipated, but the Yankees’ depth and balance have allowed them to thrive from top to bottom. As they aim to sustain this torrid pace, the superstar’s supporting cast continuing to deliver will be critical.

While Anthony Volpe’s rapid development is encouraging, few could have predicted his meteoric rise these past few weeks. The young shortstop has taken an Olympic-sized leap toward stardom in Year 2.

With an adjusted swing path and a year’s experience, Volpe is using all fields effectively. He’s cut down on strikeouts, showcasing his well-rounded tools on both offense and defense. As his confidence soars, it’s a frightening sight for American League pitchers.

Yankees' Anthony Volpe runs after hitting a home run against Miami on April 9, 2024, at Yankee Stadium.
volpenation

The key for Volpe will be sustaining this blistering start as the season progresses. Opposing staff will inevitably adjust their approaches, so he’ll need to stay a step ahead to cement his breakout campaign.

Another Yankee showing encouraging signs of a resurgence is Giancarlo Stanton. After a frigid 3-for-24 start with 13 strikeouts, the slugger has rediscovered his A-swing. Over his last five games, Stanton is scorching at a .421 clip with a 1.450 OPS and three homers matching his strikeout total.

Most impressively, Stanton is once again punishing fastballs he’s able to pull. That was an area of concern in his career-worst 2023 season. For now, the intimidating bomber appears locked in, pouncing on mistakes in the heart of the Yankees order.

While sustained brilliance from Volpe and a Stanton revival would provide massive boosts, it’s still early. But their blazing starts hint at potentially special seasons as the Yankees aim to build a sustainable winning formula.

Similar to Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Rodon still has plenty to prove before cementing his return to elite form. But the left-hander’s early results have been extremely encouraging. Over his first three starts, Rodón boasts a stellar 1.72 ERA, allowing just three earned runs across 15.2 innings.

Importantly, he’s not relying solely on two pitches. Rodon is deploying a full arsenal reminiscent of the seasons that earned him Cy Young votes and ultimately a six-year contract with the Yankees. If he can sustain this level of performance, New York’s rotation will receive a massive boost.

Utilityman Oswaldo Cabrera also deserves recognition. After a blistering opening series in Houston, Cabrera has cooled slightly but still sports an impressive .333 batting average. His ability to contribute across multiple positions provides crucial depth.

Though small sample sizes warrant caution, the early returns from Rodon, Cabrera and others have fueled optimism in the Bronx. Maintaining this level of production will be critical as the Yankees push to assert themselves in a competitive AL East.

The Yankees’ backbenchers

A dejected Aaron Judge leaves plate after umpire makes questionable strikeout call in Chase Field, Phoenix, AZ, on April 2, 2024.
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

While the Yankees’ offense has mostly clicked early on, their catching tandem has been a surprisingly weak link. Austin Wells and Jose Trevino have combined to hit a paltry .100 with just four hits in 40 at-bats. Only the lowly Marlins have gotten worse production from the catcher position so far.

Advanced metrics suggest Wells’ struggles may be an unlucky blip. His expected stats are elite, and his .158 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) ranks 13th-lowest among hitters with 30+ plate appearances. He’s drawing walks and barreling balls at a solid clip, hinting at better days ahead.

For Trevino, however, the numbers reveal a more concerning slump in his first season back from wrist surgery. Across the board, his production and underlying stats show no signs of an imminent breakout.

Two other key Yankees – Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres – have also scuffled, though their track records inspire confidence it’s only a matter of time before they heat up. As manager Aaron Boone notes, they’re having quality at-bats, with Judge leading MLB in walks (14) and Torres tops in the AL in pitches seen (266).

The hits just aren’t falling yet for the duo. Judge, who missed much of spring training, is batting a career-worst .178 and has come up empty in clutch situations. Torres lost his leadoff spot to Anthony Volpe and owns a .526 OPS through 13 games.

Remarkably, the Yankees have raced out to a 10-3 start despite their two best hitters from 2023 struggling mightily. It speaks volumes about the lineup’s depth – and hints at their scary potential once Judge and Torres inevitably find their grooves.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

Related posts:

One thought on “Yankees exceed expectations but grey areas cloud the strong start

  1. I’m not concerned about Judge not hitting much yet or even Torres & Wells (to a lesser degree). However, Trevino, yea, his “hitting” or lack thereof is very concerning; he looks like AA pitchers could feast on his lack of hitting.

    Hopefully, Trevino’s hitting turns around soon or one of the Yankees AAA catchers excels enough to warrant a promotion to the majors. But don’t hold your breath on that last one, all 3 AAA catchers are hitting between .154 & .188. Yikes! On the plus side, 2B Caleb Durbin is hitting .386 with 15 RBIs in 12 games, so you better start hitting Torres!)

    For me, the biggest concern at this early juncture is Long Relief, thanks to Brian Cashman.

    Let’s delve for a moment into the murky waters that constitute Cashman’s “brain,” and his decision to make Jonathan Loaisiga the Yankees’ primary Long Reliever in 2024. (I know, no one wants to go there; it’s a scary place, with lots of spooky echoes.)

    Here’s Brian’s “brain” at work: “Let’s see, we’ve got one of the most injury-prone short relievers in MLB history. Hmm. What should I do? I know, we’ll make him our LONG reliever because, obviously, he has some kind of aversion to short relief. Yea, that’s the ticket. You’re a Genius, Brian! You’ve done it again, snatched defeat out of the hands of—wait, how’s that go again?”

    As Bugs Bunny, Brain’s mental superior, used to say, “What a maroon! What an Igno-Animus!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join the Pinstripes Nation!

Your Daily Dose of Yankees Magic Delivered to Your Inbox

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Don't Miss Any of the Latest Yankees News, Rumors, and Exclusive Offers!