Yankees Thoughts: Best Record in Baseball and Not Even Clicking Yet?

The Yankees’ continued their winning ways at home over the weekend, taking two of three from the Blue Jays to improve to 8-2 on the season.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. The Yankees have won eight of 10 and three straight series to start the season against three teams with championship aspirations. Even with the best record in baseball, it feels like the Yankees have yet to really put it all together.

“I don’t feel like we’re totally clicking offensively yet,” Aaron Boone said over the weekend. “We’re doing what we need to do.”

Boone is right. (I can’t believe I just wrote that.) It seems like the Yankees have one inning per game where they post a crooked number and nearly all other innings are … well, nothing. It’s worked so far. As Boone said they’re “doing what they need to do” to get by, and they are more than getting by.

2. Juan Soto has “cooled off” since Houston and is still hitting .333 with a .438 on-base percentage. Aaron Judge has yet to get hot and still has a pair of home runs and a .362 OBP. Giancarlo Stanton made everyone forget he’s been striking out in half of his at-bats with his grand slam on Sunday. Anthony Rizzo has a .665 OPS, Gleyber Torres a .640, Austin Wells a .458 and Alex Verdugo a .454. The only two hitters who have remained consistent through 10 games are Oswaldo Cabrera (.333/.389/.545) and Anthony Volpe who has been unbelievable (.424/.486/.606).

3. Last week I wrote this about Volpe:

If this version of Volpe is who he will be moving forward (and I think it is) then the Yankees may have solved their leadoff problem. With the ongoing injuries and ailments of DJ LeMahieu since 2021, and my lack of enthusiasm for Gleyber Torres in that role, Volpe realizing his potential and his former top prospect status like this would solve that problem. I don’t expect that change to happen in Arizona or next week or the week after. The Yankees, as an organization, typically take their time with lineup promotions for their young players, unless injuries make it necessary. (It took two months of Judge hitting .328/.428/.690 in 2017 for him to finally hit third in the lineup.) At the least, though, Volpe needs to be hitting higher in the order than Alex Verdugo. I don’t care about righty-lefty alternation.

Again, I realize it’s going to take an inordinate amount of time for Boone to make this kind of move, especially when it involves a veteran like Torres since Boone would rather not construct the best possible lineup than hurt feelings, which we have learned over the last six years. But every Volpe at-bat is a battle and he’s rarely swinging and missing. Torres, on the other hand, you just hope he gets a mistake to hit.

4. Kevin Gasuman made a mistake in the first inning to Judge on Saturday night and he clobbered it for his second home run of the season. With Soto on first after drawing a walk despite being down 0-2 in the count, the two-run home run was the first time the Yankees have scored in the first inning this season.

“That’s how you draw it up right there,” Boone said. “That’s our two big boys getting us rolling right out of the gate.”

The Yankees didn’t score in the first inning on Sunday, so Saturday is the only time in 10 games they have scored in the first inning. That’s both remarkable and sad that in nine innings with Soto and Judge up, the Yankees failed to score.

5. With the Yankees’ offense, it’s hard to not to think the 2024 isn’t just the 2023 lineup with Soto when they go through dry spells like they did in Arizona scoring two runs in 24 inning at one point, or how they were shut out in two of the first eight games of the season. Then they go out and hang 17 on the Blue Jays on Saturday and Sunday.

6. The Stanton grand slam on Sunday was majestic. The sound off the bat, the velocity off the bat, how quickly it left the park, how far it went, the timeliness of it in a 1-1 game. Everything about it was beautiful. 

With Stanton, there’s always going to be bad, like his 15 strikeouts in 33 plate appearance this season, and you just have to hope the good that does come cancels out some of that bad like his first-inning home run on Saturday night or the mammoth slam. Stanton isn’t going anywhere (at least not this season) and because of his name, stature and career, Boone will never not hit him in the middle of the order. As long as Stanton mixes in the timely bomb everyone once in a while, you can live with that. Yankees fans have no other choice but to live with it.

7. Yankees fans also have no choice but to live with the weakest bullpen of the Brian Cashman era. The Yankees, in their attempt to prove they can turn any hard-throwing arm with a sinker or sweeper into an elite reliever, have created this bullpen that has limited trustworthy arms and a revolving Scranton shuttle built in. With Jonathan Loaisiga lost for the year, the Yankees’ best two relievers are now Clay Holmes and Ian Hamilton followed by Caleb Ferguson and … Nick Burdi?

After being so good in Houston to open the season and strong in Arizona, the bullpen nearly blew a seven run lead on Saturday night, giving up six runs in 4 2/3 innings, and flirted with disaster on Sunday, nearly blowing a four-run lead in the middle innings.

“When you run out to a big lead and you’re handing on for dear life at the end,” Boone said, “that’s an extra exhale.”

8. The bullpen wasn’t going to be automatic to begin with and now it’s been overworked since Marcus Stroman has been the only starter to give the Yankees length (six innings in both of his starts). In 10 games, Yankees starters have thrown 50 1/3 innings and relievers have thrown 39 2/3. That’s a recipe for disaster and a good plan if your plan is for Hamilton, Ferguson and Holmes to end up like Loaisiga.

Here is my current order of trust in the bullpen:

Ian Hamilton
Clay Holmes
Caleb Ferguson
Nick Burdi
Victor Gonzalez
Jake Cousins
Dennis Santana
Luke Weaver

For Holmes to be second on this list when he’s allowed nine baserunners in five innings and has done everything imaginable to ruin every game he has come into so far shows has messy this whole thing is. The loss of Loaisiga is monumental (as are the losses of Michael King and Wandy Peralta from last year’s team). The Yankees are going to need to give some of their top minor-league arms opportunities as relievers at this rate.

9. Former Yankees reliever Chad Green owes the Yankees a few late-game home runs from his time with the team, and for a second on Friday, I thought he had coughed up the lead on a three-run home run to Verdugo. Instead it was just a long fly ball that resulted in an out, which is how nearly all of Verdugo at-bats end: with an out. Verdugo does have his extra-inning home run in Arizona to hand him hat on, but other than that he’s been the worst hitter in the Yankees lineup. I guess someone has to be the worst hitter in the lineup.

Green wasn’t the only ex-Yankee to return to the Bronx over the weekend. I was waiting for Isiah Kiner-Falefa to get a big hit against the Yankees since all ex-Yankees seem to come back to haunt the team, but that big hit will have to wait until another sire. Kiner-Falefa went 1-for-8 in the series with four strikeouts.

Of course, Don Mattingly was back in the Bronx too and it will never be weird to see Number 23 wear another team’s uniform. It was weird with the Dodgers and Marlins and it continues to be weird seeing him with the Blue Jays.

I didn’t miss seeing Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit at Yankee Stadium, as he hit his 15th home run since 2020 there. Only Rafael Devers has hit more (18). It was good to see Guerrero get pitched inside and even hit on Sunday, and it would be nice to see Devers get the same treatment when he visits. After watching David Ortiz torment the short porch for 14 years without ever being moved an inch off the plate, it would be nice if Guerrero and Devers had even a hint of fear in the box against the Yankees.

10. The Yankees will now put their league-best record on the line against the majors’ worst record in the 1-9 Marlins. Don’t let the Marlins’ record fool you. They are better than their record suggests and I already have visions of Jesus Luzardo shutting down the Yankees on Monday night and Luis Arraez spraying line drives Jake Burger hitting gappers for the next three days.

Three night games followed by a scheduled day off on Thursday. No everyday Yankee other than Stanton has been given a personal day off yet (and he’s been given two), so I’m sure Boone has some unnecessary rest planned for his lineup this week.