Yankees Thoughts: Happy Homestand

The Yankees followed up their three-game sweep of the Tigers with a series win over the Astros. The season series with the Astros is now over with the Yankees having won six of seven.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. The Yankees did their job against the Astros, taking two of three, winning the series and pushing the Astros another game under .500. The offense showed up on Tuesday (10 runs) and Wednesday (nine runs) and then left a whole bunch of baserunners on (eight) on Thursday.

The Yankees finished the season series 6-1 against the Astros. I would have gladly signed up for 4-3 and would have even taken 3-4. But 6-1? Maybe the rivalry that has been one-sided in favor of the Astros for seven years is flipping to the other side?

After sweeping the Tigers, the Yankees went 5-1 at the Stadium, and now have an AL-best .684 winning percentage at home.

2. Juan Soto hit .348/.423/.522 on the homestand and drove in eight runs and it feels like he was just OK in terms of his standard. Soto is so good that him having a .945 OPS against the type of pitching the Yankees faced from Detroit and Houston is just OK.

“It’s just the relentless nature of his at-bats,” Aaron Boone said of Soto. “He doesn’t give a pitch away.”

I think I think he was just OK this week because I expect him to be great, and he is. He’s so good that when he doesn’t come through in a big spot it’s shocking. He has met and exceeded all expectations as a Yankee, and this is a reminder that if he isn’t a Yankee in 2025 and for the rest of his career, I will have no choice but to walk away from the team.

3. “I think before Juan got here, that’s who we always have wanted to be as an offense,” Boone said. “I do think there’s been at least a subtle movement of the needle, because of his presence.”

I wish the other eight Yankees would or could emulate Soto and have the same mentality and presence at the plate that Boone thinks they “subtly” do, but they don’t. Boone can think what he wants, but the other eight hitters are all playing to the back of their baseball cards with Aaron Judge now showing up for the season after five weeks. Judge is who he is when he’s on (which is awesome), Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo are who they are, Alex Verdugo hasn’t changed, Gleyber Torres has been an outright disaster and after impressive starts to the season Anthony Volpe and Oswaldo Cabrera are back to their 2023 ways. (I will exclude the catching tandem since I don’t expect them to contribute offensively, and they rarely have.)

4. Volpe hit a pair of home runs in the Astros series after hitting one home run over the last month. But even with those long balls off of Justin Verlander and Ronel Blanco, Volpe’s hitting .224/.311/.343 since the sixth game of the year. Last year, he was a .209/.283/.383 hitter, so not much has changed.

When Volpe is ahead in the count (65 plate appearances), he’s a .311/.523/.533 hitter.

When Volpe is even in the count (43 plate appearances), he’s a .325/.342/.475 hitter.

When Volpe is behind in the count (63 plate appearances), he’s a .175/.175/.270 hitter.

Certainly, nearly every major-league hitter is going to be a better hitter when even or ahead in the count than when behind, but the disparity for Volpe when ahead or behind is startling. When he’s ahead in the count (1.056 OPS), he hits like he’s Mookie Betts. When he’s behind in the count (.445 OPS), he hits like he’s on his way to playing in an independent league.

I really thought after the first five games of the season Volpe’s approach and plan at the plate was here to stay. I was wrong. It doesn’t mean it won’t come back, it’s just not who he is or has been since those first five games.

5. After going 1-for-the Orioles series over four games, Judge looked like his old self on the six-game homestand against the Tigers and Astros. The Yankees faced five very good to Hall of Fame starting pitchers … and Spencer Arrighetti, who reminds me of the kind of arm the Yankees would call up in the mid-2000s for spot starts in what would be the only major-league appearances of their career. Arrighetti has an 8.44 ERA and has allowed 44 baserunners in 21 1/3 innings.

In the six games, Judge went 10-for-22 with four doubles, three home runs, seven RBIs, four walks and six strikeouts. He only grounded into one double play (he stills leads the league with 11) and even stole a base. A .455/.539/1.046 slash line and 1.584 OPS will do.

Judgey’s special, man. Judgey’s special,” Marcus Stroman said. “He’s not even hot yet.”

Let’s hope this is Judge “getting hot” and staying hot for an extended period of time to make up for whatever went on with him in the first five weeks of the season. It would be nice if Stroman could get hot as well.

6. Stroman put the Yankees in an early hole on Thursday, giving up three runs on two first-inning home runs. He managed to go 5 2/3 innings, but allowed four earned runs and 11 baserunners.

Stroman likes to live on the edges, get ground balls and get soft contact, but he’s been walking too many and not getting enough ground balls, having allowed seven home runs this season. He hasn’t pitch six innings in a start since his second start back on April 5 and has put 55 baserunners on in his last 30 3/2 innings, pitching to a 5.28 ERA with a .925 OPS against.

7. Carlos Rodon made up for the egg he laid in Baltimore (4 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 3 HR) with a strong performance against the Astros (6.1 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB 7 K, 1 HR). He still has a long way to go for me to trust him or respect him (if I ever do) after last season, but he’s making progress.

8. The bullpen and bench are going to get help soon with Tommy Kahnle, Nick Burdi and Oswald Peraza all having started rehab assignments. DJ LeMahieu has resumed “baseball activities” (as opposed to hockey activities or basketball activities) though there is no timetable for his return after the Yankees completely botched his last one and allowed him to begin playing without imaging his injury to see if it had healed.

When LeMahieu comes back, the plan will be for him to be the everyday third baseman (or as close to “everyday” as a 35-year-old with season-ending injuries the last three years can be). That means Torres is safe as the everyday second base … unless … Peraza can hit consistently in the majors. If Peraza joins the team and hits, the Yankees will have no choice but to finally start sitting Torres with regularity.

After going 1-for-the Astros series with four walks, Torres’ OPS is at .565 on the season. Going back to September of last season, Torres has one home run in 60 games and 256 plate appearances. He’s already been demoted twice in the lineup and when you play defense and run the bases like he does, when you’re not hitting there’s nothing to fall back. A bloop single every few days isn’t going to cut it.

9. Remember when Boone said he didn’t go to Clay Holmes for a second inning in that eventual Friday night loss in Milwaukee a couple of weeks ago because of Holmes’ appearance pace? At the time, Holmes was on pace to appear in 75 games even though Boone said it was 80 games. And while 75 is a perfectly acceptable number, Boone chose to pitch Michael Tonkin and lose rather than close out a game in which the Yankees led. Tonkin has appeared in three games since, all in mop-up duty. Holmes has also appeared in three games since. Three games in 13 days. If Holmes doesn’t get into Friday’s game against the Rays, it will be three appearances for him in two weeks. His pace now is 66 games. Good call back in Milwaukee, Boone.

10. Now it’s off to Tampa for a three-game weekend series against the .500 Rays. Despite taking two of three from the Rays three weekends ago in the Bronx, the Yankees struggled to score in that series. The Aaron Boone Yankees have never played the Rays particularly well overall, especially at Tropicana Field. The Boone Yankees have been able to overcome their Astros issues (at least in the regular season), and it would be satisfying if they could do the same with their Rays issues.