The New York Yankees got off to a solid start to their season, trailing the Toronto Blue Jays by only half a game through the first 17. While the Yankee offense got shut out in three of their first thirteen games, they have been on an offensive tear recently. Over their last two games, they have scored 22 runs and are on a four-game win streak.
The story of the season so far, however, has been the Yankees’ incredible pitching. In particular, their bullpen which has posted a 2.84 ERA overall. The starting pitching has been quietly elite as well. While Gerrit Cole’s early struggles got a lot of media attention, he seems to be back on track with a scoreless 6.1 inning effort against Cleavland his last time out.
Yankees Hidden Ace:
One of the biggest Yankees storylines early on is Nestor Cortes establishing himself as a major league quality starter. The crafty lefty had a breakout year in 2021. He had an impressive 2.90 ERA in a non-insignificant 93.0 innings pitched. So far in three starts, Cortes hasn’t missed a beat. He has only given up 2 runs in 15.2 innings and has struck 25 batters. Despite not having elite velocity, Cortes has consistently been generating swings and misses. This ability has led him to a lofty 14.4 strikeout per nine so far. With Cole’s early struggles Cortes has been (somewhat jokingly) called the Yankees’ true ace.
Michael King has emerged as a multi-inning high leverage threat in the bullpen. In 10.2 innings of relief has a 0.84 ERA and 18 strikeouts. King’s last outing against Cleveland where he struck out seven batters in a row prompted reporters to ask manager Aaron Boone if he would be used as a starting pitcher at some point. Boone responded by explaining that King was so good and so valuable in his current role that he isn’t even thinking about making him a starter.
Rizzo’s Hot Start:
Yankees fans were disappointed when general manager Brian Cashman failed to acquire in either Freddie Freeman or Matt Olson in favor of bringing back Anthony Rizzo on a short-term deal. At the time of the signing, fans’ contempt for the decision was understandable. Rizzo was coming off a mediocre year and was viewed to be past his prime. Freeman and Olson were bonafide superstars at the peak of their powers. Well, so far, Rizzo has outperformed both of them. In fact, he’s outperforming most of the league. His eight home runs lead all of major league baseball. Rizzo’s performance has been a huge reason for the Yankees’ early success.
Other Yankees Contributors:
A lot has been going right for the Yankees early. Other than the three players I spotlighted, some other players performing well are Aaron Judge, Jameson Taillon, Clay Holmes, and Luis Severino. But, perhaps more importantly to the Yankees than anything I’ve mentioned so far is the return to form of DJ LeMahieu. It seems like LeMahieu was really playing through injury last year. Now that he is fully healthy he is driving the ball all over the field again and is back to being the catalyst atop the Yankees lineup.
There’s optimism back in the Bronx and the Yankees look like they are capable of bringing home number 28 in 2022.