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TWiYB: This Week in Yankees Baseball – Week 3

This is the blog formerly known as “weekly takeaways.” After writing takeaways for two weeks I quickly realized it was morphing into This Week in Yankees Baseball (TWiYB), which just sounds better.

As a side note, was there anything better than waking up on a summer Saturday morning and watching TWiB to catch up on everything baseball? (Keep in mind this was the 90s before I knew how to use the internet).

We are now three weeks into the season and it finally feels like we have settled in — the Yankees 10-5 record might have something to do with that.

In case you missed it, check out my week 2 takeaways.

The Yankees are fun again

If the Yankees 8-game win streak did anything, it was get fans to notice them. For the first time since 1992, the Yankees entered this season in danger of finishing below .500, and while it could still happen, it would seem like an extreme underachievement at this point. A few weeks ago Noah Syndergaard proclaimed New York a Mets town, yet three weeks into the 2017 baseball season and all anyone can talk about is the streaking Yankees.

What do good or bad records really mean on April 21? The Yankees are 10-5 and the Blue Jays are 3-12 (ha!). Toronto was expected to compete for the playoffs this season and the Yankees were not. Are we supposed to pencil the Yankees in and write the Jays out after just three weeks? No, but the Yankees are setting themselves up for a competitive season as much as Toronto is burying theirs, because as we know, games in April count just as much as games in September.

Last year the Yankees were 8-14 after a month of play. They have surpassed that win total already and still have 9 April games to play. I’m sure we all downplayed the Yankees tough 2016 start (even though it was a sign of things to come), so why are we overplaying their current hot streak? To me the answer is simple: This team is fun! 

This dugout reaction came after Aaron Judge’s mammoth 448-foot blast on Wednesday night. The ball appeared to be shot out of a cannon, soaring above the Yankee Stadium facade. When it landed three-quarters of the way up the left field bleachers, the Yankees dugout went nuts. Judge, who knew he smashed a no-doubt homer, put his head down and smiled as he ran around the bases. He let his teammates do the gloating for him.

The Yankees are winning without Gary Sanchez, who went down the day before their streak started, and Didi Gregorius, who will play his first rehab game in Tampa tonight. Before the season I ranked the Yankees most important position players; Sanchez was number one and Didi number three (Greg Bird number two). The early season success this team has had, coupled with the bright future, has fans fully bought into the 2017 Yankees.

This is the most likable team we’ve watched in a long time. Judge is the most exciting player on the field every night. The Yankees starters are dealing with confidence and their bullpen is lights-out. Even veterans we expected nothing from like Chase Headley and Jacoby Ellsbury are contributing, and dare I say it, fun.

I don’t know what this season has in store for the Yanks. But I do know that it’s going to be enjoyable to watch.

Power Righties

The power that Matt Holliday and Aaron Judge displayed this past week was special.

Monday’s homer was Holliday’s first in Yankee Stadium, and it was a blast. A 459-foot soaring line drive to the bleachers in left field is rare territory — territory that only Judge seems to reach. Last week I wrote that Holliday appears to have more in the tank than I originally thought, and this home run is what I was talking about. Girardi has kept him in the middle of the batting order because he puts together professional at bats, and although he missed a couple games due to back stiffness, Holliday has looked good in Yankee pinstripes early this season.

Judge has without a doubt been must watch TV this season. It seems like each night we’re talking about another ball that he hit harder and farther than the previous day. He is leading the team in homers (5) and RBIs (12). Strikeouts have been and will continue to be an issue for Judge, but if he’s slugging in the .600-range, the Yankees will tolerate a few whiffs.

A few other notes on Judge: He was robbed by replay of a 6th homer on Sunday night vs St. Louis, he legged-out an infield single for a 2-out RBI on Monday vs Chicago, and has been seen playing catch with fans before games. It’s easy to see why people are throwing around Judge’s name in the same sentence as Derek Jeter’s. And to think he almost didn’t make the Opening Day roster.

Young guns slinging

On back-to-back nights, the two youngsters in the Yankees rotation — Jordan Montgomery and Luis Severino — dominated White Sox bats. Both gave up homers late in the game that ruined their pitching lines and were not indicative of how they performed.

Montgomery surrendered a 3-run home run in the seventh inning on Monday with the Yankees leading 7-0. It did not matter in the game. What did matter was Montgomery’s performance up until that point; he made quick work of the Chicago hitters keeping them off-balance with a 4-pitch mix. Al Leiter was gushing over the lanky lefty because of his deceptive delivery, which allows him to live in the low 90-mph range. Nicknamed Gumby, Jordan has struck out 11 in 10.2 innings this season and has shown promise of being a quality major league lefty.

Severino, on the other hand, lost his game against Chicago. He did throw 8 innings, the longest outing by a Yankees starter. The 3-run bomb he gave up did matter in the game, in fact it put the game out of reach with Miguel “Greg Maddux” Gonzalez on the mound.

Severino has garnered attention this season because of what he means to the Yankees rotation future. He’s answered every call thus far. In 20 innings over 3 starts, Luis has struck out 27 batters and only walked 2 — an unheard of K/BB ratio. Although his 4.05 ERA would indicate otherwise, he’s actually been dominant. What has impressed me most, and what is evident in that video from YES, is Severino’s confidence. He is not going to be discouraged by a loss because he knows he belongs in the big leagues.

The Yankees offense has been spectacular, leading the league in both runs (77) and homers (22). But the real reason they are on a 9-1 stretch is their starting pitching. After the first turn through the rotation in which only CC gave them a chance to win, the rotation has been lights out. They’ve averaged 6.2 innings per outing, which with today’s trends and the Yanks’ bullpen is basically a complete game. So far after three weeks, the biggest question mark for the Yankees has been a key to their success.

Next week will be a test

Alas, we’ve come to the negative — actually, let’s call it devil’s advocate — portion of the blog.

The Yankees home stand came against the Rays, Cardinals, and White Sox — teams with a combined winning percentage of .467. The Yankees will play their second inter-league series, which is weird considering it’s only April 21, against the Pirates this weekend who are off to a poor start as well. It’s great that the Yankees are winning, but they have yet to really be tested.

Next week the Yankees travel to Fenway for 3 against Boston and then host Baltimore for 3 at The Stadium. The Red Sox and Orioles are teams the Yankees will have to beat if they want to compete for the playoffs this season. The Yankees have handled the Sox over the past three seasons, going 31-26, but Boston was the prohibitive favorite entering the season. The Yanks have been overmatched by Baltimore since 2014 and lost 2 of 3 early this season, but the O’s, without Zach Britton, may be vulnerable.

Before I wrap up, here’s your “Ronald Torreyes is small but it’s so much fun to talk about and definitely not getting old” gif of the week!


Follow me on Twitter: @Andrew_Rotondi

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