Sooner or later (hopefully sooner), baseball will return. When it does, our beloved Yankees will continue their quest for championship number twenty-eight. Unfortunately, that all-important quest for glory has ended in failure over the past three seasons. During that time, however, we’ve seen some special moments. We’ve had the opportunity to watch the next generation of Yankee stars take their first steps on the postseason stage. With a good number of games to look back upon (and nothing else to do), now is an opportune time to reflect on how the Baby Bombers have faired in October.
For the sake of this article, I will be looking at players who came up through the Yankee system, are still on the team, and are relatively young. Specifically, I’ll be looking at Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Luis Severino, and Chad Green. Miguel Andújar would technically fit into this group; however, his limited postseason experience makes a statistical analysis seem premature. While I’ll primarily focus on raw numbers, I’ll also point out a memorable moment or two for each player under review.
Over the course of his first 27 postseason games, Judge has been excellent for New York. Judge’s playoff stats (.375 OBP, .910 OPS, .386 wOBA, 144 wRC+) are exceptional. Furthermore, they are very close to his numbers for the regular season (.394 OBP, .952 OPS, .397 wOBA, 152 wRC+), indicating that Judge’s play remains relatively steady when the pressure is on and the competition is fiercest.
Judge’s plate discipline in the playoffs has also been consistent with what he’s shown us in the regular season. His postseason walk and strikeout rates (15.7% and 33.9% respectively) mirror his regular season rates (16.1% and 31.6%). If you nix the 2017 ALDS against Cleveland, when Judge struck out 16 times in 24 plate appearances, then his strikeout rate in the postseason drops all the way to 25.8%, which is excellent for a player with his level of power. Removing the 2017 ALDS also raises Aaron’s postseason OBP to a stellar .412.
In the playoffs, Judge has shown flashes of brilliance with his glove as well as with his bat. During the 2017 postseason, he robbed what would have been a crushing home run by Francisco Lindor in Game 3 of the ALDS. Aaron also flashed the leather against Houston in 2017. He had a pair of spectacular catches behind CC Sabathia in Game 3 of the 2017 ALCS, and robbed a home run from Yuli Gurriel in Game 7. Had the Yankees beaten Houston in 2017, Judge’s amazing grab in the 2nd inning of Game 7 would have been immortalized.
Put simply, Judge has been an exemplary postseason performer. He is, more or less, the same player during the playoffs that he is during the regular season. That’s all we really need from Aaron come October, and he’s given it to us.
Unfortunately, Sanchez has not had the same postseason success as Judge. Gary’s playoff numbers (.225 OBP, .608 OPS, .256 wOBA, 55 wRC+) show a precipitous drop-off from his regular season stats (.328 OBP, .846 OPS, .354 wOBA, 123 wRC+). Sanchez’s walk and strikeout rates are also considerably less impressive in October (5.4% BB and 36% K) than they are during the rest of the year (9.5% BB and 25.2% K).
All that being said, the Kraken has certainly had his fair share of memorable postseason moments. In Game 4 of the 2017 ALCS, Gary delivered the knockout blow in the Bombers’ epic 8th-inning comeback. In Game 2 of the 2018 ALDS, with the Yankees needing a win to even the series, Sanchez hammered two home runs against the Red Sox at Fenway. Hopefully, Gary can build on these moments and gain greater consistency in the postseason. As one of the key Yankee hitters, Sanchez’s success will be integral to New York’s continued chase for championship twenty-eight.
While Judge and Sanchez have each played in 27 postseason games, Gleyber has only played in 14. In those 14 games, however, Torres has played at an elite level. Gleyber’s postseason stats (.362 OBP, .928 OPS, .385 wOBA, 144wRC+) are even better than his regular season numbers over the past two seasons (.338 OBP, .849 OPS, .354 wOBA, 123 wRC+). While his walk rates are approximately the same in the playoffs and regular season (8.6% and 8.3% respectively), his strikeout rate in the postseason is nearly 8 percentage points lower (15.5% versus 23.1% in the regular season).
Torres is young, but he has already had some important postseason performances. His most memorable playoff game to date would have to be Game 1 of the 2019 ALCS. Facing the Astros in Houston to open the series, Gleyber went 3 for 5 with 5 RBI and a homer. In Game 3 of the 2019 ALDS, Gleyber made one of my favorite defensive plays of the entire playoff run. The Twins got the tying run to first base with two outs in the bottom of the 5th, but Gleyber shut the door on a Minnesota rally with a beautiful sliding stop in short right field.
It’s evident that Torres thrives on the pressure of the postseason. He’s only 23 years old, but he plays October baseball like a veteran who has been in the playoffs before. All signs point to many more years of great postseason achievements for the budding superstar.
It’s safe to say that Severino’s playoff results have been mixed. Sevy has started 8 postseason games and his record is 1-3. He has pitched 31.1 playoff innings while posting a 5.17 ERA, and a 5.28 xFIP. His numbers during the 2017 and 2018 regular seasons were stellar (2.98 ERA and 3.04 xFIP in 2017, 3.39 ERA and 3.10 xFIP in 2018), but he hasn’t been able to translate regular season success into postseason dominance.
To be fair, Sevy has certainly had impressive outings in the playoffs. He pitched very well against Cleveland in Game 4 of the 2017 ALDS (7.0 IP, 3 ER, 9 Ks), and he also gave the Yankees quality innings in the 2018 Wild Card Game. He even managed to contribute this past October despite missing most of the year due to injury. Operating as an opener, Severino pitched respectably against Minnesota in Game 3 of the ALDS (4.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 Ks) and against Houston in Game 3 of the ALCS (4.1 IP, 2 ER, 6Ks).
The key for Severino will be adding length to his postseason starts. With a loaded bullpen, he doesn’t need to pitch a complete game every time he steps on the mound in October. Nevertheless, deeper starts for Sevy will benefit the entire pitching staff and keep everybody at their best throughout the playoffs.
Chad Green has been a relatively solid pitcher for the Yankees in his 13 postseason appearances. A reliever’s ERA over the course of 13 games isn’t a particularly meaningful stat (Green’s postseason ERA is 4.74 and his xFIP is 5.24), so I’ll focus on some more telling numbers.
In his 13 playoff games, Green has allowed earned runs only 5 times. He was not the losing pitcher in any of those five games, and in only three of those games (2017 ALDS Game 2, 2019 ALCS Games 4 and 6) did he give up runs that seriously impacted the Yankees’ winning chances. Yet, while his results have been respectable, Green’s postseason peripherals are a bit more pedestrian. He strikes out 12.04 batters per 9 innings in the regular season, but only 8.05 per 9 innings in the postseason. Additionally his LOB% (the percentage of runners he strands on base) is only 65.7% in the playoffs versus 80% during the rest of the year. Chad also induces fewer ground balls in the postseason (23.6% of batted balls) than he does in the regular season (33.5% of batted balls).
Green has been a good pitcher in the playoffs, but he hasn’t been as consistently great in the postseason as he has been in the regular season. That being said, he has had some incredibly clutch moments. His outing in the 2017 Wild Card is one of the most important pitching performances in recent Yankees history. Green should remain a dependable arm in the Bombers’ postseason bullpen. If he’s able to harness his best stuff on a regular basis, he’ll undoubtedly help the Yankees win a title.
The Youngsters on the Whole
As a group, I think it’s safe to say that the Baby Bombers have played well in the playoffs. Judge and Torres have been spectacular. Green has been solid. Sanchez and Severino have often struggled in October, but they’ve also shown flashes of brilliance. With a talented, experienced team surrounding the Baby Bombers, the sky remains the limit. Hopefully we get a chance to watch these great young players in the near future.