We are midway through June, which creates an exciting time to assess the runners and riders in the 2022 MLB season. The August 2nd Trade Deadline is looming and with the expanded playoff scenario offering a larger-than-life carrot, it’s all to play for in the chase for the ultimate prize.
There is an ominous look atop the standings and statistical charts, as the New York Yankees have put together an impressive start in their early portion of the season. Chasing their first World Series since 2009, many have them as favorites as they are on pace to finish with 108+ wins during the regular season. The Yankees previously achieved a franchise-best 114 victories during the 1998 season.
The problem for the leaders in the AL East may need to come from a new found variance in their play. General Manager Brian Cashman was quizzed about the team’s impressive start and remarked “You don’t want to be a one-trick pony”. This acknowledgement that the key ingredients to a championship-winning team are more than a single superstar player.
The ongoing contract situation dominating the news for the Yankees is that of outfielder Aaron Judge. To this point, he leads the league in home runs (25) and slugging percentage (.677) while sitting in the top five in RBIs (49). Prior to Opening Day, Judge reportedly turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million extension with the team.
Currently owning the best record in all of baseball, the Yankees also lead the league in home runs with 101 dingers on the season. The offense also is placed within the top five in hits. On the mound, New York’s pitching staff leads the league in wins (46), ERA (2.81), and saves (24). Despite a slow start to the season, Gerrit Cole is now near the top of the charts in both wins and strikeouts. Still, it has been the supporting cast in arms such as Nestor Cortes and Jameson Taillon that have stood out as a surprise.
The offense is solid behind Judge with production coming from table-setters in players like DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. The Yankees have received further contributions from the recently-acquired Matt Carpenter and could seek out trade offers for Joey Gallo towards the Trade Deadline.
So where will the challenge come from?
Going into the season, the AL East was heralded as the league’s toughest division in baseball. The Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays have put together above-average starts to their respective seasons. Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox join them with a winning record and have impressed during the month of June. Still, the Yankees have won 12 of their last 18 divisional games. If they continue at that pace, it could be disheartening for the chasing pack.
Widening the focus, the usual suspects of the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers will be leading the charge to overthrow New York as the World Series favorites. We may also witness the San Diego Padres join them in the conversation. The Astros hold a comfortable lead in an underperforming AL West, while the Dodgers and Padres seem set to battle it out atop the competitive NL West.
The more interesting challenges may come from city rivals in the New York Mets, who have led the NL East since the start of the season. Though keeping an eye on the surging Atlanta Braves and their 14-game winning streak, the Mets still boast a league-leading .263 batting average and rank second in wins across all of baseball.