The 2021 MLB season has finally started after a long wait, as the New York Yankees are among teams in competitive spirits. New York is currently maintaining a 5-7 overall record and have had their share of early struggles. That should be expected after undergoing a normal routine of spring training and growing pains.
The pitching rotation behind Gerrit Cole is still trying to find their footing, while the bullpen has been reliable to an extent. While there have been critiques, there are positive takeaways to this point as well.
5. Gerrit Cole Is As Advertised
While it’s not news breaking, Cole has been a staple for the Yankees starting rotation. Over the course of three starts, he is pitching to the tune of a 1.47 ERA across 18 innings to go along with 29 strikeouts.
He is often seen speaking to the other starters, including Jordan Montgomery, who surrendered four runs across five innings and was visibly upset in his last start. Cole has fully accepted the responsibility as the ace of the rotation and is bound to get better as the season progresses.
4. Gary Sanchez More Comfortable Around The Plate
To say that Gary Sanchez is in need of a bounce-back year would be an understatement. For one reason or another, he appeared lost around the plate both defensively and offensively. After being benched during the playoffs last season, it was clear that Sanchez’s time was be coming to an end at the previous rate.
To open the new season, however, Sanchez has shown improvement on both sides of the plate. He has smacked two home runs to go with a .265 batting average across ten games. Most importantly, Sanchez has struck out just seven times and has walked on five occasions in 34 at-bats. After showing up seemingly leaner and healthier, he could be a major key as to how far the Yankees are able to go this year.
3. Aroldis Chapman Leading Dominant Bullpen
After losing both Adam Ottovino and Jonathan Holder, many suspected New York would be short-handed this season. Concern grew even more when news broke that Zach Britton would be out until at least the All-Star break. This season, the bullpen has pitched 47.6 innings, while surrendering just ten runs en route to posting a combined 1.89 ERA.
Most importantly, Aroldis Chapman has been absolutely dominant. Across four innings, he has struck out 11 of 12 possible outs. He has been sharp as usual with his fastball hovering around 100 MPH. Over the offseason, Chapman added a split change to his arsenal.
2. No Apparent Decline for Brett Gardner
Brett Gardner has never been a perennial All-Star and has never been the most talented on any Yankees roster. However, he has been able to maintain a 14-year career with New York built off of hustle and grit. He is not as fast as he once was, but appears to be as sharp as ever on defense. The Yankees have remained healthy to this point, but Gardner has proven to be just as durable as anyone else on the roster. He has maintained a .286 batting average across 21 at-bats to this point in the season. Gardner is responsible for two doubles to go with five walks.
1. They Are Thinking Outside of the Box
Fans have complained about the team’s unwillingness to budge from over-managing and relying too much on analytics. In the past week however, we have seen the Yankees start Gio Urshula at shortstop, Gary Sanchez get some reps at first base, and Aaron Hicks even received some playing time at second base.
This is uncharacteristic of the teams’ operation over the past few years. The Yankees appear willing to experiment and do what it takes to put the best possible hitters in the best position to succeed. Eventually, something is going to click. New York is already built for a deep playoff run, but is starting to operate like a low-market franchise. That mentality has worked for teams like the Chicago Cubs and Tampa Bay Rays the past few seasons and could eventually lead to the Yankees reaching the next level.