This will give you an idea of the lofty expectations the Yankees face in 2019: Last year’s 100-win campaign, which ended when the Yanks gave the eventual champion Red Sox their toughest October series, is generally considered a flop in New York. Too harsh? Maybe. But the loaded Yankees are a World Series-or-bust team again, thanks to big-name stars such as Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, blooming youngsters like Gleyber Torres and a velocity-crazed bullpen.
GM Brian Cashman re-signed Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia and bolstered the rotation by trading for Seattle lefty James Paxton and re-signing J.A. Happ. Paxton could be the October ace the Yankees crave, and he and Luis Severino should lead a rotation that just might be the key to toppling Boston in the brawny American League East.
The Yankees, with all their young talent, are set up to contend for years, but they might have to go through Boston to get back to the World Series — which would be a nice way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their last championship season.
Opposing Scouts Size Up the Yankees
“This team is set up even better than Boston for the long term, because their high-impact low-cost hitters give them lots of financial flexibility. James Paxton will be a huge boost. Yes, he’s always been somewhat fragile, but this team is so good, they won’t need to run him out there for 200 innings. There’s not a classic No. 1, but I’ll take my chances in a short series with Paxton, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ, supported by CC Sabathia and my power bullpen. The offense lived and died by the homer, but when you set the all-time record for homers — and you’ve got Aaron Judge — you’re living pretty good. People look at Giancarlo Stanton as somewhat disappointing, but he was coming off a career year in Miami and making a big transition; he posted every day, gave them quality production and set himself up for a big season. The Yankees deserve credit for identifying burgeoning talents like Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks and Luke Voit. Now if only they could get Gary Sanchez to concentrate more behind the plate.”
Beyond the Box Score
Hammer Time No team hit the ball harder than the Yankees in 2018. Yankee batters had 124 hits with an exit velocity of 110 miles per hour or more, tops in MLB, according to Statcast. They also had the 12 hardest-hit balls in the game — 10 by Giancarlo Stanton, including a 121.7 mph homer Aug. 9 against Texas that was the hardest-hit ball of the season.
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The Yankees were third best in replay success rate (74.3 percent) during 2018, continuing a trend in which they’ve excelled since replay review was introduced in 2014. Over that span, the Yanks have led the majors in success rate three times and finished below 70.3 percent only once.
Bearing Down Yankees hurlers have led the American League for two consecutive seasons in opponent batting average with runners in scoring position. In 2018, they topped the majors at .222.
Strikeout Artist Reliever Dellin Betances piled up strikeouts en route to several records last year. He hit 100-plus strikeouts for the fifth consecutive season in 2018, making him the first reliever to do so in MLB history. Also, Betances got at least one whiff in 44 consecutive appearances during the year, the AL record and second-longest streak in MLB history.
Bronx Benjamin Buttons? Last season was the third in a row that the Yankees’ active roster on Opening Day averaged younger than 30 years old. The Yanks had just one rookie but averaged 28 years, 150 days old, making them the youngest pinstriped club since at least 1993.
Peak Paxton In early May last year, lefty James Paxton had consecutive dominant starts for the Mariners. In one, he struck out 16 while throwing seven shutout innings. The follow-up? A no-hitter against Toronto. Over the combined 16 scoreless innings, he fanned 23 while walking four.
They Have the Power The Yanks set the major league record for home runs in a single season, belting 267 despite not having a single player reach 40. Stanton led the way with 38. That power helped the Yankees finish second in MLB in runs (851) and runs per game (5.25). Only Boston was better.
Slugging Rookies Miguel Andujar tied for the MLB lead among rookies with 27 homers and Gleyber Torres was fourth with 24, making the 2018 Yankees only the fourth team ever with two rookies with at least 24 homers. They joined the 2006 Marlins (Dan Uggla and Josh Willingham), 1961 Angels (Ken Hunt and Lee Thomas) and 1950 Indians (Luke Easter and Al Rosen).
CF Aaron Hicks (S)
RF Aaron Judge (R)
C Gary Sanchez (R)
LF Giancarlo Stanton (R)
3B Miguel Andujar (R)
2B Gleyber Torres (R)
1B Greg Bird (L)
DH Luke Voit (R)
SS Troy Tulowitzki (R)
C Austin Romine (R)
OF Brett Gardner (L)
INF D.J. Lemahieu (R)
OF Jacoby Ellsbury (L)
INF Tyler Wade (L)
RHP Luis Severino
LHP James Paxton
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
LHP J.A. Happ
LHP CC Sabathia
LHP Aroldis Chapman (C)
RHP Dellin Betances
RHP Chad Green
RHP Tommy Kahnle
RHP Adam Ottavino
LHP Zach Britton
2nd AL East