It’s said that pitching wins championships, but offense ruled in 2017. If offense ruled, the New York Yankees were the princes of the 2017 season. With the rise of right fielder Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez, the Yankees were a force to be reckoned with and went toe to toe with the eventual World Series Champion Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series.
The Yankees finished the season 91-71 and second place in the AL East. Despite the 91-win, the Yankees still underperformed according the baseball-reference.com pythagorean winning percentage, which had the Bronx Bombers projected at 100 wins based on a +198 run differential.
The Bombers truly lived up to their name in 2017 with an offense that led Major League Baseball with 241 home runs. Of course, Judge led the charge on the offensive assault on the league with 52 dingers, Sanchez followed with 33 bombs of his own. The Yankees ended up finishing second in MLB in runs scored and third in the AL in slugging percentage. Even with the onslaught of homers, New York’s slugging percentage was relatively low because of a severe lack of doubles and triples.
Even with a powerful offense, the Yankees didn’t ride their bats alone to the ALCS, pitching made a significant contribution. Yankee pitchers were excellent at throwing misses and finished the season fourth in MLB in strike outs, but third in strike outs per nine innings. They did an excellent job keeping runners off the bases in general by allowing just 7.8 hits per nine, for the best mark in the AL.
If the Yankees had a bugaboo, it was on defense. Though the defense was good, it definitely wasn’t the strongest area for New York. The Yankees were excellent in defensive efficiency at .703, tied for the top spot in MLB with the LA Dodgers. However, they were average in fielding percentage at .984 with 95 total errors.
The Yankees seem to have taken the approach, “If we’re going to allow runs, we should get somebody who can help us score more run than we’re allowing.” Enter outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees made out like bandits in the Stanton deal by trading second baseman Starlin Castro and a pair of low-level minor leaguers. Stanton led the league with 59 homers en route to his first National League MVP award.
With Stanton standing at 6-foot-6 and Judge at 6-foot-7, the Yankees will trot out a new pair of New York giants, whom opponents will have a hard time taming. Yes, Judge struggled with strike outs last season (he led MLB with 127 fans), but it was his first full season in the league and his strike out rate slowed down toward the end of the season. Despite Judge’s strike outs, the Yankees now have two of the league’s top three outfielders, according to their 2017 positional WAR.
The Yankees finished the season as the princes of MLB offense, but they’ll be looking to finish as kings in 2018 with the Stanton-Judge combination.
Photo by Brigham Berthold