Heading into 2013, the Yankees most glaring weakness figured to be their offense. They led the major leagues in home runs in 2012 with 245, and coming into this season 200 of them were gone from the lineup.
Replacing them would be a “past-his-prime” former mortal enemy in Kevin Youkilis, a designated hitter who literally makes jokes about potentially playing the field in Travis Hafner, and Vernon Wells, whose contract rivaled Jason Bay’s in its historic awfulness. Swisher’s 24 dingers is being replaced full-time by Ichiro, who didn’t hit that many home runs in the last three seasons, and Martin is being replaced by a combo of Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart, neither of whom have hit a lick in the big leagues.
So far the Yankees have posted a 4.89 ERA, and a collective 1.714 WHIP. Some of that can be attributed to a bullpen that’s been knocked around some, but Kuroda, Nova and Hughes are sporting a combined 7.07 ERA.
Yet, the Yankees are doing exactly what they need to be doing—treading water. And a funny thing is happening. Despite the injuries and overwhelming presence of retreads in the batting order, the Yankees are once again socking more homers than everyone else.
That’s right, the Bronx Bombers are still cranking balls over the fence—they are tied with the Oakland Athletics for the AL lead with 15 home runs.
Robinson Cano is predictably leading the charge with three, but the entire roster is chipping in. Youkilis, Hafner, and Wells all have two, and six other Yanks have one. They have covered for the spotty rotation work and even shoddier relief pitching.
The Yankees are also tops in the AL in .OPS (.856), runs (49) and total bases (142), while clocking in at fifth in average (.281). Their early season performance has been a bizarro version of what we all expected from them when the season began. This is weirder than Brother Mouzone and Stringer Bell getting together for Finding Nemo 2.
Is it sustainable? Kind of, yeah. A quick look at the roster reveals that it’s full of obvious platoon guys, and Joe Girardi is playing his cards right. Hafner is hitting .333 with both of his homers and all six of his RBI coming against right-handed pitching. Ditto for Wells, who is batting .350 with two home runs and four RBI against righties.
Oh and one other thing…the Yankees are getting real production from Cervelli, who clearly didn’t appreciate getting bumped to the minors by Chris Stewart last season. Cervelli’s swinging a hot stick, hitting .353/.476/.588 with one home run, six RBI and a 1.046 OPS. He almost definitely won’t keep it up to such an extent–historically he’s not a good hitter. But that’s not what’s important.
The key is that he’s hitting right now, which is what the Yankees banked on with Cervelli and the rest of these fringe veterans fighting to keep their careers alive. They bet that they could survive with Hafner and Lyle Overbay raking right-handed pitching. They gambled they could get lucky early with either Cervelli or Stewart.
So far they have, and they’re staying afloat while the stars digest their Senzu beans. They are .500 and crushing weak pitching. They are old, creaky, and scoring runs.
What else is new?