The New York Yankees are right where they belong, at least according to fans with season tickets to Yankees games, in first place. This AL East leading team came into the 2011 MLB season with valid criticism of the batting order and the pitching staff. Now, Yankee Stadium, in any incarnation, is no stranger to poor starting pitching, but to assess the offense as “lacking” felt quite foreign to anyone who has followed baseball since the 1990s.
So, why has the Yankees offense bucked those concerns (to date)? Well, combine the unappreciated ascendency of Robinson Cano with the rejuvenated play of Russell Martin and the “swing for the fences” mentality of at least half the batting order and this is a top five offensive team.
Second baseman Cano has been ready to take over as the face of the franchise since 2009. So far the current face, Derek Jeter, has persisted in his late career decline that marred last season. Thus, Cano should emerge as the fan favorite, at least once the nostalgia of rooting for a man struggling to hit .250 wears thin. Cano is hitting .320 with 8 homeruns, 21 RBI, and 18 runs in 24 games. All of those numbers are team leading stats.
Dodger fans fell into hysterical fits across Los Angeles when the Yankees acquired catcher Russell Martin. Martin had been a disappointment the last two seasons, both behind and at the plate. Well, apparently this native Canadian simply needed a return to chilly weather to find his swing. So far he is hitting a very respectable .293 with 6 homeruns. In fact, those numbers are all star worthy for a catcher, so if he is able to remain consistent, Martin should be returning the all star game for the first time since 2008 (and this will not just be a case of Yankees fans stuffing the ballot box!).
As a team the Yankees have hit 43 home runs (through Saturday), this is seven more than the next best slugging team, the Texas Rangers. Of course, to simply state that the Yankees have the best power hitting team in the league does not quite explain why this offense is so potent. New York is in the middle of the pack in terms of batting average, but they are sixth in the league in on base percentage.
As power hitting teams can attest, hitting solo shots does not win games. But make those fence clearing drives worth two or three runs and it is a different story. So, yes the Yankees are more than likely going to be a plodding team with a middle-of-the-road team batting average, but the talent at the plate is patient enough to draw a walk for Cano, Russell, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson to ruin a pitchers day.
The Yankees still have a long way to go before they can safely put the Tampa Bay Rays behind them. Heck the Blue Jays and Orioles have not even completely derailed their seasons yet and the Red Sox still have to make a midseason comeback to make things interesting. However, if this offense is able to continue rolling, then the Yankees team has enough to fire power to keep winning games, even after Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon come back down to Earth and their ERA balloon to above 5.
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