Before the Yankees landed in Oakland on August 19th, they had just split a four-game set with Cleveland. That series included an abysmal 19-5 loss and a poor performance from CC, Cortes, and Cessa in the other loss. Everyone remained confident in the Yankees, obviously, but there were concerns before a long and difficult West Coast trip.
The trip started poorly–the Yankees were swept by Oakland and their offense was struggling. Fans, myself included, were frustrated. Then came the Dodgers and Mariners.
The Yankees finished their road trip by taking 2 of 3 in LA and sweeping Seattle. And they looked good–really good. Their record on the trip was 5-4 despite starting 0-3. So, how does the trip prove their legitimacy come October? Let’s take a look.
1. They Beat Good PitchingEmbed from Getty Images
Skeptics have said it all year–“The Yankees only beat the Orioles” or “The can’t score against a playoff team”. Well, the Dodgers series showed us the opposite. Of course, there were already numbers to disprove this claim, as James Smyth points out. But regardless, fans got real evidence and impressive performances this past week.
Just how good was their offense against good pitching? Here are Ryu and Kershaw’s lines:
- Hyun-Jin Ryu: 4.1 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, and 3 homers allowed.
- Clayton Kershaw: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, and 3 homers allowed.
- Combined Line: 11.1 IP, 13 H, 10 ER, and 6 homers.
Obviously, the Yanks got to Ryu much more than they did Kershaw. But three bombs off one of the best pitchers in baseball is nothing to be modest about. Going into their starts Ryu and Kershaw’s ERA’s were 1.64 and 2.71, respectively. Both rose after the Yankees came to town – up to 2.o0 and 2.76.
All the talent and numbers pointed to the truth: the Yankees can beat good pitching.
2. Their starters can performEmbed from Getty Images
Many fans are worried about the Yankees pitching. I have written my concerns here a few times. The road trip doesn’t fix those problems, but it does show that they can perform against the best offenses in the league.
In three games, the Dodgers scored only 5 runs. 5! That is impressive. Their lines:
- James Paxton: 6.2 IP, 2 ER, 11 SO.
- CC Sabathia: 4.0 IP, 2 ER, 7 SO.
- Domingo Germán: 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 5 SO
If you tell me that the Yankees played three World Series games in LA and their starters only surrendered 5 runs, I would respond that they won that series.
Another interesting note: their pen didn’t surrender a run in LA. Impressive.
Their starters were also good in Seattle, again allowing only 5 runs in 3 games.
- J.A. Happ: 5 IP, 3 ER, 7 SO.
- Masahiro Tanaka: 7 IP, 0 ER, 7 SO.
- James Paxton: 5.0 IP 2 ER, 4 SO.
Tanaka is the obvious standout here, throwing an absolute gem. When he pitches like that, he truly looks unhittable. Paxton, too, looked good Wednesday afternoon and was able to fight through a loss of control in the fourth inning.
Starting pitching like that can win you a World Series. Especially with a pen like the Yanks behind it.
Aaron Judge.Embed from Getty Images
Well, Judge is back. I think we all knew it was coming, even if some were skeptical. For more analysis on Judge’s hot-streak check out Derek’s brilliant piece. But man oh man is Aaron Judge back.
On the 9-game road trip judge hit 6 homers and a total of 14 hits. And man, they were no doubters–he’s hitting the ball about as hard as I’ve seen him. On the trip, he averaged 95.2 MPH off the bat for an average distance of 258 feet, good for a 68% hard-hit percentage and an expected BA of .359.
I expected to be wow’d when I checked those numbers, but he still somehow surpassed expectations. An xBA that high is very, very good.
Judge’s importance can’t be stated enough. Not just his production–but his impact on the guys hitting behind him–are incredibly important if the Yankees want to make a deep run in October.
Dealing with Adversity
This is one of those things that can’t be quantified. I can’t search for statistics to validate my feelings and prove them to you. But this week showed me that the Yanks can deal with adversity and step up in big situations despite what happened the day–or series–before. Randy touched on an idea like this in his piece about Gardner.
To win in October a team has to have a short memory. Something will happen–be it a grand slam that shouldn’t have been hit, or not catching the ball which leads to a walk-off–something will happen this October that will require a short memory.
Going to Oakland after the Cleveland series wasn’t ideal. Going to LA after being swept was even less ideal. But it didn’t seem to matter. That is the mentality a World Series winner needs.
The successful road trip showed us how the Yankees are built for another ring come October. They can hit – and they can hit against anyone. Their starters can pitch well against good teams. Aaron Judge could carry the offense to number 28. And they have the mentality to do it.