What a stretch of baseball for the Yankees.
After spending most of the season playing frustrating baseball, leaving them with a .500 record as recently as July 4, the Yankees are now in sole possession of the first Wild Card spot.
Not only that, but they have overtaken the Boston Red Sox in the standings by sweeping them in three games after trailing them by 10.5 games a little over a month ago.
Just as the players and front office deserved criticism for the poor performance before, they all deserve praise for the recent good play.
First and foremost, let’s give General Manager Brian Cashman some credit. There was much criticism of Cashman depending on a predominantly right-handed lineup.
He has put together a quality farm system and turned the depth they had in their system into the two most impactful left-handed bats available at the deadline in Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo.
Joey Gallo SENDS IT! ?
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) August 15, 2021
Some might say that problem only existed because it is the roster he constructed, and that is true. But a good general manager does not accept a sunk cost. He identified that problem and solved that and solved multiple problems by adding Gallo and Rizzo.
The defense of this team is completely transformed now. Just as it is not smart to run on Aaron Judge, it is just as dangerous to run on Gallo. That prevents players from taking an extra-base that they used to take earlier in the season, which leads to more runs prevented.
Rizzo is among the best defensive first basemen in the league and is easily the best defender the Yankees have had at that position since Mark Teixeira.
Velazquez ➡️ Rizzo to secure the W. pic.twitter.com/zLbksXagpO
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) August 19, 2021
As Red Sox manager Alex Cora said in his postgame press conference after they were swept last night. The Yankees are a completely different team now than they were earlier in the season.
The pitching has always been there, though; this is arguably the best starting pitching rotation the Yankees have had with this core of players.
Jameson Taillon, Wicked Curveballs. ? pic.twitter.com/g3PTeDrAxE
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 5, 2021
One more thing that is different, the baserunning. The Yankees are stealing bases so much more than earlier in the year. At the All-Star break, the Yankees had about 20 stolen bases in total; they have about 30 since then. They are taking extra bases and not running into outs at a historically bad rate like earlier in the season.
Just as manager Aaron Boone deserved criticism for the lack of fundamental base running techniques at that point, he deserves credit for the turnaround now as well.
There is no indication that these trends will reverse. On top of that, there is still more help on the way. The whole left side of the infield is out right now in Gio Urshela and Gleyber Torres. Torres was red hot with the bat before he hurt his thumb. Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery have just slotted back into the rotation among Jameson Taillon, who has developed into a quality starting pitcher.
Nestor Cortes and Luis Gil have given the Yankees quality innings as well.
LUIS GIL. ELECTRIC. pic.twitter.com/Fheqgpb8Xq
— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) August 17, 2021
There is still the potential of Corey Kluber and Luis Severino returning in some capacity. If they get just one of those guys back performing at a number two-level type of starter, it would be huge for the Yankees.
This is the most excited I have been about the Yankees since 2019.
There is still a lot of season left, and the playoffs are not secure yet, but how could you not be thinking of the possibilities with how this team has looked recently?
Gerrit Cole, Unfair 100mph Fastball. ? pic.twitter.com/eBTu88W5JF
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 16, 2021
If you consider teams like the Chicago White Sox and the Houston Astros legitimate World Series contenders, then you have to consider the Yankees in that group as well, because their record is just a couple of games worse than them at this point, and they have played in the toughest division in the league.
The head-to-head record against those teams is 5-1 against the White Sox and 4-2 against the Astros.
The Yankees are for real, and they are here to stay.
Featured Image: Eric Espada/Getty Images