Can the New York Yankees be defused?

The Bronx Bombers are in full force and the pitching was superb. Are the New York Yankees now the favorites to win the World Series?

The ghosts of the Yankees’ past are hard to miss in the Bronx, from Monument Park in midfield to the 27 championship flags flying from the facade. Legendary names like Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle once roamed this hallowed ground, making Yankee pinstripes as synonymous with baseball as peanuts and cracker jacks.

But they are nothing but memories now. Aaron Judge is in attendance, and the Yankees’ 6-foot-7 right fielder quickly gets his own name in the Yankees record book.

Judge made the biggest gamble of his career during the offseason. He bet on himself. Judge was offered a seven-year contract extension at $30.5 million per season, which would have kept him in a Yankees uniform for most of his career. He declined, believing that with a great season there would be even greater fortunes at hand.

It’s a bet that seems to be paying off as Judge and the Yankees have established themselves as the dominant force in the league. The 18-7 Yankees currently have a 2.5 game lead in the AL East thanks to an 11-game winning streak that only ended Wednesday against the Blue Jays and look set to be another flag at Yankee Stadium hoist.

Yankees emerging as World Series favorites

According to WynnBet, the Yankees currently have +1000 odds of winning the franchise’s first title in 13 years, fourth in the league behind the Dodgers, Blue Jays and Mets. Judge has the 5th best odds of taking home the AL MVP award, also at +1000.

In their fifth year under coach Aaron Boone, the Yankees are attempting to end a long drought to even contend for a title. For the first time in a century, before Ruth was traded to New York and changed baseball history forever, the Yankees went a full decade without appearing in a World Series. They lost in wild card play to their rival Red Sox last October, a 92-win year that ended quickly and unworthy. But Boone believes this is a better team than they were a year ago and expects even greater things for the club in 2022.

“Of course I think in every way [are we better]. I think we’re a better, more versatile offense. We run the bases better. There’s no question that we’re better at catching the ball and we have a chance to be a very good defensive team this year,” Boone told YES Network Wednesday before the Yankees’ winning streak ended.

“Pitching was sort of our calling card last year. And yet I feel like we have a better pitching team this year from top to bottom. In every way I feel like we are a much more complete team.”

What to Expect from the Yankees

The Judge is doing his part to fuel the Yankees’ offense. During the 11-game winning streak, Judge hit a .357 with eight home runs and 17 RBI. Giancarlo Stanton added three home runs and hit safely in nine of the 10 games he played during the streak. Judge and Anthony Rizzo both have nine home runs after 25 games in the Yankees season. In the long, heralded history of the Bronx Bombers, only two other pairs of Yankees teammates have ever hit as many home runs at this point in the season: Judge and Luke Voit in 2020 and Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra in 1956.

Yankees batters have the second most balls with exit speeds of at least 100 mph this season, behind the Blue Jays. Judge and Stanton are both in the top-10 in terms of the number of balls hit hard. But for all the power they can unleash, it’s not the Yankees at-bats that have had the biggest impact on the club this season.

The strength of the Yankees of 2022 lies in the number of powerful weapons Boone has at his disposal from the bullpen each night. Yankees pitchers have thrown the most pitches at 95 mph or more this season; only the brewers are even within 100 of them. Ten Yankees pitchers have thrown at least 20 pitches 95-plus so far this season.

Michael King and Clay Holmes joined forces to provide two earned runs in 31 innings. Closer Aroldis Chapman is yet to concede a run in 11 games. The Yankees’ bullpen leads the league with a 2.30 ERA and ranks in the top 10 in strikeouts per nine innings.

The starting rotation led by Gerrit Cole has managed to remain remarkably healthy and dominant. Cole, after struggling with his command in his first three starts, has served 12.2 scoreless innings in his last two games. Left-hander Nestor Cortes Jr., whose mustache makes him resemble a video game character, leads the club with a 1.82 ERA in five starts. Even Luis Severino, who has played in just seven games over the past three seasons, is looking back on his all-star form, his fastball hitting 100 mph.

The Yankees are off to a flying start, evoking images of some of the most notable teams of the past. Now comes the hard part: making it through the rest of the season. The winning streak came mostly from the Orioles, Guardians and Royals, three teams unlikely to be fighting for a playoff spot. The Yankees have yet to play the Rays and have only played three games against the Red Sox.

However, the Yankees clubhouse is confident this team is capable of greatness. Only six times in franchise history have the Yankees had a better record in 25 games; five of those years they won the World Series. In the other, 2003, they lost the Fall Classic to the Marlins in six games. The only other time the Yankees had such a long winning streak so early in the season was in 1939. This Yankees club is arguably the greatest team in baseball history, winning 106 games and being the only team to match their opponents with surpassed more than 400 runs.

That was the year Joe DiMaggio won his first MVP and Lou Gehrig gave his Happiest Man speech. The Yankees will always honor and revere these legends. Judge, Stanton and the rest of the Bronx Bombers of 2022 are on a journey to create their own legend. Can the New York Yankees be defused?

John Verrall

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