We are 68 games into the 2022 MLB season, and the New York Yankees have been the most dominant team by a decent margin. They have the best record in the MLB at 50-18, six games ahead of the next closest team. They also own the best run differential in the league at +144, which is 24 runs higher than the next closest team.
Simply put, the 2022 Yankees have been historically dominant, and they have a chance to break the franchise record of 114 regular-season wins set by the 1998 Yankees.
The Journey So Far
There are really only two statistics that need to be thrown out here: the Yankees have the best ERA at 2.88, and they score the most runs per game at 5.12. That’s the simple way of putting it. But which players have been the catalyst behind this historic start?
While flipping through the Rolodex of Yankees players, the first player that catches the eye is undoubtedly Aaron Judge. The three-time All-Star is having the best season of his career and has been the best player in the American League. Currently, Judge is slashing .300/.378/644 and leads the league with 25 home runs.
A portion of Judge’s success can be credited to his ability to identify breaking balls, hitting .358 against them this year in comparison to his .269 average last year. He still has strides to make when identifying off-speed pitches, but the way he’s been playing still has him as the odds-on favorite to win the American League MVP.
The off-season re-signing of Anthony Rizzo has also paid off in a major way. Right now, Rizzo’s batting .235, but he’s also driven in 49 runs and has been their most durable player, only missing one game.
Pitching Staff Takeover
With a pitching staff headlined by Gerrit Cole, pitcher Nestor Cortes has been the Yankees’ best option on the mound. Even though Cortes’ cutter was knocked around by the Tampa Bay Rays last night, it’s been his most reliable pitch this year. He’s used the pitch 437 times this season, and batters are 19-for-113 so far.
It’s a much smaller sample size, but Cortes may want to incorporate his sinker more into his game plan with hitters batting 1-for-12 against it. As players get more familiar with Cortes’ repertoire, he may need to pull a few more magic tricks out of his hat.
As a whole, though, the Yankees’ starting pitching staff has been stellar, all posting a sub-3.27 ERA. The Yankees haven’t needed to rely on Cole as much because Jameson Taillon and Jordan Montgomery have helped shore up the middle of the rotation.
The bullpen has been right up there with the starting pitching staff, posting a 2.96 ERA which ranks third in the MLB. Clay Holmes has been the biggest piece out of the bullpen, displaying a 0.55 ERA in 32.2 innings. Bullpens are being used more than usual this season, and the Yankees’ bullpen has been up to the task.
The Road Ahead
If the Yankees do try and break the franchise record for regular-season wins (maybe even the MLB regular season win record set by the 2001 Seattle Mariners and 1906 Chicago Cubs), it’s not going to be easy. They have the 11th hardest schedule remaining in the MLB and play in the hardest division in baseball.
So far, the Yankees have a 21-9 record against teams that are .500 or better and have a record of 25-11 against AL East opponents. They’ve shown up against good teams up to this point, but it remains to be seen if that can continue.
The big question out of all of this is if the Yankees even elect to go for the record in the first place. Management could decide that the record chase would be too stressful on the players’ bodies. The chase could also get in front of the bigger picture: the illustrious 28th championship ring.