There are two pillars, literally, and figuratively, that have Yankees nation more excited for baseball than it has been for close to a decade. The NL MVP, Giancarlo Stanton, and AL MVP runner-up Aaron Judge (averaging out at 6’7″ and 263 pounds) have moved the talk from Baby Bombers back to the traditional Bronx Bombers and Evil Empire.
If you head to any Bronx street corner or open up Yankees twitter you will immediately hear people shouting “120 wins” or “best lineup ever!” If you keep digging around twitter you will find some not so flattering pictures of me on Halloween but before we get there, let’s talk about this Yankees lineup that has the ability to be the best power hitting team of all time.
Only five teams in the expansion era (1961 and onward) have hit 250+ home runs. Do not be surprised if that amount of teams double in the next decade. With pitchers throwing harder than ever and batters emphasizing launch angle and fly ball percentage we are in for a gluttony of long balls.
The 250+ home run teams are shown below, led by the 1997 Mariners who hold the record at 264 in one season:
Things that should jump off the page to baseball fans immediately? They are all American League teams, (take that little brother!) which makes sense due to that whole designated hitter rule the NL has ignored for nearly five decades. If you don’t know the story behind why the NL does not have the DH, this is a must-read.
The second thing I noticed was that none of these teams won The World Series. Three out of five did not make it to the division series of the playoffs and conveniently 2 of those 3 teams were coached by Buck Showalter…*Shots fired*
Aside of throwing shade at other managers in the division, I wanted to see what these teams had in common with the 2018 Yankees to find out how this group can potentially join the 250 home run club or even pass the 1997 Mariners to become the most prolific home run hitting team of all time.
Batman and Robin, 20+ and 243 = 250
Usually, the title of a paragraph is supposed to help you understand what comes next. I have failed you there but let’s talk about what it means.
Not knowing where to start, my initial thoughts were to check out how good the studs on each team were. How good was the team as a whole? Did the infield or outfield have more of an impact on home run production? Combining these I found most of the answers I was looking for but not in the manner I believed I would.
As shown above, the top two guys on these teams combined for at least 79 homers, with Teixeira and Soriano (two Yankees greats) bringing up the rear for the ’05 Rangers while Griffey and Buhner led the duos with 96 for the ’97 Mariners. Stanton and Judge are the two guys who have the baseball world clamoring about this topic but even if one of them were to get hurt you should still see enough pop from Gary Sanchez, Sir Didi Gregorius or dark horse Greg Bird to get the Yankees top two home run hitters to eclipse 79 home runs.
Infield (including catcher) and outfield (including DH) produced the most predictable outcome. The more infield home runs, the less outfield home runs, and vice-versa. The correlation seemed so direct that I thought the totals looked to be extremely similar. The only 5 teams to eclipse the 250 home run total had their starting lineups total between 243 and 245 home runs. Now, these numbers are not as perfect as I lead you to think because I had to sub in some bench guys for injured players the best I could. I was expecting potential trade deadline guys, September call-ups or reliable backups to play more of a factor then they did. The only team that really benefited from anything of this nature was ’10 Toronto with 22-year-old Travis Snider hitting 14 home runs in 82 games.
Translating further, does that mean I’m saying the Yankees need to have perfect health and everyone hit for power? No, in fact, every one of these teams had injuries that significantly lessened their home run output.
The 1997 Mariners had Jose Cruz hit 12 home runs in 49 games and Alex Cora hit 11 in 149 games.
The 2005 Rangers had the most balanced lineup but still had outfielder Richard Hidalgo who hit 16 home runs in just 88 games.
The 2010 Blue Jays had Alex Gonzalez hit 17 home runs in 85 games and Encarnacion hit 21 in 96 games.
Th 1996 Orioles had a rotation of Hammonds, Murray, Devereaux, Polonia in left field and DH who combined for 29 home runs in 320 games.
The 2016 Orioles had Hardy, Flaherty, Kim, Reimold hit 24 home runs while playing 388 games in the shortstop and left field spots.
Lastly and most obviously, you need a lot of guys to hit home runs (hot take!) to get to 250 and all these teams had 6 or 7 guys hit for 20 home runs. This number was more consistent and more important than the quantity of guys hitting the yabos.
The following Yankees all have 20 home run potential when healthy; Sanchez, Bird, Gregorius, Gardner, Hicks, Stanton, and Judge. Andujar could be a sleeper if he wins the third base job and plays the full season.
2018 New York Yankees
Using all of this, how does it look for our men in pinstripes? The Batman and Robin aspect the Yanks have covered at an all-time level with Stanton and Judge. For them to not hit the 79 number would mean one of them suffered a significant injury, which could put an end to this conversation as a whole. That being said, even a minor injury these guys should still get well into that territory and hopefully give Griffey/Buhner’s 96 a run for their money. I’ll throw out 90 for the pair this season as a conservative number seeing as they combined for 111 last year on separate team.
Now for the 243 number. The rest of the outfield/DH (Gardner, Hicks, Ellsbury/Clint) would need to hit… let’s say… 40 homers. That puts the Yankees OF/DH at 130 total home runs. This would put the Yankees well on course for joining the 250 club.
In the infield (including catcher) the Yankees could have Gary hit 30, Bird 25, Didi 25 for a loose projection of 80 home runs. None of the 5 teams had less than 100 home runs from the infield. (Mariners the lowest with 104) which means we’d like to see at least 20 home runs out of Torres, Andujar, Wade, Torreyes or whoever else may find a way to second and third base. The rookies along with Greg Bird’s health could be the Achilles heel in the pursuit of the ’97 Mariners.
So where does that leave us?
With 130 from the OF/DH and 100 from the INF/C the Bronx Bombers starters would land around 230. Injury replacements and how the 2b/3b positions sort out could be the difference maker from making this an all-time lineup.
Clint Frazier getting some injury time over Ellsbury and Andujar winning the third base job over the less powerful bats of Wade, and Torreyes could be the separation between hitting 250 or not. The other true wild card is first basemen Greg Bird. When healthy he has shown 40+ home run season type potential. Health is a huge factor when discussing Stanton, Judge, and heck even Gary Sanchez when factoring these final numbers as their bats are irreplaceable. If they can have close to full seasons with Bird playing in 120+ games this could be remembered as one of the all-time great baseball lineups.