Yanks more dangerous than anyone expected

April 29th, 2017

They've got a rookie outfielder who hits the ball harder than anyone else in the game and a closer who makes throwing 100 mph look routine. They've rallied from eight runs down to win. They play with emotion and grit and are wildly entertaining.

And here's the thing about the New York Yankees: This is a dangerous team. You can see their confidence growing with every victory, with every baseball sailing over the fence.

Which seems to happen about every 20 seconds. OK, we exaggerate. Maybe we're just caught up in watching this team play baseball.

They're the hottest team in the game, winning 14 of 17, thanks to a nice mixture of, well, everything. Youth. Experience. Pitching. Home runs. All of it was on display in a 12-4 victory over the Orioles on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

That one came less than 24 hours after the Yankees won the kind of game that can change a season. In that one, they rallied from deficits of 5-0, 9-1 and 11-4 to beat the Orioles 14-11 in 10 innings.

Special teams win that kind of game, and the Yankees have the best record in the Majors at 15-7, and they lead the Orioles by one game in the American League East. That's the division in which they finished fourth last season and were picked to finish around there again this year.

"We've gotten off to a great start this season, and it's up to us to keep it rolling," left fielder said.

The Yankees lead the American League in home runs (36) and runs (124). They've got the second-best bullpen in the Majors (2.19 ERA) and a rotation that has been plenty solid enough. During this 14-3 run, they're plus-50 in run differential.

Best of all, they've got a brand new star, the kind that can energize fans and players alike. Rookie outfielder hit his 10 home run on Saturday, giving him the most ever for a rookie in April.

He may be the kind of player that lifts a franchise and brings people to the ballpark. He doesn't just hit home runs. He hits home runs that people remember. One of the two he clobbered on Friday was clocked off the bat at 119.4 mph, the hardest-hit ball ever tracked by Statcast™.

No fluke there. Statcast™ credits him with seven of the 21 hardest-hit baseballs this season, including -- wait for it ... Nos. 5, 6 and 12.

Maybe that's why Yankees veteran outfielder called him among the most talented young players he'd ever seen. Others agree.

"I've said all along if he gets the barrel of the bat to the ball good things are going to happen," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, "and that's what he's done."

It's not just him. This was the season the Yankees planned to transition to their kids while remaining competitive.

And here's what has happened: Three 33-year-olds -- third baseman , center fielder and Gardner -- are having renaissance seasons.

And the younger guys, especially second baseman , have been tremendous.

"We gotta deep lineup, man," said Gardner, who homered twice on Saturday. "There's no easy at-bats."

The Yankees are still uncertain how good their rotation is, but their bullpen is good enough that they only need five or six competitive innings from their starter.

After that Girardi can work the matchups to get the ball to his late-inning guys, and .

Chapman is the guy who throws 100 mph. Actually, 101. Statcast™ has clocked 19 pitches at 101 mph or better this season, and Chapman has thrown 12 of them.

Let's face it, the entire sport is better off when the Yankees are competitive. Will this type of dominant play last? No, probably not. The Yankees will ride this wave as long as it last, and when they hit the inevitable speed bump, they may just be a different team, a more confident team, a team that believes it belongs.

When a team begins a season with uncertain expectations, these first weeks of a season are important as players figure out both their team and one another.

What the Yankees have just about figured out is this: They may be way better than anyone thought.

"You think about where we were a year ago in April [8-14]," Girardi said. "We were really struggling. And you think about where we were the first five games [of this season, 1-4]. We were really struggling.

"So it's good to see were playing a lot better and we need to continue to do it. These are important games."