Willie J. Allen Jr./Associated Press
The New York Yankees are indeed the Bronx Bombers.
Throughout Major League Baseball history, the franchise has cranked out 1,952 more home runs than any other. They’ve led the American League in homers 40 times. The latest entry occurred in 2017, when super-youngsters Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez paced an effort to 241 taters.
And yet it’s appropriate to say the general dinger-loving public hasn’t seen anything yet.
In fact, the Yankees may now be on an explosive path to setting new all-time records in 2018 thanks to the arrival of a 6’6″ home run machine to pair with Aaron Judge.
Just how many blasts will the Yanks hit this coming season? Bleacher Report will dive into the numbers below to figure it out, and pitchers should be downright horrified.
For anyone who’s spent the last few days hanging out in the Mariana Trench, the newest Yankee is a fella named Giancarlo Stanton. Yes, that Giancarlo Stanton. The one who just led MLB with 59 long balls en route to winning the National League MVP.
The Yankees acquired him—and, for anyone scoring at home, $265 million of the $295 million remaining on his kaiju-size contract—over the weekend and officially introduced him Monday.
“I feel sorry for the baseballs,” the 28-year-old slugger said, via the Yankees’ Twitter. “… We’re going to be tough. It’s going to be hard to get through us all.”
He’s right about the baseballs, you know.
The 6’7″, 282-pound Judge is one of few people on earth who can make the 6’6″, 245-pound Stanton look small by comparison. But the power they pack is about equal. They ranked 1-2 in batted balls of at least 110 mph in 2017. Only Stanton hit more 450-foot homers than Judge. The latter took the high-water mark at 495 feet.
Coming the closest to that was Sanchez, who topped out at 493 feet. He also pulled off the not-so-easy feat of upsetting Stanton on his own turf, Marlins Park, in the 2017 Home Run Derby.
Judge and Stanton have the power to join Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle from 1961 as only the second pair of teammates to each top 50 homers. The two of them plus Sanchez would also have an outside shot at becoming just the fourth trio of teammates to each top 40 homers.
The Yankees also have a shortstop in Didi Gregorius who’s coming off a 25-homer campaign. Left fielder Brett Gardner hit 21 homers. Center fielder Aaron Hicks went deep 15 times in only 88 games. First baseman Greg Bird has homered 23 times in 405 regular-season and postseason plate appearances.
In the face of all this power, outrageous possibilities for what the team might achieve must be considered. Up to and including the mother of them all: the single-season home run record.
It’s held by the 1997 Seattle Mariners, who were led to a whopping 264 homers by Ken Griffey Jr. (56), Jay Buhner (40), Paul Sorrento (31), Edgar Martinez (28) and Alex Rodriguez (23).
That’s a lot of home runs. So many, in fact, that even these Yankees face a tall task in getting there.
The 13 hitters on their projected roster, per Roster Resource, combined to hit “only” 228 home runs in 2017. As of Tuesday afternoon, the Steamer projections (via FanGraphs) for 2018 forecasted “only” 249 home runs for the whole team:
Note that this was before third baseman Chase Headley (who hit 12 homers in 2017 and was projected for 15 in 2018) was traded to the San Diego Padres in a deal that brought back only salary relief and outfield depth in the person of Jabari Blash.
That’s no help to New York’s pursuit of the single-season home run record. And there could be other pitfalls later.
Though Judge beat Mark McGwire’s rookie home run record in 2017, his progress was slowed in the second half by a sore left shoulder that required surgery in November. Any ill effects from that procedure could diminish his explosive power.
Bird missed all of 2016 while recovering from shoulder surgery and a good portion of 2017 while recovering from ankle surgery. Stanton, of course, comes with durability questions of his own.
Even if Stanton stays healthy, anyone thinking he’ll get a significant power boost from Yankee Stadium should temper their expectations. Mike Petriello of MLB.com threw cold water on that idea:
Mike Petriello @mike_petriello
If Stanton had called Yankee Stadium home in 2017, the home run difference would have been… maybe nothing at all!
RF is shorter, but he hits everything so far anyway that he had nothing in the “maybe” zone there. https://t.co/umT8AmlYQf
It’s awfully hard, however, to imagine the move to New York hurting Stanton’s power output.
This past year was a fine example of why Yankee Stadium deserves its bandbox reputation. Per Baseball Savant, fly balls and line drives went for homers with greater regularity there than anywhere else:
|Rank||Stadium||HR per FB/LD Rate|
|2||Oriole Park at Camden Yards||12.4%|
|3||Great American Ball Park||12.1%|
|4||Guaranteed Rate Field||11.7%|
|5||Citizens Bank Park||11.6%|
That home-field slugging advantage can only help Stanton and his pinstriped cohorts. And if it’s going to permit anyone to fly above the rest, it’ll probably be Bird.
Albeit in limited exposure, the lefty swinger has showcased extraordinary abilities to keep the ball off the ground (28.4 GB%) while hitting primarily to his pull side (44.8 Pull%). Thus is he a classic fit for a stadium design that’s catered to lefty sluggers since Babe Ruth roamed the Bronx.
So should he stay healthy, Bird can do better than the 28 homers that Steamer projects him to hit next season. Gregorius, a fellow lefty hitter with a Yankee Stadium swing, has already shown he can do better than his projection of 19 home runs. Judge and Sanchez are likewise underestimated by their projections of 37 and 30 home runs, respectively.
If Judge, Stanton, Sanchez, Gregorius and Gardner can repeat their 2017 seasons, the Yankees would get 190 homers out of them. Throw in, say, 30 by Bird. Then follow the Steamer projections for Hicks (18), Ronald Torreyes (five) at second base and Miguel Andujar (1) at third base, plus 13 from a four-man bench of Jacoby Ellsbury (five), Austin Romine (two), Tyler Austin (four) and Tyler Wade (two).
Seth Wenig/Associated Press
That adds up to 257 home runs. That’s really close to a record-busting 265, and it doesn’t require much sleuthing to deduce from whom the Yankees could get extra homers.
Andujar is certainly capable of hitting more than a single homer. Power is the 22-year-old prospect’s calling card on offense, and it’s already taken him as high as 16 homers in the minors.
Fellow top prospect Gleyber Torres, who’s hit as many as 11 homers in the minors, could start over Andujar at third or play alongside him at second base. Standing by for regular playing time in the event the Yankees trade Ellsbury is Clint Frazier, whose power potential far exceeds his minor league high of 16.
Or the Yankees could use the money they saved in the Headley trade to bring back Todd Frazier. He went yard 11 times in 66 games after coming over from the Chicago White Sox in July. All told, he owns 131 homers dating back to 2014.
It may not be a straight one, but there’s enough path before the Yankees to take them to 265 homers and beyond in 2018. As soon as they get there, the 1997 Mariners’ record will fall.
Frankly, it’s about time it did.
Major League Baseball’s infatuation with the home run has generally grown over time, and it reached an all-time high in a 2017 season that produced a record 6,105 home runs. A takedown of the team home run record is the next logical step.
Who better to do it than the team that does dingers best?
Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.