Yankees' success in 2019? Thank former Rockies!

At 73-49, the Yankees own the best record in the American League.  To be honest, I didn’t think this would be the case at the start of the season. Losing Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino—and practically every other Yankee on the roster—was not a good sign to say the least.

But, the club has flourished in 2019, thanks in no small part to three players who spent the previous year with the Colorado Rockies. 

D.J. LeMahieu

New York signed LeMahieu to a two-year, $24-million deal in the offseason.  No one knew what to expect from the All-Star infielder.  He was a former batting champion, having led the National League with a .348 AVG in 2016.  But, 2018 saw his average drop to .276. LeMahieu did hit a then career-high 15 homers last season, but saw some his production as a result of Coors Field.  He hit just .229 in 60 games away from Colorado in 2018. 

There was also the question of where would he play. LeMahieu had just won his second consecutive Gold Glove award at second base, but Gleyber Torres was entrenched at the position.  New York had also signed Troy Tulowitzki and he was named the starting shortstop on opening day. 

LeMahieu wasn’t even in the opening day lineup for Yankees, but it soon wouldn’t matter.  His bat (and glove) put him in the lineup.  He ravaged baseballs as injuries ravaged the ball club.  LeMahieu hit .439 in his first 12 games and became a master defender.  Just look at the different positions he’s started in 2019!

D.J. LeMahieu

Games started by position in 2019

Second Base   54

Third Base       31

First Base        12

LeMahieu’s already set career-highs in home runs (17) and RBI (75).  He was the starting second baseman for the American League in the All-Star Game and is leading the AL with a .333 AVG.  While the AL MVP is all but locked for Mike Trout, LeMahieu deserves to be in the conversation for the award. 

Adam Ottavino

I met Adam Ottavino in the offseason before he signed with the Yankees.  I asked him Star Wars trivia on MLB Network.  He appeared to be a courteous man with tremendous knowledge on a variety of subjects.  To me, any team to sign Ottavino would be gaining a great asset at the back of the bullpen. 

That’s exactly what the Yankees got.  Entering play Monday, Ottavino had a 1.50 ERA in 48 innings pitched this season. That was the best in the American League and second-best in the majors. 

MLB ERA Leaders

For the 2019 Season—Entering Action Monday*

Kirby Yates                 1.18                 Padres

Adam Ottavino           1.50                 Yankees

Scott Oberg                 1.53                 Rockies

Hyun-Jin Ryu              1.53                 Dodgers

Liam Hendricks          1.64                 Athletics
*with a minimum 45 innings pitched this season

What’s especially amazing to me is the success Ottavino is having at Yankee Stadium.  He’s made 31 appearances in “The House That Ruth Built” in 2019, and hasn’t allowed a run in 30 of them. All three runs Ottavino’s allowed at home this season came in one appearance. 

Adam Ottavino

2019 Season Statistics at Home

ERA                            0.95

IP                                28.1

K/BB                           46/16

Opp. AVG                  .165

Opp. OPS                    .537

Only two Yankees in the last 35 years have finished a season with a lower ERA than home than Ottavino’s current 0.95.  Mike Myers had a 0.68 ERA in 2007 and Mike Stanton had a 0.89 ERA in 2001. 

Mike Tauchman

Tauchman went 3-for-4 with two homers against the Orioles on Monday.  He hasn’t been with the club the entire season, but has definitely made an impact.  He’s batting .294 with nine homers, 34 RBI and a .910 OPS in 59 games for the Yankees in 2019.  A former 10th round pick of the Rockies in 2013, Tauchman hit just .153 with no homers, two RBI and a .468 OPS in 52 games from 2017-to-2018.  He was dealt to the Yankees in March for left-handed pitcher Phillip Diehl. 

However, the New York outfielder has really gained steam since the Fourth of July.  He’s batting .438 with five home runs and 20 RBI in 20 games since the holiday. 

I’ll be honest.  I love statistics! And this next one blows my mind.  Entering play Monday, Tauchman has posted a 2.2 wins above replacement (WAR).  Remember, he hasn’t even played 60 games yet this season.  If Tauchman played a full 162-game season, he’d be on pace for roughly a 6.0 WAR.  By comparison, Javier Baez, who finished second in the 2018 NL MVP voting, finished last year with a 6.3 WAR. 

Tauchman’s 2.2 WAR (entering play Monday) was better that some of baseball’s best players.  Keep in mind, these players have played a full season!

Mike Tauchman’s WAR vs. Notable Players

For the 2019 Season—Entering Play Monday

Mike Tauchman          2.2                   58 games played

Paul Goldschmidt       2.1                   110 games played

J.D. Martinez              2.1                   103 games played

Bryce Harper               1.8                   110 games played

Yasmani Grandal        1.7                   105 games played

And it’s not just offense for Tauchman.  He’s among the best defensive outfielders in the American League as well—at least in terms of defensive runs saved (DRS).

American League Outfield Leaders

Defensive Runs Saved—2019 Season Statistics*

Kevin Kiermaier          +13                  750.1 innings in OF

Mookie Betts              +11                  963.1 innings in OF

Aaron Judge                +11                  425.1 innings in OF

Mike Tauchman          +9                    444.2 innings in OF

Byron Buxton             +9                    686.0 innings in OF

 *entering play Monday

 It’s hard to believe these three key contributors to the Yankees weren’t even in the Bronx last season.  They were all in Colorado.  Yet — one way or another — they all found themselves in pinstripes, hoping to forge a legacy as World Series champions.