Aaron Judge is off the injured list and back in the Yankees’ lineup. Along with the return of Giancarlo Stanton this week and the recent trade for Edwin Encarnacion, the team’s regular lineup should look something like this:
3B DJ LeMahieu
1B Luke Voit
C Gary Sanchez
SS Didi Gregorius
2B Gleyber Torres
CF Aaron Hicks
Yes, that’s an imposing nine. The Yankees are already averaging 5.52 runs per game, fourth in the majors, but that’s with Judge, Stanton, Encarnacion and Gregorius playing just a combined 43 games so far. It’s not unreasonable to believe this team could score six runs a game the rest of the season.
The last team to do that over a full season was the 2000 White Sox, which I never would have guessed. I would have thrown out the 2009 Yankees or some other Yankees or Red Sox team from the 2000s, or maybe the late ’90s Indians or Mariners. The 2000 White Sox? They only had two regulars — Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez — who slugged .500. They were fifth in the AL in home runs with 216 and third with a .286 average. They hit .300 with RISP, however, and .301 with men on, so they were pretty clutch. Still, not a team remembered as an offensive powerhouse.
Anyway, what makes this Yankees lineup so scary is that all nine regulars are potentially league average hitters or better. Here is each player’s OPS+ over the 2018-2019 seasons:
Gleyber Torres puts the Yankees up 4-1, a two-run shot, homering in his third straight game.
LeMahieu is the only guy below average, but he’s been well above average so far in 2019 with a 117 mark thanks to .314/.360/.466 numbers. Hicks is the one guy struggling in 2019, hitting .194 after beginning the season on the IL.
I don’t know if this will be the greatest lineup ever — let’s see how things play out before we get into that — but it could certainly be the deepest. I checked Baseball-Reference.com to see if any team has ever had all nine (or eight) regulars with an OPS+ of 100 or higher before. Using a cutoff of 400 plate appearances and considering teams in the live ball era (since 1920), we get a few teams that fit the criteria … including one team with 10 players above average.
2009 Angels: 10
All nine regulars — Mike Napoli, Kendrys Morales, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Chone Figgins, Juan Rivera, Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu and Vladimir Guerrero — were above average, as was utility guy Maicer Izturis. Nobody had a huge season — Morales was the team’s best hitter with a .306/.355/.569 line and 139 OPS+ — and the Angels finished second to the Yankees in runs scored (5.45 per game). They won 97 games and lost to the Yankees in the ALCS.
2018 Dodgers: 9
So this just happened! The only hitch is the Dodgers didn’t really have a regular second baseman. Logan Forsythe is listed as the regular on Baseball-Reference, but he had just 211 plate appearances with a 53 OPS+. They also moved guys all over the field, so defining their regulars isn’t easy. They also added Manny Machado, who didn’t meet the 400 PA requirement, but had a 121 OPS+, so he gave them a 10th above-average regular. The Dodgers led the NL with 804 runs (4.93 per game).
2016 Cardinals: 8
This one’s a little tricky as well, as the Cardinals had Matt Carpenter and Jedd Gyorko playing multiple positions. But you could fill out this lineup:
C Yadier Molina: 111
1B Brandon Moss: 106
2B Gyorko: 111
SS Aledmys Diaz: 134
3B Carpenter: 136
LF Matt Holliday: 107
CF Randal Grichuk: 102
RF Stephen Piscotty: 113
The Cardinals did lead the NL in home runs, but were just third in runs (4.81 per game).
1979 Reds: 8
The last remnants of the Big Machine featured a fading Johnny Bench (123 OPS+) and Joe Morgan (107) and slugger George Foster (155). Cesar Geronimo had the most games in center field and had just a 78 OPS+, but fourth outfielder Dave Collins had 429 PAs and a 109 OPS+. They won the NL West, but weren’t really a great offense, scoring just 731 runs (third in the league).
1976 Reds: 8
This team had one of the most balanced offenses of all time, leading the NL in basically every category: runs, home runs, average, OBP, slugging, stolen bases, walks, doubles, triples and fewest strikeouts. The starting eight:
C Johnny Bench: 109
1B Tony Perez: 118
2B Joe Morgan: 186
SS Dave Concepcion: 107
3B Pete Rose: 141
LF George Foster: 141
CF Cesar Geronimo: 125
RF Ken Griffey Sr.: 140
What a lineup. Geronimo had his best season, hitting .307. Bench and Perez had better seasons than this one, but were still above average. Morgan was a beast, the MVP for the second year in a row. They scored 857 runs and averaged 5.29 runs per game in a year in which the league average was just 3.98 per game. By comparison, the AL average in 2019 is 4.79 per game.
1950 Red Sox: 8
This team hit .302 and scored 1027 runs (6.67 per game!). And that’s with Ted Williams playing just 89 games (he had a 168 OPS+ and drove in 97 runs). Vern Stephens and Walt Dropo each drove in 144 runs and Johnny Pesky, Al Zarilla and Dom DiMaggio each had .400-plus OBPs. The only catch: They didn’t have a regular catcher with 400 PAs, although Birdie Tebbetts got the most PAs there and did have a 101 OPS+. They won 94 games, but finished third.
1931 Yankees: 8
Runs were easy to come by in 1931, as the AL averaged 5.14 per game. The Yankees led the way with 1,067 — 6.88 per game, more than a run more than the No. 2 team. The eight regulars all met our criteria: Bill Dickey (119), Lou Gehrig (194), Tony Lazzeri (107), Lyn Lary (113), Joe Sewell (109), Babe Ruth (218), Earle Combs (125) and Ben Chapman (135). With Gehrig (.341/.446/.662, 46 HR, 185 RBI) and Ruth (.373/.495/.700, 46 HR, 162 RBI) leading the way, they’re definitely in the discussion as greatest offense of all time. They finished in second place, however, behind the Philadelphia A’s.
Gary Sanchez connects on a 481-foot homer, his 23rd of the season, homering in his third straight game.
Back to the 2019 Yankees. The impressive thing about this finally healthy lineup is that it isn’t just full of good hitters who barely cross the 100 adjusted OPS mark. You have power throughout, with eight of the nine regulars capable of 25-plus home runs over a full season. Two of the guys have hit 50 in recent seasons. Encarnacion and Sanchez are tied for the AL lead with 23.
In some regards, it reminds of the 2009 Yankees. Eight of the nine regulars posted an OPS+ of 118 or higher. That team hit 244 home runs and scored 915 runs (5.65 per game). Only Melky Cabrera and his 93 OPS+ prevented them from making this list.
Of course, that team is famous for something besides scoring a lot of runs: It’s the last Yankees team to win the World Series.
Credit: Source link