As expected, the Yankees broke the single-season home run record last season. It’s usually silly to say a team or a player is expected to break a record, especially a home run record, but once the Giancarlo Stanton trade went down, the expectation was the Yankees would at least challenge the homer record, if not break it. Break it they did.
Here is a real quick recap of the home run records set by the 2018 Yankees:
- Single-season record with 267 home runs, three more than the 1997 Mariners.
- Most players with double-digit homers (12!).
- First team to get 20+ homers from all nine lineup spots.
That last bullet point is insane. Insane. The Yankees did not set the home run record because one or two (or three) players had historic power seasons. Stanton led the team with 38 homers and no one else had more than 27. The Yankees set the record with a deep power attack. They could hit the ball out of the park one through nine.
Despite losing Didi Gregorius for half the season or so, the Yankees are again in position to set a new single-season home run record in 2019. In fact, it’s not unrealistic to think they could shatter the record when you consider everything that worked against them last season. The Yankees hit those 267 homers last year despite …
- Aaron Judge missing seven weeks with a wrist injury (and being ineffective thereafter).
- Gary Sanchez missing two months with groin injuries (and being pretty bad when healthy).
- Giancarlo Stanton having what qualifies as a down season compared to the rest of his career.
- Gleyber Torres spending most of April in Triple-A.
“You get this whole team healthy, we’re going to crush the record that we set last year,” said Judge to Coley Harvey recently, stating the obvious. “We’ve got a good team, a lot of guys that could make a lot of solid contact, and a lot of big boys that when they make contact, man, it goes. We’re a team that’s primed and ready to do that.”
The health qualifier is a big one. We know the Yankees won’t make it through 2019 healthy — Gregorius is already hurt and Aaron Hicks is nursing a back issue — because no team makes it through the season healthy. Injuries are part of the game. The teams that best replace injured players are the teams that usually find themselves in October.
That all said, the Yankees should hit a lot of home runs even when they deal with injuries. Look at last season. Judge and Sanchez combined to play 76 fewer games and hit 40 fewer home runs in 2018 than 2017, yet the Yankees still set the record. This team is not reliant on one or two players. That’s what makes them so dangerous. It’s a deep offense.
From 1995-2017, fewer runs were scored per game in the postseason than the regular season, but homers per game went up. Translation: Home runs were more valuable in the postseason than the regular season. That was not the case last postseason …
- 2018 regular season: 4.45 runs per game and 1.15 homers per game
- 2018 postseason: 4.00 runs per game and 1.08 homers per game
… but last year is the outlier. The ongoing narrative that you can’t hit home runs in the postseason doesn’t jibe with the numbers, yet it persists. Whatever. Hitting a homer is the single best thing a hitter can do in any at-bat and last year the Yankees did it better than anyone. There’s reason to believe they’ll do it better than anyone this year as well.
Obviously the goal is to win games and the World Series, not set home run records, but one contributes to the other. Hit a lot of home runs and you’re going to win a lot of games. With good health, the Yankees very well might shatter last year’s home run record. Even with the usual slate of injuries, they still have a chance to dethrone last year’s record-setting offense.
“So far in camp, everybody’s healthy, everybody’s hungry and working hard,” Brett Gardner said to Harvey. “Yeah, I expect us to have a better year, collectively, and not just me, or Giancarlo or (Greg) Bird or whoever. But collectively as a unit, I expect us to be a better offense and score more runs.”