Yankees' depth continues to produce; Josh Bell is an elite power hitter and everything else we learned this week in MLB
Here's what you need to know from the last seven days of MLB action
We'll be taking a look at the most interesting takeaways every week this MLB season so check back every Sunday for our recap. Now, here's what we learned from Week 9 in MLB:
Yankees depth has them atop AL East
It's really incredible what the Yankees have done in the first quarter-plus of this season. There was a point at the beginning of this season where the Yankees had the most number of players on the injured list (12), in all of baseball. You would think that losing so many of the team's starters would push New York down into a tough spot in the division, but instead the team has rallied behind their reserves and managed to hang onto first place.
Entering Sunday, the Yankees hold a three game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays and they've won seven straight games for their longest winning streak of the season. In the month of May, they've gone 17-5 (.773), and the last time they lost a series was on May 1.
The Yankees aren't just getting by without a good chunk of their starters, they're one of the best teams in baseball. Yes, their rise to the top of the AL East is in part credit to a weaker schedule to start the season, but the bigger focus should be on the fact that this team is loaded with talent. Without stars like Didi Gregorius, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees are getting their best offensive efforts from guys like DJ LeMahieu (team-best 1.8 WAR), Gio Urshela, Luke Voit, Cameron Maybin, Clint Frazier and Thairo Estrada. Paired with sluggers Gary Sanchez (who also had a stint on the IL earlier this season) and Gleyber Torres, the Yankees have hit the fifth-most home runs (81) in MLB. Injuries haven't slowed this team down at all.
It's still early in the season and there's a lot of baseball left to be played but the team's success with their reserves puts the Yankees in a position to have a really good season.
Bell's power surge has him as one of NL's best hitters
The Pittsburgh Pirates are battling their way through a very tough National League Central, and Pirates first baseman Josh Bell is a big reason why the team is staying afloat. Bell (team-best 2.2 WAR) continued his strong start to the season this past week, as he entered Sunday hitting .341/.407/.714 with 16 home runs, 17 doubles, 47 RBI and a league-leading 35 extra-base hits. His 1.120 OPS is second only to Dodgers' Cody Bellinger (1.240), and his OPS this month ranks as one of the best in franchise history.
Bell's 16 home runs are the most homers by a Pirates' player in the first 44 games since Willie Stargell in 1973, and his 35 extra-base hits are the most extra-base hits since Paul Waner in 1932, and his 47 RBI are tied for the third-most RBI in franchise history.
This past offseason, Bell, a switch hitter,His right-handed stance is different than his left-handed, and once he made the adjustments, his timing began to sync up from both sides of the plate.
On May 8, Bell measured 450 feet or longer.He did it again on Wednesday, becoming the first MLB player ever to hit two homers into the river. Bell is the only player with four home runs this season that
Cardinals' inconsistent offense forcing them to climb in NL Central
The St. Louis Cardinals, another team in the NL Central also hovering just above .500, started off the season hot and the team had the best record in baseball on May 1. Since then, the team hasn't been firing on all cylinders and they've fallen to third place (tied with Pirates) as of Sunday. A big part of their standings drop is the team's inconsistent offense. They're capable of scoring 10 runs one game, and then only manage to get two on the board the next game.
In this past week, the Cards offense has struggled to stay consistent even after manager Mike Shildt adjusted and re-adjusted the batting order. The team's scoring 10 runs, and then they're following that up with just two runs on seven hits the next game. St. Louis is averaging 3.53 runners left in scoring position per game, and while that's not the worst in the league, it ranks in the bottom half.
As Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted, the Cardinals have a problem when it comes to generating rallies. More from Goold:
The Cardinals entered Saturday's game with 409 at-bats with runners in scoring position, the fifth-most in the National League and most in the NL Central. They have had 159 of them this month and hit a respectable .252 (40-for-159). But that's misleading. Eleven of those hits came in one game. In the other 20, they're hitting .215 (21-for-135). With two outs and runners in scoring position, their strikeouts spike to one per every 4.11 plate appearances. That's the sixth-worst in the NL and lower half in baseball.
A streaky offense certainly won't get the Cardinals back to the playoffs, they have a talented enough lineup to be competitive but if the offense can't steady itself, they might need to start thinking about an acquisition or two at the trade deadline to help boost their offense. Otherwise, they'll quickly fall to the bottom of their division.
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