The 1927 Yankees are widely considered one of the greatest teams of all time. The term Murderer’s Row was coined by a sportswriter in the pre-Babe Ruth era, but once Ruth and Lou Gehrig came into the fold, the term was much more appropriate. After an expedited rebuild, the Yankees have created a somewhat-cloned lineup 91 years later. They have built, as Brian Cashman would say, the Golden State Warriors of baseball. With the acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees are the first team to lead the Majors in home runs and then acquire that season’s individual homer champ since they purchased Babe Ruth from the Red Sox way back in 1919. But how good can this lineup be? With a world of potential, I decided to look at what optimal production could be for this team. This is NOT a projection. This is the BEST CASE SCENARIO. Most likely, their wOBA’s will be around .02 lower than I have projected (wOBA credits a hitter for the value of each outcome (1B, 2B, HR) rather than treating all times on base equally, like OBP). So let’s take a look at what could be the best Yankees lineup since Ruth and Gehrig.
Travis Sawchick wrote an excellent piece on FanGraphs this past August about how Stanton’s closed stance has impacted his game. Private swing instructor Bobby Tewksbary noted “Stanton has always been a classic Pull Pattern hitter. This means he’ll create separation between his hips and shoulders, but his hands would come forward with his shoulders. He would close off in his stride, but he wasn’t able to delay the hands.” The article mainly pointed out that since about the end of June, the closed stance saw his production go crazy. From June 29th until the end of the season, Stanton, with a career 28.5 K%, struck out only 23.6% of his AB’s and raised his BB% by a significant 2.1%. Stanton had a 178 wRC+, including a .712 SLG%. He put together one of the greatest stretches in history. With 39 (!) home runs during this 84 game stretch, that projects to 74 over a full season. With some regression bound to hit, I say best case scenario is ¾ of what Stanton delivered after his stance change. AKA, a season for the ages.
.290/.380/.660 62 Home Runs, .440 wOBA
In a vacuum, Judge had an MVP caliber season, finishing with the highest wOBA in the sport. Oh, and he was a rookie. It was a season of streaks for Judge. From the start of the season until the All-Star Break, he hit .329 with a 197 wRC+. Unsustainable, obviously. From the ASB to September 1st, he hit a putrid .181 with an 86 wRC+. However, he made his final MVP push in the last month+ of the season, slugging .889 while hitting .311 up until the Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs. Now, Judge isn’t either of these extremes, but it’s clear that he is closer to the MVP version. We have to account for a few things when it relates to Judge. First, he is still developing, so his game should naturally improve just based on the aging curve of great young players. Second, Stanton will create massive protection for Judge and in turn get more pitches to hit. Third, Judge was so god awful for a stretch, that if those numbers are even slightly better, he wins MVP.
.280/.410/.650 58 Home Runs .440 wOBA
Despite playing in only 122 games, El Gary hit 33 bombs. Assuming he plays a full season, accounting for days off, he should hit around 40. Again, a better lineup around the star catcher will give him more pitches to hit, so expect fewer walks and more contact. In addition, Gary raised his launch angle 5.4 degrees from his rookie year, and I expect that number to rise even more as he matures. Gary was fairly level-headed for the season, meaning he didn’t have any awful stretches or monstrous ones, so his projection is a bit easier than Judge’s. He is arguably a better hitter than Jorge Posada ever was.
.290/.350/.550 42 Home Runs .380 wOBA
Bird… is the word. Unlike the other members of Murderers Row 2.0, Bird isn’t as popular a name. But check out this graphic via FanGraphs on Bird’s numbers since coming off the DL with a nagging foot injury.
Bird, Since Coming off DL
“In his pre-DL performance, Bird averaged 87.7 mph exit velocity on his batted balls, but since returning, that mark has jumped to 91.1 mph. For reference, only 13 hitters with at least 100 batted balls averaged 91 mph in exit velocity this year.”
Bird has played in 108 games in his career and hit 23 home runs. Over a full season, that projects to 34 home runs. However, these numbers include the 19 games he played injured this past season. Over the stretch, he hit .100/.250/.200 with 1 homer. Taking those games out, his full-season Home Run projection is 39 long balls. The guy has not played 160 Major League games, so he’s still learning the nuances of the majors. Bird doesn’t have to be the stud everyone projected him to be last March. Instead, he can thrive as the forgotten man in this death lineup.
.275/.370/.550 40 Home Runs .390 wOBA
This lineup is set to mash. This is not a scenario in which the window of excellence is closing. These guys are all either in their prime or are yet to enter it. Combine this with the consistent Brett Gardner, high ceiling Aaron Hicks, and top prospect Gleyber Torres, the Yankees are ready to mash. The 1927 Yankees could have company.
Data courtesy of ESPN, Baseball Reference, Five ThirtyEight, and MLB.com.
Article written by Cameron Levy
Cover Photo Credits: AP Images