The New York Yankees have considerably improved their offensive production from the last two seasons so far this year, which has lead to a 18-11 record and a +29 run differential. This has mostly been due to the four players at the top of the lineup carrying everybody -- Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, all of whom are playing at an All-Star level.
Ellsbury has just been unconscious for a long stretch now where it seems every at-bat ends in a hit. His .363 batting average and his .438 OBP are both good for second in the AL. Gardner has been almost as good. His OBP is also over .400 (.408) and his wRC+ (145) and wOBA (.385) are exactly identical to Ellsbury's.
This is exactly what the Yankees envisioned when they signed Ellsbury to pair with Gardner. Having two guys atop of your lineup with an OBP over .400 is absolutely lethal. Pair it with the speed and defense they both bring and it's really exciting to watch.
With the table setters doing their jobs, Teixeira and Rodriguez have been proving many doubters wrong and producing in the middle of the lineup like it's 2009 all over again. Ok maybe they haven't been quite that good, but they have certainly been close enough. They drove in all four runs yesterday to give the Yankees the win.
Teixeira is hitting .223/.345/.606/.951 with 10 home runs and 25 RBI. Anybody who looks at the batting average with a .951 OPS, .390 wOBA and 149 wRC+ is just being foolish. Rodriguez has shown that his bat speed is still there and he can hit as many rocket shots as anybody. He's hitting .245/.351/.532/./.883 with seven homers and 18 RBI.
These four players have been a true powerhouse together to start the season, but relying on four guys to provide most of your offense is risky. Ellsbury and Gardner are great, but unlikely to stay this hot. Teixeira and A-Rod may not be able to stay this healthy. What made the Yankees offenses great after the dynasty years from 2004-2012 was consistent hitting from the top through the bottom. You had guys like Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada batting seventh and eighth at times. Even Robinson Cano started down at the bottom early in his career.
The top of the lineup has been covering up for Carlos Beltran, Chase Headley, Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorius providing next to nothing. The only real surprise in that group is Headley, who I expected to have a solid season. His .298 wOBA and 86 wRC+ are way down from 2013 and 2014. I would expect him to pick it up, but the Yankees will start needing production from all these players once the guys up top go through a cold streak. Headley is the only one you can feel good about turning it around.
Fortunately, the Yankees do have some other options. Jose Pirela may hit his way into the lineup soon enough and would provide a very capable bat for the bottom of the lineup. The problem is his defensive range is subpar. Drew would have had a decent chance of getting to that grounder that got past Pirela in Toronto that led to two runs.
Also, Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores are both hitting well in Scranton and could provide some juice to the bottom of the order if called up. The Yankees will start to need more consistent production form everybody to keep up their current pace of winning.