The evil empire has returned in a major way. The New York Yankees became a championship contender following the trade in which they acquired 2017 National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton, just one month after he won the award. The Bombers won 100 games in 2018 and 103 in 2019, but suffered some setbacks in the next two pandemic compromised seasons. Both were respectable finishes — .550 winning percentage or better — that resulted in wild-card berths.
However, this season, the Yankees are lording over MLB the way that they did in the late 1990s. On Monday, the Yankees won their 50th game, giving them a .746 winning percentage over 67 games, lapping everyone in a way that hasn’t been seen since one of the greatest performances in the history of professional sports.
The Yankees’ start to this season is the hottest since 2001 Seattle Mariners who would go on to finish that season with the best record in MLB history at 116-46. They finished the season 14 games ahead of the 102-60 Oakland A’s. The Mariners tallied their 50th win 64 games into 2001, and held a 19 game lead in the American League West at the 67 game mark (looking back, the A’s — 32-35 —run the rest of the year is almost as impressive.) The Yankees hold a 12-game lead on the 38-29 Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East. Let’s take a look at how these two juggernauts compare to each other at the 67-game mark.
It was June 17, 2001 when they lost an interleague game to the San Diego Padres, 11-9. That loss was only the 15th of the season for the Mariners. At this point they had lost consecutive games only twice. In May it happened at home to the Yankees, who would defeat them in the ALCS. At this point in the 2001 season, the Mariners had scored 417 runs, hit 72 homers, and recorded a .808 OPS. The pitching staff recorded a 3.83 ERA striking out 425 batters and only walking 214, and gave up 78 home runs. Their run differential was +134.
They recorded their 50th win on Monday with a 4-2 win on the road against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees have lost multiple games three times this season, including a stretch where they dropped three games in a row — two to the Chicago White Sox and one to the Baltimore Orioles. As a team the Yankees have scored 344 runs, recorded a .770 OPS, and have hit 111 home runs. The pitching staff has an ERA of 2.84, striking out 620 batters and only walking 170. Their run differential is +147.
In 2001 the Mariners were gazing over the MLB from the top of the space needle while the Yankees, record-wise, are far closer to Earth in 2022. It would be quite the choke job for the Yankees to lose their division lead over the Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays, but with the AL West being so weak this season the Astros could overcome that 8.5 game deficit and top them in the overall league standings. In 2001 the Minnesota Twins were the closest to the Mariners in the American league at 11 games back. The Twins would go on to miss the playoffs that year.
Through 67 games the Yankees have proven to be the superior team to those Mariners. They are playing in a much more competitive division, three teams over .500 as opposed to none, and still have a higher run differential than the 2001 Mariners. The Yankees also have a far superior pitching staff with a team ERA that is nearly a full run better. It’s highly unlikely that the Yankees will meet or exceed that Mariners’ record win total. They’re already behind the pace and many of the teams they face down the stretch will be fighting for playoff berths and positioning.
Still, this run for the Yankees has been remarkable through the first few months of the season. Even if it’s not quite as impressive as the 2001 Mariners, and is far from a guaranteed World Series berth, the empire has clearly struck back.