All is right in Yankees land. With a half-game lead over the Boston Red Sox for the American East division lead and the best record in Major League Baseball, long forgotten are the early slumps that had so many folks worried in April.
The poster child for those struggles was Giancarlo Stanton, the reigning National League MVP traded from the Miami Marlins to the Bronx over the winter to create one of the most imposing lineups the game has seen alongside Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. His opening weeks as a Yankee was riddled with boos from home fans, an alarming strikeout rate that was the worst in MLB and an average that was under .200.
While Stanton and Judge were predicted to put up 50 home runs apiece in 2018, Sanchez was expected to be the team's best overall hitter, providing an average that could hover around .280 with 30-plus home runs.
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But he too couldn't find his touch at the plate, showing an alarming lack of discipline as his average slumped to .193 over his first 31 games of the season with 35 strikeouts compared to just 13 walks. However, the power was still present as he launched nine home runs.
Regardless, it was evident that Sanchez was pressing at the plate in an attempt to do too much with pitches out of the zone. While he was swinging at 29.7-percent of pitches outside the zone, he was making contact just 57-percent of the time. Since May 9, he's still swinging at 28.9-percent of pitches outside the zone, but he's making contact at a 63.3-percent clip, more than six-percent better than his start to the season.
Over the nine-game stretch beginning on the ninth, Sanchez is batting .393 with three home runs, five RBI and an on-base percentage of .500. He already has seven walks, more than half of the amount accrued in his first 31 games compared to just four strikeouts.
It's something that manager Aaron Boone has noticed and is loving.
"The thing that I'm excited about for Gary is I think the first few weeks, he didn't walk," Boone said (h/t Randy Miller, NJ.com). "I think sometimes he can get so hitterish because he can handle so many pitches. What I'm seeing now is patience, and along with the patience you get into better counts. Now all of a sudden, he gets a mistake, and Gary hits them out of the ballpark when you make a mistake to him... When he's controlling the zone, he's on the short list of deadline hitters, and that's what we're starting to see more and more."