New York Yankees Analysis: Optimistically the 2021 season could be 1961 all over again

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

With all the questions facing the New York Yankees going into the 2021 season, today, I thought I would take a wildly optimistic look at what the season could look like for the Yankees. The Yankees have the potential to have one of the greatest years in baseball history.

This is an unusual article for me to write because I am a strong believer in Murphy’s law.  And my belief in that law has been pretty well cemented by the Yankee’s performance during the past decade. But also buried in the back of my head is the thought that with a stroke of luck, my Murphy’s law stance could be blown out of the water.

During 1961 the entire baseball world watched the New York Yankees, and it’s two stars that battled the entire season to see who would have the most home runs. As it turned out, Roger Maris beat out Mickey Mantle for the title. Maris had the most home runs ever for any team with 61, and Mantle, who had injuries at the end of the season, ended up with a very respectable 54 home runs.

Continuing with my optimistic approach to the 2021 season, the Yankees could have a year like that this season, and maybe even greater. In 2017 Giancarlo Stanton had 59 home runs and was named the National League MVP. That same year Yankee slugger Aaron Judge burst onto the baseball scene, hitting 52. They hit 111 home runs between the two sluggers, just four short of Mantle and Maris’s feat.

But the Yankees this season could do even better than that. During 2019 Gleyber Torres leads the Yankees with 38 home runs. In 2020 Luke Voit led all of baseball with 22 home runs in a shortened season. That during a normal season beats Stanton MVP year with 59.4 home runs. During 1961 the New York Yankee team hit 240 home runs and won the World Series over the Cincinnati Reds in five games. Putting together the four present Yankee player’s best home run years, it totals 208 home runs without another Yankee hitting a long ball. So, although not realistic, the Yankee could exceed the 1961 season.

But unfortunately, getting back to reality, we get back to Murphy’s law. In order to accomplish the above-described feat, you have to stay on the field to hit those home runs. Also, home runs alone do not win a World Series. Although Mantle was injured a bit more than Maris, they basically stayed on the field. The opposite is true of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. We’ve seen Stanton play a grand total of 41 regular-season games out of the 222 the Yankees played over the past two seasons. Judge was a bit better playing  130 of those games; still, he was off the field 92 games.

There is no question that both of these stars can hit home runs when healthy, even still today. In 2020 Aaron Judge led all of baseball in home runs before he went on the IL. Stanton, for his part, hit a near-record six home runs in the postseason when healthy. I say near-record because those who have hit more only did it because they participated in a World Series that Stanton didn’t.

If you noticed in my slugger totals, I did not include Gary Sanchez, who has the ability to hit 30, 40, or more home runs a season. Unfortunately for Sanchez, other than this year, he can’t stay on the field either.

We have been talking about home runs, but you don’t win a World Series on home runs alone, as I said earlier. You have to have hitters that can get on base to make those home run even more important. And folks, you also have to have good pitching, which at the moment the Yankees sorely lack. The 1961 rotation included Whitey Ford 25-4, Luis Arroyo 15-5, Ralph Terry 16-3, Rollie Sheldon 11-5, and Bill Stafford 14-9.

If anyone believes we can get that pitching production this upcoming season, and can at the same time have a 1961 type hitting year, then my friends, you haven’t heard of Murphy’s law.