Despite a season full of strong performances and happy surprises, the 2018 Yankees were victims of their own high expectations — getting to the ALDS only to wilt against the Red Sox and leave a disappointing tinge to an otherwise successful year.
Behind new manager Aaron Boone, the Yankees battled some key injuries, an unstable starting rotation and lackluster performances by Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird and won 100 games. Along the way, Brian Cashman made key trade-deadline acquisitions in J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn and the Yankees benefited from spectacular performances by rookies Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres, who finished second and third behind Shohei Ohtani in the American League Rookie of the Year voting. With Bird floundering, fans were treated to the Luke Voit experience. After being acquired from the Cardinals, he hit .333 with 14 home runs and 33 RBIs in 39 games for the Yankees.
The Yankees’ hard-hitting outfield did plenty of damage in 2018, though it wasn’t the easiest introduction for Giancarlo Stanton, who faced the gargantuan expectations that come with a 13-year, $325-million contract (the Yankees are on the hook for most of it). Stanton, who was the frequent target of boos early in his tenure, hit .266 with 38 home runs and 100 RBIs — a good season for most but a substantial dip from 2017, when he hit .281 with 59 homers and 132 RBIs for the Marlins. His bash brother, Aaron Judge, missed eight weeks with a chip fracture in his wrist but still managed to hit 27 home runs.
Andujar, Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks also hit 27 homers, helping the Yankees break the major-league record for most home runs in a season. They hit 267, surpassing the 1997 Mariners’ 264.
Hicks, the player whom Boone called one of the “more unappreciated” Yankees, had a breakout year. Along with his home runs, he had a .248/.366/.467 slash line and 79 RBIs.
The Yankees’ infield, meanwhile, continued to be a hub of production. Andujar hit .297 with 92 RBIs, though he struggled defensively. Torres had a blazing-hot start — he was hitting .325 at the end of May — and ended the season with a respectable .271/.340/.480 slash line, 24 homers and 77 RBIs. Gregorius drove in 86 runs and again was spectacular in the field, although he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow and had to undergo Tommy John surgery in October.
The bullpen also was a bright spot: Its 3.38 ERA was fourth-best in the majors. CC Sabathia, 37, proved he still had the ability to pitch at an elite level and re-signed with the Yankees for his final major-league season.
There also were disappointments. Sonny Gray, who came to the Yankees as a potential second or third starter, didn’t even make the playoff roster, amassing a 4.90 ERA and seemingly proving he cannot pitch in New York. Cashman made no secret of the fact that he will be traded, although that hasn’t occurred yet. Sanchez, the victim of either regression or BABIP or injury or all three, hit a woeful .186/.291/.406 and struggled defensively. Luis Severino was dominant in the first half but had problems in the second, though he did bounce back in time for a strong performance against the A’s in the Yankees’ 7-2 victory in the wild-card game.
In the end, 2018 provided moments of great growth for the Yankees and a capable opening gambit by Boone in his first year as a manager. After the season ended in a four-game ouster by the Red Sox, though, it didn’t seem to be quite enough.
Breaking down the 2018 Yankes’ record 267 home runs:
38 Giancarlo Stanton
27 Didi Gregorius, Miguel Andujar, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge
24 Glyeber Torres
18 Gary Sanchez
14 Luke Voit
12 Brett Gardner
11 Greg Bird, Neil Walker
10 Austin Romine
Others: Tyler Austin (8), Andrew McCutchen (5), Kyle Higashoka (3), Adeiny Hechavarra (2), Tyler Wade, Brandon Drury, Shane Robinson.