By Margaret Maloney ’23
In 2020, the New York Yankees lost a tough battle against the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Division Series, losing three games to two. The Yankees largely missed out on the World Series last year because of their weaknesses in pitching and hitting. These deficiencies have been accounted for in the offseason and will help lead the Yankees to victory in the World Series in 2021.
On April 1, Yankee Stadium came alive again to watch the Yankees face the Toronto Blue Jays. The game went to 10 innings, and New York fell short with a 3-2 loss. But this first loss of the season does not reflect the potential that the team has to make it all the way. The Yankees’ starting pitcher for this game, Gerrit Cole, has won many games for the team in the past because of his unstoppable pitching.
Sarah Langs of MLB.com puts Cole at the top of tier one in her 2021 starting pitcher rankings. “Cole has 696 strikeouts since the start of 2018, 61 more than any other pitcher in that span,” reported Langs. “He’s posted a sub-2.90 ERA in each of the past three seasons, including a 2.84 mark in 73 innings in his debut season with the Yankees in 2020.”
While Cole did not perform to the best of his ability on Opening Day, this does not mean the rest of his season will continue this way. Gerrit Cole has great potential to be the best pitcher in the league and to carry his team to the World Series in 2021.
Another key player for the Yankees this season is starting second baseman, DJ LeMahieu, who has been their most valuable player for two years running. LeMahieu signed a six-year, $90 million deal with New York in January. He is coming off a season in which he led the American League with a .364 batting average, a .421 on-base percentage and a 1.011 OPS, also pacing the league with a 177 OPS+.
LeMahieu, so far in 2021, has a batting average of .300, a .382 on-base percentage, and a .799 On-base-plus-slugging-percentage, which predicts a very promising season for him as a baseman and as a batter. LeMahieu will play a crucial role in leading the Yankees to the World Series, and considering his performance so far, he will execute to his full potential.
There is much talk of the Los Angeles Dodgers winning for the second year in a row and continuing on their hot streak. However, the Yankees have a retooled roster of talented players, which will allow them to take home a World Series win.
By Ben Bilotti ’23
The common picks to win it all this season are the Dodgers, Yankees, Padres, Braves, Mets, and White Sox. While these are all strong choices, I am going to go a different route. My pick to win the Fall Classic this year is the Philadelphia Phillies, a true “dark horse.”
Simply put, the Phillies were not great last season. In a shortened 60-game season, the Phillies finished below .500 with a 28-32 record. However, this was largely due to a flawed bullpen. Last season the bullpen was historically bad, posting a 7.06 combined earned-run average. That is the second-worst bullpen ERA in Major League history.
The Phillies’ front office recognized this was a clear problem and took action. In the offseason, they acquired Archie Bradley, Jose Alvarado, and Brandon Kintzler, who are all relief pitchers who have had success in the past. The bullpen was not the only area improved, as key pieces were added to the starting rotation as well, such as veterans Matt Moore and Chase Anderson.
It is still early in the season, but, so far, all offseason acquisitions have contributed in a positive manner. These new additions, paired with rotation staples Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Zach Elfin, make up a very serviceable rotation. If all goes well, it could be one of the best in baseball.
The pitching staff is well-rounded and improved, which brings us to the lineup. When everyone is healthy, the Phillies’ lineup is prolific. Players such as Rhys Hoskins, Didi Gregorius, and Andrew McCutchen are all looking to bounce back and contribute. Gregorius and Hoskins have already shown their power strokes are back. The Phillies also have the best catcher in baseball, J.T. Realmuto, who is a top-tier defensive catcher and the best hitting catcher in the game. He can also move down the base paths, proving that he truly impacts the game on all levels.
The Phillies also have Bryce Harper. The narrative over the years is that the $330-million man is overrated. I believe the opposite. Advanced statistics (as well as the eye test) prove that Harper is an above-average player. His average exit velocity, walk percentage, and advanced metrics such as expected batting average all put Harper in the 90th percentile or higher. These statistics are impressive and prove that Harper is going to be a key contributor to the Phillies’ offense.
In the end, even though the Phillies’ odds of winning the World Series to begin the year were very low, I believe they have what it takes to pull it off. Their starters can get quality starts and go long into games. The bullpen has also significantly improved, and the team’s role players look to be filling their spots just fine. When all is said and done, the Philadelphia Phillies will be the 2021 World Series champions.