I made this point on Twitter earlier today, but since not everybody in the world has had the good sense to follow me yet I figured it was worth expounding on here. The Yankees are the cat's meow right now. They're all that and a bag of chips. They're 18-6 in their last 24 games, at 21-12 they now own the best record in the American League, and they're 4 games clear of Tampa Bay in the division with the chance to put more room in between themselves and the Rays tonight.
With all due respect to Michael Pineda and the ace relief duo of Betances & Miller, this blazing hot run has been driven by the insanely productive top of the batting order. Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira have been the 4 best position players on the team thus far, and that's reflected in all 4 of them currently ranking inside the top 25 in the American League in wRC+. Teix is 10th at 153, A-Rod 12th at 148, Gardner 20th at 138, and Ellsbury 23rd at 133. The only other team that can claim to have that many players sitting that high in the rankings is the Kansas City Royals, and they are unsurprisingly leading the AL Central at 20-12.
What makes that statistical nugget even better is how these 4 guys at the top of the order have gone about generating the numbers they have. They've followed a simple, straightforward, almost stupidly easy formula for generating runs. Get the fast guys at the top of the order on base and into scoring position and have the big boppers behind them come up and knock them in. Who knew, right?
Ellsbury and Gardner currently rank 3rd and 16th respectively in the AL in batting average (.341/.308), 3rd and 15th in OBP (.415/.385), and 1st and 3rd in stolen bases (11/10). You want your table setters to hit for a high average, be on base a lot, and use their speed to get into scoring position when they get on base. Ellsbury and Gardner have been doing that in spades.
Teix and A-Rod currently rank 2nd and 6th respectively in the league in home runs (11/8), 3rd and 15th in RBI (27/20), and 3rd and 7th in slugging percentage (.615/.558). When you're table setters are doing their job and getting into scoring position, you want your top run-producing bats to make sure they drive them in. That's exactly what Teix and A-Rod have done. They don't have the high batting averages, but they make up for it by hitting for a lot of power and driving in a lot of runs. As a result, Ellsbury and Gardner are ranked 2nd and 6th in the AL in runs scored.
Between Teix and A-Rod, they've drawn 37 walks to go with all that power, so the additional baserunners and run-producing opportunities being created for the hitters behind them have been valuable as well. Those hitters have yet to produce as well as Teix and A-Rod have in those spots, but when they have cashed in it's usually meant multiple runs for the Yankees. If they can ever catch up and start to hit with some more consistency, the output potential gets really scary.
It feels a little ridiculous to even have to write this many words about such simple concepts. But in an era driven by advanced metrics, advanced scouting, defensive shifts, strict pitching matchups, and situational mindgames between managers, sometimes it really is about the simplest of baseball ideas. Get on base, get in scoring position, get the runner(s) home. On base, in scoring position, home. The foursome of Ellsbury, Gardner, A-Rod, and Teixeira have been doing that arguably better than any other group in baseball so far, and it's the biggest reason why the Yankees are riding high right now.