Yankees on record-setting pace in pursuit of home run history

Mark Townsend
Yahoo Sports Contributor

When the New York Yankees added Giancarlo Stanton to their lineup in an offseason trade with the Miami Marlins, the rest of baseball collectively cringed. An already loaded offense had just added on the National League’s leading home run hitter, which positioned the Yankees to be a homer-hitting juggernaut in 2018 and beyond.

Now that we’ve seen that offense in action for two months, it seems that we actually underestimated their potential by simply labeling them a juggernaut-in-the-making.

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So far, New York’s offense has managed to surpass the massive hype by starting the season on a record-breaking home run pace. Now we’re left to wonder what heights they can realistically reach.

Can these Yankees actually challenge the single-season home run record?

Can they break it?

Could they even shatter it?

Let’s take a closer look.

Which team holds the single-season home run record?

The Yankees are chasing the 1997 Seattle Mariners team, which combined to hit 264 home runs over 162 games. Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. led the way with 56 home runs, which at the time was the seventh highest individual home run total in a single season. It’s now tied for 17th.

Griffey was one of nine Mariners to reach double-digit home runs that season. The other players included Jay Buhner (40), Paul Sorrento (31), Edgar Martinez (28), Alex Rodriguez (23), Russ Davis (20), Dan Wilson (15), Jose Cruz (12) and Joey Cora (11).

What’s the Yankees current pace?

Entering play on Wednesday night, the Yankees had connected on 87 home runs in their first 52 games. That averages out to 1.67 home runs per game. According to MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, if that pace was sustained over 162 games, the Yankees would hit 271 home runs, which would top Seattle’s mark by seven homers.

The Yankees team record is 245 homers set back in 2012.

Aaron Judge (right) is pacing a powerful New York Yankees lineup. (AP)

Can the Yankees actually sustain that pace?

We believe they can, and here’s why.

While there’s not much wiggle room to accommodate an extended team-wide home run slump, this team features enough players capable of going on extended — and even historic — home run tears to offset any such slump.

We’re all well aware of what Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge are capable of. Stanton hit an MLB-leading 59 home runs last season, while Judge hit an MLB-rookie record of 52. Neither is on the same pace this season (Judge has 15 homers, Stanton has 11), but that actually bodes well for the team’s overall pace. Even if both fall short of last season’s numbers, they figure to cover a big chunk of the team’s total.

Beyond them, both Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius have proven themselves capable of pushing 25-30 homers. Both are already in double digits this season. In fact, both are on pace for career highs after hitting 33 and 25 respectively last season.

Then there’s the unexpected source of power. After hitting 24 home runs total in 370 career minor league games, 21-year-old rookie Gleyber Torres has hit nine homers alone in May.

At the present time, the Yankees have four hitters who have already hit double-digit homers. Another four hitters are already halfway there, and that doesn’t include Brett Gardner, who’s hit three homers just this week, and Greg Bird, who just returned from injury. Bird hit 9 homers in less than two months last season.

Based on the current numbers and reasonable projections, it’s conceivable New York will have 10 different hitters hit at least 10 home runs this season. It’s possible half of them will hit at least 25.

Is 300 homers possible?

Let’s not get too carried away.

While we fully believe sustaining the current pace is possible, it’s not going to be easy. We’re assuming good health, which is tough to achieve over the course of 162 games. And we’re assuming younger players like Bird and Torres will be able to the make the necessary adjustments.

It’s more likely this chase will be neck-and-neck all season long, which would leave 300 as a distant dream.

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