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No team needed a hot start to the 2024 season more than the New York Yankees. Last year's 82-80 record was the franchise's worst since going 76-86 in 1992, their most recent losing season, and that followed a sweep at the hands of the Houston Astros in the 2022 ALCS. The Yankees went 60-23 to start the 2022 season. After that, they went 121-120 through the end of 2023.

"We understand very well that last year was not anything anyone in this organization wants or demands or expects," manager Aaron Boone said in spring training. "And I would say we have poured into that from ownership to the front office to the coaches and staff all the way to the players, that I do feel we have prepared properly. We are ready to roll. But again, we got to show you."

At 12-4, the Yankees are off to their best start since the 2003 team won 13 of their first 16 games. They've won each of their first five series for only third time in franchise history (also 1926 and 2010). And they've done this all despite not having reigning AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole, who's out with an elbow injury, and without Aaron Judge being himself yet. He has an .821 OPS.

No, the Yankees will not continue at a 122-win pace, but this hot start has boosted their postseason odds. According to FanGraphs, they've raised their postseason odds from 72.0% on Opening Day to 90.8% even after Sunday's loss (CLE 8, NYY 7 in 10 innings). Their AL East odds have climbed from 36.4% to 58.3%. New York has banked a lot of wins -- a lot of needed wins -- early on.

Here are four reasons the Yankees have been able to get off to the hot start they needed in 2024.

1. They have Soto

Juan Soto
NYY • RF • #22
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Might as well start with the obvious. The Yankees responded to their 82-80 finish by trading for one of the game's very best hitters over the winter, and Juan Soto's first 16 games in New York could not be going any better: .344/.468/.541 with three home runs and more walks (15) than strikeouts (10). Soto is the kind of impact lefty hitter the Yankees have lacked since Robinson Canó left town.

GM Brian Cashman called Soto a "transformational bat" after the trade and it's evident watching him play. Soto commands at-bats the way few hitters can and it almost seems like his military-grade plate discipline has rubbed off on the rest of the team -- the Yankees lead the league in pitches per plate appearance. Add one of the best players in the sport, win more games. News at 11.

"He's great," Boone said after Soto went deep in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader against the Cleveland Guardians (via "He's a great, great player. So any time you throw things like that (going deep in 26 of the 30 current stadiums) out there at a very young age, it's not surprising. I'm sure it won't be long until it's 30 out of 30."  

2. Volpe has leveled up

Anthony Volpe
NYY • SS • #11
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Despite being the first Yankees rookie to a) win a Gold Glove, and b) go 20/20, Anthony Volpe had something of a disappointing season in 2023. He slashed .209/.283/.383, and, among the 134 hitters with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, Volpe had the second lowest on-base percentage and the 12th highest strikeout rate (27.8%)

This season, Volpe is slashing .382/.477/.564 with a 13.6% strikeout rate. He won't hit .382 all season, no one does that, but there are reasons to buy into his improvement as a hitter. Volpe re-engineered his swing over the winter and created a flatter bat path, giving him a greater margin of error within the strike zone. The results are obvious:

2023 Volpe2024 VolpeMLB average

Strikeout rate




Walk rate




Swinging strike rate




Chase rate




In-zone contact rate




Volpe's average exit velocity is up as well (88.7 mph to 90.1 mph), so it's not just more contact, it's more hard contact. Some players, when they focus on contact, sacrifice hard-hit ability for the sake of getting the bat on the ball. Volpe hasn't. This is the hitter he was throughout the minors, the one who ranked among the game's very best prospects entering 2023.

"I think it's definitely the swing adjustments he's made," Boone said about Volpe's strong start earlier this month (via the New York Post). "Certainly the experience and his aptitude, baseball IQ. But swing-and-miss was an issue for him last year. As I've talked about since early in the spring, you can clearly see he's worked hard to plug some holes that the league exposed a little bit at times last year."

3. They're playing their regulars more

Aaron Judge
NYY • CF • #99
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Over the last few years the Yankees practiced "load management" as much as any team. They gave their position players regular rest no matter how they were performing at the time. Did you go 3 for 4 with a home run last night? Doesn't matter, today's your scheduled off-day and you're sitting. The Yankees did this with good intentions -- they wanted to keep their players healthy and active -- though it did seem counterproductive at times.

Early on this season, load management has gone out the window. Judge, Soto, Anthony Rizzo, Gleyber Torres, and Alex Verdugo have started every game and Volpe would have too had he not missed a game with an illness two weeks ago. The Yankees have used what can be described as their "A" lineup ...

  1. 2B Gleyber Torres
  2. RF Juan Soto
  3. CF Aaron Judge
  4. 1B Anthony Rizzo
  5. DH Giancarlo Stanton
  6. LF Alex Verdugo
  7. SS Anthony Volpe
  8. C Austin Wells
  9. 3B Oswaldo Cabrera

... four times in 16 games. Those players at those positions in those lineup spots. They've used that lineup four times. They never used a specific lineup more than twice last season, and you have to go back to 2018 for the last time the Yankees used a specific lineup more than four times. They've already done it four times 16 games into 2024.

New York's "A" lineup has a new look now -- Volpe moved into the leadoff spot last week -- so we might not see that lineup above again this season. That's sort of irrelevant though. The point is the Yankees are playing their regulars more often than they did in the past. Once they get deeper into the season and the wear and tear builds up, bet on the Yankees resting their players more often, but, right now, the pedal is on the floor.

4. Rodón is stepping up

Carlos Rodon
NYY • SP • #55
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Carlos Rodón's first season with the Yankees was an unmitigated disaster. He was limited to 14 starts by multiple injuries and in those 14 starts he had a 6.85 ERA. In his final start of 2023, Rodon allowed eight runs and did not record an out against a 106-loss Kansas City Royals team. It was a fitting end to a disastrous season.

Three starts into 2024, Rodón is sporting a 1.72 ERA and the Yankees have won all three of his games. They won only three of his 14 starts a year ago. With the San Francisco Giants from 2021-22, Rodón was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, though 2024 Rodón looks nothing like 2021-22 Rodón. He's changed up his arsenal.


2021-22 with Giants






2023 with Yankees






2024 with Yankees






Rodón was roughly 90% fastballs and sliders during his two years with the Giants, and also 2023 with the Yankees. Now he's incorporated a cutter, giving him another weapon against righties, and he threw 10 changeups in his last start as well. Rodón had not thrown 10 changeups in a start since August 2022. He has more weapons now than he did last year.

"Throwing in that changeup, I feel like he's really pitching now with the four-seamer, the cutter, the changeup, and slider," Verdugo said after Rodón's last start (via the New York Post). "The biggest thing is usually he's a fastball-slider guy so guys can kind of take their chance and open up a little bit more. Because righties, everything's coming into them. Lefties, everything's going away. Just to add that changeup against righties, it humbles and balances it out a little bit. Can't have guys cheating. It just forces them to be a lot more accurate with their barrel. He's been lights out."

To Rodón's credit, he went into the lab after his terrible 2023, and he's come out as a more effective pitcher. The game told him it was time to change things, that the 90% fastballs and sliders approach was no longer working, and Rodón did what he needed to do. With Cole sidelined, the Yankees badly needed Rodón to provide reliable innings, and he's done that so far.

The Yankees have also gotten unexpected contributions from Oswaldo Cabrera, who is hitting .289/.347/.533 at third base while DJ LeMahieu is on the injured list, and Cody Poteet. Poteet allowed one run in six innings in a spot start in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader. Just about everyone they've played this year has performed. Everyone is answering the bell.

Undoubtedly, some of this hot start is illusory -- Volpe won't hit .382 all season, Cabrera won't have a .880 OPS, the bullpen's below average 17.6% strikeout will bite them in a big spot, etc. -- but the Yankees can also reasonably expect more from Judge and Torres moving forward given their track records. Cole recently started a throwing program and is working his way back as well.

It is a long, long season, and the Yankees only need to look back to 2022 to know a hot start doesn't always lead to a successful season. Still, a hot start is better than stumbling out of the gate, and after last season, the Yankees really needed to rack up some wins early. The fan base was restless and the AL East is a grind. After 16 games, things couldn't be going much better.