Not even the most optimistic Bronx Bombers fans foresaw a start quite like this. The New York Yankees are 10-3, sole possessors of the best record in baseball, all while Aaron Judge has struggled and Gerrit Cole has yet to see the field.

It's been the definition of a full-group effort to get the Yankees' plane off the ground this smoothly, with a number of surprise efforts uplifting the team in spite of the few things that have gone wrong. This weekend in Cleveland, they'll look to prove they're the clear-cut best team in the American League by beating up on the upstart Guardians, 9-3 themselves to this point.

But even if the Yankees being back on top seems like it was destined to happen all along, it's worth remembering a time when the franchise seemed to be at its low point just a few months ago, before the offseason optimism of the Juan Soto trade kickstarted this surge of good vibes. A lot of things had to go shockingly right to get the Yanks to this point, and here are just a few of them.

Anthony Volpe is having a full-on breakout

At 22, Anthony Volpe was given a full season to make all his rookie mistakes and to his credit, he seems to have gotten all of them out of the way. Volpe slashed just .209/.283/.383, good for just an 81 OPS+, with 167 strikeouts in 159 games.

The signs in Spring Training were encouraging and Volpe was saying all the right things about taking a more measured approach at the plate this season, but it's still been astounding how quickly he's turned all his struggles around. Through the first 12 games of 2024, Volpe is slashing .372/.460/.581 for an incredible 198 OPS+.

Now obviously, we can't expect Volpe to continue to be a top-10 hitter in MLB all season long, but he's passing all the checkpoints any evaluator would have set for him coming into the season. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is drastically improved, he's gone from the 33rd percentile in whiff rate to the 96th and even his sprint speed and defensive metrics have taken another leap forward.

Basically, Volpe looks like he's already becoming the start the Yankees' organization dreamed he could eventually be and it's happened stunningly quickly. Now the conversation begins to shift to what kind of contract it will take to lock Volpe down as a staple of the middle infield for years to come.

Giancarlo Stanton has turned back the clock

 New York Yankees designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton (27) hits a solo home run in the sixth inning against the Miami Marlins at Yankee Stadium.
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

At 34, constantly battling injuries and coming off his first season with a sub-.700 OPS, it was easy to believe that Giancarlo Stanton may be in a full-on decline. His $118 million in guaranteed money through 2027 was being panned as one of the worst contracts in baseball. But if he continues hitting like this, the conversation will take a much different turn.

The new active leader in career home runs (yes, seriously), Stanton has pumped four balls out of the yard already in 2024, including a grand slam and another three-run shot in the series win over the Toronto Blue Jays. His quality of contact and rates at which he makes that contact have ticked back up to near his peak levels when he came up one homer shy of 60 back in 2017.

What Stanton does when he's right changes the entire complexion of the Yankees' offensive attack. Volpe said so himself when asked about it over the weekend, saying “If he goes, we all go… With him being so good, it trickles all the way down,” per

Though some of the peripheral numbers suggest this is unsustainable (4th percentile chase rate and 7th percentile strikeout rate, yikes!), Stanton clearly came into this season motivated to change the narrative. Even if he isn't the superstar he once was, he can make this lineup 10 times scarier by protecting Judge and Juan Soto with the constant threat of a bases-clearing blast.

The Yankees' bullpen is untouchable

This has been a constant of the Yankees' formula over the past decade and it's grown steadily more impressive since Matt Blake was hired as the pitching coach in 2019. The Yankees don't just shut down offenses in the late innings, but they do it with relievers you wouldn't expect to be so dominant. This year, it's been a virtuoso performance by Blake and his cavalry of arms.

The Yankees have a 2.40 bullpen ERA, good for fifth in all of baseball. They've got eight team saves, one more than the second-place Dodgers, with Clay Holmes leading all individual relievers with five. They've done all this despite losing tons of key contributors in the past few seasons, punctuated by the devastating news of Jonathan Loaisiga's UCL tear last week.

It's always the names you don't expect with these Yanks. Nick Burdi, who looked like he might never make it in the show as a 31-year-old career minor leaguer, has yet to allow a run. Ian Hamilton, signed off the Minnesota Twins' scrap heap, has a 2.71 ERA since the start of last season. Caleb Ferguson, an extra arm in the Dodgers' bullpen a year ago, has slammed the door over and over. So it almost doesn't matter who the Yankees put out there–you can be assured they'll get important outs.

Role players are winning games in the clutch

New York Yankees left fielder Alex Verdugo (24) reacts after hitting a solo home run during the second inning against the Miami Marlins at Yankee Stadium
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The true hallmark of a great team is getting unexpected contributions from less heralded players when games are on the line. And the 2024 Yankees have thus far gotten that in spades.

Oswaldo Cabrera hit two game-tying home runs in the opening sweep of the Astros, after only starting the season in a starting role due to the injury to DJ LeMahieu. Alex Verdugo has two game-winning home runs to his credit, despite an otherwise slow start. And the Yankees as a whole are 5-0 in one-run games, the best record in the league already by a wide margin.

So for everything that went wrong for the Yankees a year ago, it seems like more is already going right in just two weeks of action in 2024. Nothing is ever for certain in this crazy sport, but it appears these Yanks just might have the right mix of star power and timely contributions to make it a season to remember in the boogie-down Bronx.