Category Archives: Season In Review

Yanks’ Have What It Takes, But Will It All Come Together?

One month ago, many people including myself were incredibly worried about the Yankees potentially missing the playoffs. The Bombers’ huge ten game lead in the division had dwindled down to one, as the Baltimore Orioles played their best baseball in 15 years. Not only that, but the Yankees themselves were playing absolutely terrible baseball, and many were calling for Joe Girardi’s head.

But by re-gaining some important sidelined players and taking advantage of an easy schedule to end the year, the Yankees came together and wound up making the playoffs and could clinch the A.L. East tonight with a win over the Red Sox. The calendar has now flipped to October, and this postseason is shaping up to be an uphill battle for baseball’s winning-est franchise.

As displayed in September, this Yankees team is not one to be taken lightly, and very easily could the club come together on all aspects and make a fierce run for their 28th world championship. For that to happen, the team will need to play as one unit, consistently producing by way of clutch pitching AND hitting – something we haven’t seen from the Yankees on a nightly basis really all year.

And ironically every time the playoffs roll around, the Yankees go about it saying, “it’s just another game on the schedule”. Yet for the past few years, they’ve played their worst baseball in October. Last year they couldn’t buy a run with men on base; and in 2010 their pitching (besides Andy Pettitte) tanked against Texas in the ALCS. Besides the glorious season of 2009, you can trace every Yankee playoff loss in the past 10 years to a lack of either clutch hitting/pitching, or both in the same series. Don’t even get me started about Jaret Wright or Chien-Ming Wang.

I’m not saying the Yankees lie about their approach to the postseason, but clearly something changes in them over the course of the days following Game 162 and Game 1 of the ALDS. They just aren’t the same Bombers we see throughout the summer.

Maybe this year though, that would be a good thing. No, a great thing.

I’m not saying it’s as simple as the law of averages, but the Yankees really haven’t been the consistent, overpowering force in the American League they normally are each regular season. Sure, they wound up on top of the division again, and you bet they were right there in the standings for the best record in Major League Baseball. But more often than not there was uncertainty and inconsistent play by New York. They’d sweep a series versus a pennant chaser, then lose 2 of 3 to a non-contender. The injuries piled up as well, largely the reason why the Yankees faltered in mid-August and nearly lost a grip on control of their playoff destiny.

Now, the Yankees are a much healthier and complete team then they were. Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira have returned and (for the most part) really haven’t skipped a beat. Not only that, but the past couple weeks the Yankees played some of their best baseball, getting hits with runners in scoring position that aren’t also known as “home runs”. Sure, they still heavily rely on the long ball, but guys who can’t crush a fastball 400 feet every night are learning to be better situational hitters, and looking to rather move a runner to third then trying to score him on one swing of a bat. As I mentioned, hitting with RISP has been the Yankees’ Achilles heel for most of this season and certainly a prime reason for their first-round exit last year. Hitting well now should have some level of a positive impact on how the Yankees swing the lumber as the playoffs begin in a couple days.

Not forgotten is also the pitching staff this year, which has had some streaks of success and streaks of utter failures. As mentioned earlier, the rotation is now re-stocked with the clutch southpaw Andy Pettitte returning from the freak injury he suffered in late June. He’s come back and shown no signs of slowing down, and is absolutely essential to any World Series run the Yankees want to make this year. If he didn’t come back from retirement, the Yankees may not have been back in the postseason.

The other pitchers who haven’t been gone as long – CC, Kuroda, and Hughes, all had solid seasons, Kuroda especially. From May on, he arguably was the ace over a hobbled and inconsistent Sabathia, posting a 3.34 ERA (as of the morning of October 3rd) with 15 wins. Hughes, as I tabbed him the Yankees “Comeback Player of the Year”, looked like his 2010 self here in 2012, hovering around a 4 ERA but putting in a number of quality/dominant outings. More importantly, CC has clearly re-gained his health and strength, as he finished the season with three outstanding starts following an up and down second half of the year.

Say what you want about them, but the Yankees’ bullpen still has many quality relievers who have postseason experience. That’s not something you can say about the Orioles and A’s, of course. It’ll certainly be bittersweet when instead of the Sandman entering, we have Rafael Soriano jogging out to some mamba music in the 9th inning. But he still did a fantastic job as the first successor to the great Mariano Rivera. Sori has been mostly automatic all year for New York, but of course, nothing is certain with closers in the postseason, so all we can do is hope Girardi doesn’t over-use him and he stays fresh enough to produce just as well as he did in the regular season.

The supporting cast, as I like to call them, also had good years, and should be able to transition into the fall. Set-up man David Robertson pitched to a tune of a 2.67 ERA, once again shutting down hitters and building the bridge to Rafi’s entrance in the 9th. Joba Chamberlain has emerged as the Yankees’ 7th inning man, returning back to pumping his 96 mph fastball and getting outs when needed. He’s nowhere near the superstar status he nearly achieved when he first burst onto the scene in 2007, but he’s definitely already had his share of moments in the playoffs and should be able to be relied upon to help the Yankees in those close game situations.

You’d figure the Yankees’ top flight starters of CC, Kuroda, and Andy should be able to get the Yankees to the 6th inning at the very least, but if not, you still have other options out of the ‘pen. Boone Logan, Cody Eppley, and David Phelps can all too contribute to the Yankees’ quest for another world championship.

All in all, this Yankees team is absolutely good enough to win it all. When they are firing on all cylinders, they are a very hard team to beat. The problem is, normally they aren’t. Stranger things have happened in the playoffs before, but the Yankees are going to have to do some quick soul searching and quick rebounding to try and play as a complete team and get those 11 more wins needed, for #28.

Season In Review: Brett Gardner

The New York Yankees are all about power, hence the nickname “The Bronx Bombers.” They did have some speed in the past with Ricky Henderson & Alfonso Soriano but the Yankees weren’t sure what they were going to receive from 5’10, South Carolina native Brett Gardner. They signed him in 2005 and he made his debut on June 30, 2008 against the Texas Rangers. The Yankees knew that he was fast but they also knew that he was a singles hitter so he wouldn’t have much power, but in 2011 Brett Gardner made doubters into believers as he rose to the top with his defense and speed.

Brett Gardner’s season may have ended (almost) like a fairy tale, but it started like

Brett Gardner led the AL with 49 SB even with a slow start on the basepaths.

a nightmare. Gardner couldn’t buy a hit even if he tried, and in the beginning of the season he was caught stealing constantly. Gardner was hitting an abysmal .194 average in the month of April. But when the calendar turned to May, Gardner’s bat changed. Soon it was almost impossible to get him to ground out or fly out, and Gardner was having fun on the base paths having stolen 22 consecutive stolen bases throughout that time period. Gardner had batted .301 in May, .317 in June and .289 in July. Then Gardner started going down again as the season ended, batting a .226 average in August & a .219 average in September. But when Gardner was needed the most, he delivered and that was in the postseason.

Gardner was one of the 3 Yankees who showed some offense in the short postseason run (the others being Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada). Gardner put up a batting clinic with a .412 AVG and a .444 OBP.

Brett Gardner led all of baseball defensively so it's a question to most Yankees fans why Gardner didn't receive the Gold Glove

One place where Gardner never lacked was in the outfield. No matter how bad he was doing on offense, he made up for it with his stellar defensive catches that got fans excited to watch him just track down a baseball. Gardner was so fantastic that he earned himself a Gold Glove nomination. Unfortunately this is where the fairy tale ended for Gardner when he was robbed of a Gold Glove in favor of Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals. But one thing that Gardner did earn was the Fielding Bible award which was bases solely on statistics. Gardner had won the award in 2010 as well as this year. In a recent press conference, Brian Cashman praised the young LF saying that he was “Carl Crawford-like.” I guess the Yankees are glad that they didn’t waste their time with Crawford and put trust in a player that performed better and made less money. How much money? Try approximately #153 million dollars less.

Brett Gardner may not have had the year that he wanted, but he sure played true to himself by having 49 stolen bases (which lead the American League) and a Fielding Bible Award.  So to round it off: Is Brett Gardner streaky? Yes. But does he play like the pro that he is? Yes.

Grading 2011 and Looking Ahead: Bullpen

Mariano - The Greatest just keeps on going

The last part of the team we’ll look at is the bullpen. This was the strongest unit on the team as the pen led the American League with a 3.12 ERA, and was 2nd in OPS against (.677) and K/9 (8.46).

Mariano Rivera

He just keeps rolling along. Another year with a sub-2.00 ERA, his 4th in a row and 8th time in last 9 years.  Mo was consistent all season and finished with 44 saves in 49 chances to break the All-Time record for most career saves with 603.  The Sandman had a 1.91 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 8.8 K/9, 1.2 BB/9 and a ridiculous 7.5 strikeout to walk ratio.  While he doesn’t throw as hard as he did when he was 27, his velocity was actually his highest since 2008 averaging 92.3 on his FB and 91.6 on his Cutter.   Grade:  A

2012 Outlook:  He is signed for one more yr @ $15M and will turn 42 in a month.  We all know he has to fade at some point but until he does he’s welcome as my closer for as long as he wants to pitch.

David Robertson

Maximum extension & follow through is how a 5'11, 180 pounder can blow Fastballs by MLB's best hiters

Robertson began the yr as the man Girardi used in the middle innings to get out of jams.  He did so well in that role he was the natural guy to take the 8th inning role after injuries to Joba & Soriano.  DRob flourished in that role the way he did in every situation Girardi used him in.  He led A.L. relievers in ERA (1.08) & K/9 (13.5) as he used his sneaky Fastball and knee-buckling Curveball to get big outs whenever he needed them.  His only blemish is he still walks a lot of hitters (4.7 BB/9) but makes up for it by getting strikeouts whenever he needs them and inducing a lot of groundballs.  He saw a big 7% increase in his GB rate and his velocity was up 1.2 mph to an average FB of 93.1 MPH.  Robertson showed a filthy Changeup and Cutter at times but his FB/Curve combo is so dominant he rarely needs his 3rd and 4th pitches.  Grade: A+

2012 Outlook: Robertson was one of the best bargains in baseball at $462,450 in 2011.  He’ll see a raise to around $1.5-2M in his first yr of arbitration in 2012.  He’ll have to be in the 8th inning role again and heir to the closers role if Mo ever retires.  With his 4 nasty pitches one can’t help to imagine DRob throwing 200+ IP as a starter but with his max effort delivery and small frame he may be best suited as a 1-2 inning guy.

Rafael Soriano

Didn’t look right in beginning of yr and soon went down with arm injury.  After nearly 3 months on the DL was much better when he returned in August. Finished with 4.12 ERA in just 39.1 ip.  His K rate (8.2) was the same as his dominating 2010 yr in Tampa but his Walk rate more than doubled to 4.1.  Grade: C-

2012 Outlook:  He has an opt-out he won’t exercise so will be back for $11M to pitch the 7th Inning.  Hopefully he will get comfortable in the role as the highest paid middle reliever in MLB. He has the stuff and track record to give the Yanks a shutdown 7th thru 9th inning unit.

Boone Logan

Logan was off to a lousy start through April & May then he lowered his arm angle a little and things turned around for him. After striking out just 7 in his first 13 innings he K’d 39 in his final 28 innings to finish the yr 5-3, 3.46 ERA, 9.9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9.  He was fairly good against lefties but was prone to HRs vs them with a 1.32 HR/9 vs them and 0 HRs vs Righties.  Grade: B

2012 Outlook:  In his 3nd yr of Arbitration he’ll get a small raise on his $1.2M salary and be back in his lefty relief role.

Luis Ayala

Ayala was  a nice find and had a surprising season although he pitched to a lot of luck.  He had a tidy 2.09 ERA but a 4.19 FiP.  He’s not a strikeout pitcher (6.2 k/9) but induced a lot of grounders (50% GB rate) and gave the team 56 quality IP.  for $650,00.  Grade:  B

2012 Outlook:  He was solid but I doubt he’ll be back as the Yanks are loaded with bullpen arms and could insert a younger guy with a higher upside.

Cory Wade

Wade is a feather in the cap of Billy Eppler’s pro scouting department as he was plucked off of Tampa’s Triple A team in late June and was brilliant in New York.  He finished 6-1 with a 2.02 ERA & 1.03 WHIP. While he dominated righties (.541 OPS against) his ChangeUp & Curve were also effective vs Lefties as he held them to a .730 OPS.  Grade:  A-

2012 Outlook:  Wade will definitely be back in the bullpen mix in 2012

Others:  Joba Chamberlain was pitching well with a 2.83 ERA/1.04 WHIP til he blew his elbow out.  His surgery will likely keep him from being effective until around June or later.  Hector Noesi showed some promise while riding the Scranton to NY shuttle and being moved back and forth from starter to reliever.  He may be in the mix as a #5 starter or long man in 2012.  Late inning call-ups George Kontos and Andrew Brackman will be candidates to make the pen in ST as both showed good stuff in Sept.  Cashman will look to bring in a second lefty in the Winter but other than that the bullpen appears set with almost everyone coming back and a lot of young guys looking to make the team.

Mariano Rivera 1 2 1.91 44 61.1 0.897 6.9 0.4 1.2 8.8 7.50
David Robertson 4 0 1.08 1 66.2 1.125 5.4 0.1 4.7 13.5 2.86
Luis Ayala 2 2 2.09 0 56.0 1.268 8.2 0.8 3.2 6.3 1.95
Boone Logan* 5 3 3.46 0 41.2 1.344 9.3 0.9 2.8 9.9 3.54
Rafael Soriano 2 3 4.12 2 39.1 1.297 7.6 0.9 4.1 8.2 2.00
Hector Noesi 2 2 4.47 0 56.1 1.509 10.1 1.0 3.5 7.2 2.05
Cory Wade 6 1 2.04 0 39.2 1.034 7.5 1.1 1.8 6.8 3.75
Joba Chamberlain 2 0 2.83 0 28.2 1.047 7.2 0.9 2.2 7.5 3.43
Scott Proctor 0 3 9.00 0 11.0 2.818 15.5 4.9 9.8 9.0 0.92
George Kontos 0 0 3.00 0 6.0 1.167 6.0 1.5 4.5 9.0 2.00
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Season In Review: David Robertson

Coming into the 2011 season Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman already knew the top 3 guys for the 7th, 8th & 9th inning: Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano & of course Mariano Rivera. Something had changed throughout the year and even though it looked bad, things had gotten better because of one man. Joba Chamberlain had Tommy John Surgery so he wasn’t going to be back for the rest of the year and Rafael Soriano had elbow issues which placed him on the DL. Girardi had to turn to someone in the bullpen and the man he chose was David Robertson.

Robertson in the beginning of the season was only used in the early innings when

New York Yankees relief pitcher David Robertson

pitchers got into trouble, but now he had to take over the roles that both Soriano and Chamberlain were given and put his talents to the test. Of course, D-Rob did not disappoint.  In 2011, Robertson had a 1.08 ERA giving up only 9 runs (8 were earned). In 66.2 innings he was 4-0, allowed 40 hits, 1 HR, 35 BB, 100K and held hitters to a .170 AVG. Robertson was one of the best relievers in the league and did more; he made the trip all the way to Arizona for the 2011 All-Star Game. I remember that game as if it was yesterday. Of course the AL lost but Robertson’s second inning was kind of un-Robertson like. He gave off a lead-off single to former teammate Lance Berkman, got a LONG fly-ball out and then had the “strike em out, throw em out” DP. The only reason I say that it was un-Robertson like was cause I wanted to see more than one strikeout. Was I being a bit too greedy there?

l. to r.: Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin & David Robertson at the 2011 State Farm Home Run Derby

Anyway, Robertson took the role of 8th inning man for Soriano while he was on the DL and let’s just say when Soriano came back there was no 8th inning role for him. What was originally “Chamberlain, Soriano, Rivera” was now “Soriano, Robertson, Rivera”.

David Robertson is not only impressive on the field, but he is fantastic off the field as well. In April the horrible tornado in Alabama hit and Robertson along with his wife Erin started the “High Socks for Hope” fund, where every strikeout David gets gives $100 to the fund. By the end of the year, Robertson earned up to $10,000 after getting 100K’s. Not a bad way to end your year with 100K’s now is it?

What I look forward to in 2012 is more David Robertson, and we are all hoping that the Robertson that showed up in 2011 will show up again in 2012. If there was an award for most effective pitcher on the Yankees, my vote would go straight to this guy right here; #30, David Robertson.

Season In Review: Jorge Posada

New York Yankees DH Jorge Posada

When we take a look back at Jorge Posada’s career, we think All-Star. Yes, Jorge Posada was an All-Star in his 15 years as a New York Yankee, when he first came up on the scene as a backup catcher to now manager Joe Girardi to being a DH in his final year in a Yankees uniform. Jorge has always given the fans something to cheer about. Well, we can say that the 2011 season has been…eventful for Jorge Posada, but it wasn’t exactly how he pictured spending his final year in pinstripes.

In the 2010 offseason Jorge was told that he was no longer the Yankees catcher and he was their new DH. Of course as you can imagine, Jorge Posada had a tough time putting it together. Also during the first Yankees vs. Red Sox showdown at Yankee Stadium, the news wasn’t about the Yankees; it was about Jorge.  Jorge had pulled himself out of the lineup that day after it was told he was going to bat 9th. Of course everyone moved on and Jorge never fussed about it again.

In 2011, it was easily Jorge’s worst year as a Yankee with a .235 AVG, but his power numbers were somewhat there. Posada had 14 HR’s, 44 RBI’s, and 14 2B (he had one 3B but that was during the 2011 postseason). Even though Jorge’s numbers weren’t great, it was easy to forget because Posada had energy in every at-bat that he produced. There was one game that I will never forget with Jorge Posada and it will still be one of my favorite games for a long time. On August 13 (on my birthday) I went to Yankee Stadium to watch the Yankees play. If I had known that Jorge Posada was going to have a 6 RBI day with a Grand Slam I would have paid extra just to watch! But just watching Jorge cap that 6 RBI day in person was magical and I’m glad that it was Jorge out of all the Yankees that did it.

When it was time for the Yankees postseason, only three Yankees stood out from the rest. Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and of course, Jorge Posada. During the postseason, Posada had a .429 AVG while capping a triple. Pretty fantastic huh? I guess that was Jorge Posada’s way of saying, “Hold on, I’m not done yet!”

If that was Jorge Posada’s last year as a Yankee, he has done nothing but make the Yankee name proud for the last 15 years. It was an ultimate pleasure to watch Posada play the game like a ballplayer should. I kind of wished that Posada would come back 1 more year, but that would sound a bit greedy. I guess Posada learned in the final game of the 2011 season was that everyone still loves him and the fans are going to miss yelling, “Hip, Hip! Jorge!” I know I will. So I will end this by saying, thank you Jorge for the memories, we love you and good luck to what the future brings you!