Despite its disappointing end, the 2010 season had its share of triumphs and memorable moments. In fact, exiting July, the current edition of the Yankees looked at least as strong, if not better than last year’s championship version. Even after going an AL East worst 30-31 over the final two months of the season, the Yankees still came within a game of the league’s best record, not to mention the best run differential in all of baseball (as well as a better run differential than the 2009 team). Ultimately, however, the only way this year’s team will measure up to their predecessor is by winning another World Series. In the meantime, following is a recap of the team’s 2010 regular season performance.
Carrying a Big Stick
For the second straight season and fourth in five years, the Yankees led the American League in runs scored. There were some peaks and valleys throughout the year, but for the most part, the Yankees did not lack for run production, even if it did seem as if leaving runners in scoring position was a team hallmark.
Yankees Offense, by Month
Robinson Cano was the Yankees undisputed MVP, leading the offense in batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, runs above average, wOBA, WAR and WPA. Regardless of what side you take in the statistics revolution, Cano was the Yankees most productive bat in 2010. Not too far off Cano’s pace was Nick Swisher, who offered further evidence that his 2008 campaign was an aberration in a career of well above average offensive production.
Cano’s and Swisher’s production levels were needed because Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez each experienced a down year, based on their relatively high standards. Teixeira sandwiched a strong middle of the season around a very disappointing April and September, and as a result, posted the lowest BA/OBP/SLG/OPS+ since his rookie campaign. Still, however, Tex managed to lead the American League in runs, while belting over 30 HRs and knocking in 100 runs for the seventh consecutive season.
Teixeira’s consistency is certainly impressive, but no one has made hitting 30 and 100 more of an art form than Alex Rodriguez, who accomplished the feat for the 13th consecutive season and 14th time in his career, both major league records. Also like Teixeira, however, Arod posted his lowest BA/OBP/SLG/OPS+ rates since being a rookie. And yet, Arod managed to finish just behind Cano in WPA, suggesting the magnitude of his contribution was greater than the frequency. After years of being maligned as a compiler, Alex Rodriguez has emerged with a reputation as one of the Yankees most clutch offensive weapons, an impression enhanced by his 2010 campaign.
In addition to solid seasons from Jorge Posada, Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson, who after reworking his swing with Kevin Long rebounded from a lackluster first half to post a .411 wOBA in September, Marcus Thames’ contribution was worthy of note. At .288/.350/.491, Thames not only exceeded expectations, but also found himself as a frequent hero, including twice in walk-off fashion.
Over the past 15 years, Derek Jeter’s name has always been at the forefront of any discussion concerning the team’s most important offensive contributors, but this year he found himself in an entirely different conversation. Aside from Francisco Cervelli, Jeter was easily the Yankees least productive regular player, as the future Hall of Fame short stop easily posted the worst season of his career. His rates of .270/.340/.370 were all well beneath his previous lows, and Jeter ranked as a subpar major league hitter for the first time since taking over in 1996. Jeter also posted an abysmal WPA of -1.33, which ranked ahead of only Austin Kearns (which tells you all you need to know about how poorly Kearns played in his two months as a Yankee).
As early as May, I noted a disturbing trend in Derek Jeter’s at bats. Despite still posting a strong OPS of .833, Jeter’s expansion of the strike zone had been very evident. At the time, the Yankee Captain was swinging at a whopping 33.3% of pitches out of the strike zone, which caused me to express some worries. Unfortunately, those concerns proved warranted as Jeter’s production declined significantly over the passing months. As 2010 progressed, Jeter never really corrected his sudden lack of discipline and ended the year offering at 28.2% of pitches out of the strike zone, a problem exacerbated by making contact on nearly 70% of those offerings.
2010 Offensive Production
Note: Pitchers excluded
The Pen Is Mightier than the Starting Staff
After the first two months of the season, the Yankees starting rotation appeared to be its biggest strength, while the bullpen looked as if it would be the achilles heel. By the end of the year, the opposite proved to be true. Over the last two months of the season, the Yankees’ starting rotation ranked as the worst in all of baseball with a cumulative ERA higher than teams like the Royals, Pirates and Brewers. Meanwhile, the bullpen emerged as a model of consistency, even in the face of an increased workload necessitated by the starters’ inability to go deep into games. As a result, the Yankees enter the playoffs with C.C. Sabathia and a deep bullpen, but lots of question marks in the starting rotation.
For the second straight season, C.C. Sabathia led the American League in victories, the only Yankees pitcher to accomplish that feat. Sabathia’s 2009 and 2010 seasons were nearly indistinguishable from each other as the big lefty continued to pay dividends on the Yankees’ big investment in him.
Unfortunately, the team’s other big acquisition from 2009 did not live up to his contract. Instead, AJ Burnett made history of an ignominious kind, becoming the first Yankee to suffer at least 15 losses with an ERA above 5.00. Incredibly, that doesn’t even speak to just how poorly Burnett pitched in 2010. In 14 of his starts, Burnett spit out a game score below 35, meaning the Yankees pretty much had no chance to win half the games he pitched.
Aside from pitching well in June and July, during which he went 6-2 with an ERA of 3.28, Javier Vazquez was another bust. In the first half of the year, Vazquez and Burnett seemed to take turns being the rotation’s sore thumb, but over the final six weeks, both pitchers proved to be a deadly combination.
Before suffering a groin injury, Andy Pettitte was on his way to having one of the best seasons of his career. When he went down on July 18, Pettitte was a sterling 11-2 with a 2.88 ERA. Even more importantly, the Yankees were 15-3 in the games that he started. With the veteran lefty out of the rotation, the Yankees struggled to fill the void, turning to retreads like Sergio Mitre and Dustin Moseley before settling on rookie Ivan Nova. Although Moseley and Nova (particularly the latter) had their moments, neither was able to give the Yankees the consistency needed to stem the tide until Pettitte’s return.
With three-fifth’s of the rotation a crap shoot at best, Phil Hughes emerged as the only relatively reliable starter after Sabathia. To be sure, Hughes suffered his own bouts of inconsistency, including a very difficult June and July, but he turned in a solid 18-8 campaign with an ERA just above the league average. Unlike Burnett and Vazquez, Hughes only had three starts with a game score under 35, which helps explain why the Yankees were able to win 20 of his starts.
2010 Yankees Starters
|CC Sabathia||21||7||3.18||34||237 2/3||20||74||197|
|Phil Hughes||17||8||4.23||29||174 1/3||25||58||143|
|Ivan Nova||1||1||4.91||7||36 2/3||4||14||24|
|A.J. Burnett||10||15||5.26||33||186 2/3||25||78||145|
|Sergio Mitre||0||2||5.93||3||13 2/3||3||4||8|
With the exception of Chan Ho Park, just about everyone who saw a significant amount of innings in the Yankees bullpen proved to be at least competent. With Mariano Rivera being his usual dominant self (and arguably having one of his best seasons before a few September blips resulted in three blown saves), the focus all season was on building a stable bridge to the legendary closer. Although second half improvements from David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain helped to achieve that goal, it was really the emergence of Boone Logan and the acquisition of Kerry Wood that proved most important. Logan finished the season with a 2.93 ERA, but his real value stemmed from an ability to shut left handed hitters down to the tune of .190/.286/.215. Meanwhile, Wood, whose acquisition at the July 31 deadline seemed like an afterthought, shut everyone down. Over his 26 innings as a Yankee, Wood allowed only two earned runs and 14 hits, a level of dominance reminiscent of his days in Chicago.
2010 Yankees Relievers
|Romulo Sanchez||0||0||0.00||2||4 1/3||0||3||5||100.0%|
|Ivan Nova||0||1||1.69||3||5 1/3||0||3||2||90.9%|
|Sergio Mitre||0||1||2.45||24||40 1/3||4||12||21||84.3%|
|Javier Vazquez||2||0||2.70||5||13 1/3||1||4||12||80.9%|
|Dustin Moseley||0||0||3.77||7||14 1/3||3||5||7||87.8%|
|David Robertson||4||5||3.82||64||61 1/3||5||33||71||78.4%|
|Jonathan Albaladejo||0||0||3.97||10||11 1/3||1||8||8||79.6%|
|Damaso Marte||0||0||4.08||30||17 2/3||2||11||12||72.9%|
|Joba Chamberlain||3||4||4.40||73||71 2/3||6||22||77||66.6%|
|Chan Ho Park||2||1||5.60||27||35 1/3||7||12||29||64.8%|
|Royce Ring||0||0||15.43||5||2 1/3||0||2||0||20.0%|