The New York Yankees have had the epitome of an up-and-down season in 2013, and there have been a number of players that have both surprised and disappointed the team.
Entering play on Thursday, the Yankees are 80-72. This puts them 2.5 games back in the American League Wild Card. To make the playoffs before the end of the season (10 more games), they'll have to pass the Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles and either the Texas Rangers or the Tampa Bay Rays. Plus, they'll have to stave off the Kansas City Royals, who also enter play on Thursday at 80-72.
This season has been a wild one in New York. Several strong performances have kept the Yankees afloat while their injured stars have taken time to come back, but a plethora of poor performers have done their best to keep the Yankees away from making the postseason.
Even if the Yankees don't seem like a threat given their inconsistencies, the playoffs are a time for teams to make historic runs. It's unlikely that a team this beaten and bruised can make a run at the World Series, but every playoff team has an equal shot. All the Yankees have to do is get there.
Expect this offseason to be a strange one for general manager Brian Cashman. He'll be looking to make moves to improve an aging, inconsistent team, and expect a huge roster shake up as a result. He'll look for proven guys to make some noise in the rotation and lineup, rather than relying on surprises to carry the load.
Thank goodness for Lyle Overbay, because the Yankees would be nowhere without his production at first base. Even if it wasn't Mark Teixeira-esque, Overbay's production was better than anything they would have gotten from an in-house candidate.
Overbay has hit .247/.301/.405 with 14 home runs, 58 RBI and 24 doubles in 133 games. The last time he played in that many games was 2010 with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Mark Teixeira's injury this season left the Yankees desperate for help at first, and Overbay became available after the Boston Red Sox released him just before the start of the regular season. The rest, as they say, is history.
His bat has been good enough to keep Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi from looking for a permanent replacement, and his glove has been pretty good as well. Overbay is a solid player and reestablished a ton of his value with the season he has put together. He won't be a Yankee in 2014 with Teixeira coming back, but he could find a two-year deal as a free agent this offseason.
The 36-year-old was hung out to dry by Boston, but Cashman took a shot in the dark and got really lucky. His play is arguably the biggest surprise for the Yankees this season.
Phil Hughes has been absolutely terrible this season. Even with the handful of good starts he's had this season, there's no standing by the right-hander anymore. He's a liability every fifth day for the Yankees, and he's a major reason why they aren't closer to a playoff berth.
On the season, Hughes is 4-13 with a 5.07 ERA. Of his 29 appearances, 28 have been starts. It's baffling as to why he's still in the rotation. The David Huff experiment didn't go all that well, but David Phelps is back from injury and Adam Warren can start if need be.
His time in New York is likely up given his impending free agency and horrible inconsistencies, and now he's just wearing out whatever welcome is left.
Even though he posted 18 wins in 2010 and 16 wins in 2012, Hughes hasn't been dominant since 2009. He was a power arm out of the bullpen on a team that won the World Series, but he simply hasn't been able to channel that pitcher in a full-time starter's role.
Other teams may view him as a reliever this offseason, and he may have to settle for a job as a setup man given his terrible showing in 2013. There's still time for him to reestablish value before other major league teams back away, but he needs to start showing that he still has something left in the tank.
The Yankees knew they were getting a useful bat when they acquired Alfonso Soriano in July, but nobody could have predicted the type of production he's given the lineup. For the better part of his time with the Yankees, he has been on fire.
In 49 games with the Bombers, Soriano has blasted 15 home runs and driven in 48. He's also hit .255/.308/.526. To put that into perspective, he totaled 17 home runs and 51 RBI in 93 games with the Chicago Cubs.
Soriano has single-handedly kept the Yankees in the playoff race. He has contributed both early-game leads and timely hits at the end of contests, and he has been able to produce wherever Joe Girardi places him in the batting order.
Soriano will be back in 2014 on the last year of his contract, and it'll be interesting to see how he produces. It may not be fair to expect this type of pace over a full season (and at age 37), but he's posted back-to-back 30-homer seasons. There's still something left in the tank.
If the Yankees indeed pull off a playoff miracle, then expect Soriano to be right in the middle of the charge. In the playoffs, look for him to be a force batting second, third, fourth or fifth.
The Yankees needed CC Sabathia to be an ace more than ever in 2013, and he has failed to deliver ace-like results. On more than one occasion, Sabathia has been lit up by opposing lineups.
Sabathia is 13-13 on the season with a 4.90 ERA in 204.0 innings pitched. If he fails to pick up two more victories, it'll be the first time since 2006 with the Cleveland Indians that he failed to notch 15 victories (12). Also, the 13 defeats he has suffered are a career-high.
Sabathia has allowed 111 earned runs—the most in the American League. He has allowed entirely too many baserunners (1.368 WHIP—the highest of his career), and that directly leads to his high runs allowed total.
The Yankees needed Sabathia to anchor the rotation in 2013. Hiroki Kuroda has done that instead, but even he has suffered some bumps along the way in August and September. The lack of a bona fide ace this season has been detrimental to the team's ability to stop losing streaks and establish winning streaks.
It's hard to win in the postseason without an ace, and the Yankees will face that issue if they're lucky enough to make a run within the next 10 games. Sabathia will get his starts should the Yankees advance, but that's really only out of necessity.
Without the strong starts of Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells this season, the Yankees would not be in the position they are today. As two scrap-heap acquisitions, Hafner and Wells pretty much carried a depleted lineup in the month of April.
Hafner hit .318/.438/.667 with six home runs and 17 RBI that month, but played his final game of the season in July. Injuries derailed his season (much like they've done in his past years with the Cleveland Indians), and his April-like production would have been extremely valuable.
Wells, on the other hand, also mashed in April. He hit .300/.366/.544 with six home runs and 13 RBI. He has been relegated to fourth outfielder duties now that Soriano is in the fold, but Wells gets his hacks here and there. After hitting four home runs in May, Wells did not hit another long ball until August.
Both players looked like Comeback Player of the Year candidates with their hot starts, but it really was unreasonable to expect them to keep up those torrid numbers. Both players are past their primes and hadn't posted strong seasons in at least three seasons each.
Wells will be back in 2014 on the final year of his contract, but expect him to fill the same role he does now. It's not worth throwing into the lineup on a daily basis at this point in his career.
Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter gave Yankees fans hope by making comebacks from injury this season, but ultimately left the fans disappointed when their seasons were cut short by those same injuries. Their usual levels of production were sorely missed.
Teixeira managed to suit up just 15 times, posting a poor line of .151/.270/.340 with three home runs and 12 RBI. The wrist injury he suffered during the World Baseball Classic ended his season, and he'll look to 2014 to make an impact on the Bombers' lineup. A healthy Teixeira will inherently make the team much better.
Jeter, on the other hand, made several attempts at coming back from the gruesome ankle injury he suffered in the 2012 postseason. Overall, he played in 17 games before being shut down by the team. He hit .190/.288/.254 with a home run and seven RBI when "healthy."
There has been serious pop missing from the lineup with Teixeira's absence, while Jeter's health issues have left a leadership void on the team that just can't be replaced. Girardi has done his best to rally the troops and lead his team to victory, but the on-field leadership Jeter gives the Yankees can be matched by none.
In 2014, the Yankees should benefit immensely from having them both back.