New York Yankees: Russell Martin and Top 10 Surprises of the Last 10 Years

Teresa RocaCorrespondent IIJanuary 19, 2017

New York Yankees: Russell Martin and Top 10 Surprises of the Last 10 Years

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    Despite how well a baseball team is playing during the regular season or how poorly a player is performing, things can change in an instant, making baseball one of the most exciting and enjoyable sports to watch. 

    Throughout the years, the New York Yankees have surprised and stunned their fans. Between game winning grand slams to what seemed like impossible comebacks, the New York Yankees have proved that baseball is always unpredictable. 

    Here are 11 New York Yankees in the past ten years whose surprising contributions still leave us talking about them today. 

No. 11: Phil Hughes

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    Thanks to Phil Hughes' stunning performance in the 2009 season, the Yankees were able to make a season turn around. 

    Coming off of a 6.62 ERA for the 2008 season due to multiple injuries, Hughes overcame this lousy season by posting a 3.03 ERA in 2009. 

    After replacing Chien-Ming Wang on the disabled list, Phil Hughes was called from Triple-A up to the majors to take over Wang's starting position. In Hughes's debut on April 28th against the Detroit Tigers, Hughes pitched six scoreless innings with six strikeouts. His success continued as he pitched the best start of his career on May 25th, pitching eight scoreless innings against the Texas Rangers

    When Wang returned to the rotation in June, Hughes was temporarily moved to the bullpen where he continued to excel as a pitcher for the remainder of the season. 

No. 10: Robinson Cano

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    Despite being placed on the disabled list for a strained hamstring in 2006, Robinson Cano still managed to play the best season of his career. 

    Cano surprisingly returned from his injury on August 8th better than ever before. Cano was rewarded the American League player of the month award for September due to his outstanding performance on the field.

    He ended the 2006 season with an impressive .342 batting average, the third best batting average in the American League. In 482 at bats Cano had 165 hits, 41 doubles, one triple and 15 home runs as he continues to surprise us all.  

No. 9: Jon Lieber

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    In 2002, Jon Lieber recorded a 3.70 ERA in 141 innings pitched, securing the New York Yankees's decision to sign the pitcher for a two-year contract. Unfortunately, Lieber underwent Tommy John surgery in 2003, causing the him to miss the entire season. 

    Would Lieber return to the Yankees dominant or defeated by his surgery? Surprisingly, he returned dominant. 

    In 2004, Lieber posted a 4.33 ERA for the Yankees in 176.2 innings pitched. The starter became the most consistent and reliable pitcher on the team, winning 14 games for the Bombers. 

No. 8: Alfonso Soriano

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    Alfonso Soriano turned out to be a surprising contribution to the Yankees.

    From the time he debuted on the Yankees in 1999 he had always maintained a mediocre and dismal batting average. It was not until 2002 that Soriano finally began to play to his full potential, playing the greatest season in his career.

    Soriano led the American League with 209 hits, 696 at bats, 92 extra base hits, 41 stolen bases and 128 runs. He ended the season with an impressive .300 batting average hitting 51 doubles, two triples and 39 home runs.

No. 7: Brian Bruney

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    Recording an unremarkable 7.43 ERA for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2005, Brian Bruney didn't seem to have much to offer to his team. However, the Yankees signed the reliever anyway. 

    Pitching for the Triple-A Columbus, Bruney pitched hard and proved that he deserved a spot in the major leagues. Bruney turned out to be one of the best relievers the Yankees had in their bullpen in 2006 recording a 0.87 ERA in 20.2 innings pitched, a massive improvement from the previous year. 

    Bruney not only surprised the Yankees and fans once, but twice. 

    In 2008, Bruney tried to redeem himself from his 2007 ERA of 4.68. Despite his foot injury which kept Bruney from pitching most of the season, he returned August 1st better than ever.

    Setup man to Mariano Rivera, Bruney ended the 2008 season with a 1.83 ERA in 34.1 innings pitched allowing 18 hits, seven runs and only two home runs. 

No. 6: Nick Swisher

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    When Nick Swisher was traded onto the New York Yankees in 2009, no one expected him excel as a player as much as he did. 

    In 2008, Nick Swisher was traded onto the Chicago White Sox where he unfortunately struggled, posting a unimpressive .219 batting average. Because of his disappointing performance offensively, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was forced to bench Swisher for most of September. 

    Thankfully, Swisher redeemed himself as a player a year later when he was traded onto the New York Yankees. 

    Using Swisher as a bench player at first, Swisher did not have his debut as a Yankee right fielder until a game against the Baltimore Orioles in April, where he went 3 for 5 with a home run. 

    Due to Xavier Nady's unfortunate season ending elbow injury, Swisher became a regular starter for the Yankees in right field. His performance in 2009 was outstanding. He became an instant fan favorite, maintained a .249 batting average with 29 home runs and surprised all by helping the Yankees make it to the playoffs and later, win the World Series. 

No. 5: Shawn Chacon

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    When Shawn Chacon was traded to the Yankees July 2005 for minor league pitchers Eduardo Sierra and Ramon Ramirez, many disapproved of their decision, especially the media. After all, Chacon finished his 2004 season with the Colorado Rockies recording a 7.11 ERA and although his pitching improved in 2005, fans and the media still were not satisfied about the trade.

    Despite all of the criticism, Chacon proved everyone wrong and pitched the best season of his entire career, recording a 2.85 ERA for the Yankees in 79 innings.

    In his debut start as a Yankee he pitched against the Los Angeles Angels allowing no earned runs in six innings. His success continued in the postseason when Chacon aided a Yankee win in Game 4 of the ALDS against the Los Angeles Angels. Chacon pitched 6.5 innings allowing only two runs, ending his 2005 season with the Yankees marvelously. 

No. 4: Freddy Garcia

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    A week after being denied by Cliff Lee and awaiting Andy Pettitte’s decision on whether he would return to the Yankees or not, Freddy Garcia was a contender for the Yankees' starting rotation.

    Despite his 13-year veteran career, Freddy Garcia’s pitching was not up to par in the slightest bit compared to Pettitte or Lee. However, Garcia has proved everyone who has doubted him that he can pitch like an ace.

    In nine starts, Garcia has pitched in 56.2 innings allowing only 22 runs, eight home runs, 56 hits and 41 strikeouts.

    During the offseason, it was predicted that the Yankees would have a weak starting rotation with only CC Sabathia as a dominant pitcher. However, Garcia has contributed and pitched to his full potential, surprising all. 

No. 3: Aaron Small

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    Aaron Small spent his nine year career bouncing back and forth between the majors and the minors for various teams. 

    In 2004, Aaron Small was apart of the Florida Marlins where he recorded a disappointing 8.27 ERA in 16.1 innings pitched. 

    In 2005, Small became apart of the Yankees minor league, pitching for Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Columbus. It was clear that Small would repeat his trend of performing poorly for his team. However, with injuries plaguing the Yankees' starting rotation they had no other choice but to call Small up to the majors.

    That was one of the best decisions the Yankees made that season. 

    Small became the fourth pitcher in history to win ten games without a loss. He finished his 2005 season going 10-0 with a 3.20 ERA in 76 innings pitched. He allowed only 27 runs, four home runs and struck out 37 hitters. 

    Aaron Small surprising came through for the Yankees when they needed him the most. 

No. 2: Bartolo Colon

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    I was not thrilled when Bartolo Colon was chosen to fill one of the vacant spots of the starting rotation. 

    Why should I have been? Yes, Colon had many impressive and respectable seasons in his 14 years as a pitcher, but his last few seasons were not his best.

    In 2006, the veteran ended the season with a 5.11 ERA and continued to pitch poorly in 2007 with a 6.34 ERA. After taking the 2010 season off and returning to baseball at the age of 38, I had very little faith in Colon.

    However, from the beginning of the 2011 season Colon proved me, along with others, wrong.

    In eight starts, Colon has pitched in 66.1 innings and maintains an incredible 3.26 ERA. He has allowed only 26 runs, 58 hits, eight home runs and has struck out 62 hitters.

    In his most recent game on Memorial Day, Colon helped fans celebrate by bringing in a game win, pitching a complete shutout. In only 103 pitches, Colon allowed four hits, six strikeouts and no walks.

    His contributions to the Yankees so far have been a pleasant surprise. 

No. 1: Russell Martin

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    When the New York Yankees signed Russell Martin it was reasonable to believe that he would not be the most contributive player offensively on the team.

    After all, in Martin’s five seasons on the Los Angeles Dodgers he has never passed the .300 batting average mark. With multiple hitting slumps and a hip injury, which ended Martin’s 2009 season, it seems the New York Yankees had no better option during their difficult offseason.

    However, Martin has surprised all by having one of the most successful early season starts this year.

    Along with adequately filling in Jorge Posada’s catcher position, Martin ended the month of April with an impressive .328 batting average, one of the highest on the team at the time.

    At only 28-years-old, there will hopefully be more surprises to come.