Entering the 2011 season, the New York Yankees knew that they'd have to rely on their lineup to get them back to the postseason.
While the patchwork starting rotation certainly overachieved, it was indeed the offense that led the team to a 97-65 record and an American League East crown.
The Bombers ranked second in baseball in runs and on-base percentage, while finishing third in slugging and seventh in batting average.
What was even more impressive was how the Yanks diversified their offense. A franchise known mostly for the long ball (they led the Majors with 222 home runs), also played a great deal of small ball. New York placed third in the AL with 147 steals—tied for the best stolen base rate (76 percent)—ranked fourth in sac flies and even laid down 36 sac bunts, three more than last year.
In the regular season, the offense definitely earned an A+, but the playoffs, as usual, were a different story. The Yankees once again resorted to station-to-station baseball, stealing only two bases in a five-game ALDS loss to the Tigers and failing to get the runner home from third with less than two outs.
Here are the 2011 grades for the Yankees' position players that had at least 300 at-bats:
Granderson was looking like he had a good shot at taking home the AL MVP until he trailed off in September, hitting just .205 with three homers.
Still, the center fielder had an outstanding year, leading the league with 119 RBI and 136 runs scored. He also ranked second with 41 homers, fifth with a .552 slugging percentage, sixth with a .916 OPS and seventh with 85 walks.
Granderson's new-found ability against left-handed pitching was remarkable, but you have to wonder if it came at the expense of his success versus righties. The 30-year-old hit .272 and slugged .597 against southpaws, but just .258/.531 versus right-handers.
You wouldn't know it from his two tremendous plays in Game 4, but Granderson ranked second-to-last among regular AL center fielders in range factor and had a UZR of -5.1.
If you want to bring it back to the Austin Jackson trade before the 2010 season, Granderson certainly had a better 2011, but, then again, Jackson had a better 2010. Let's see what year three brings.
Cano posted his third straight .300 season and his fifth in the past six years, continuing to establish himself as one of the most-consistent hitters in the game.
The second baseman was only one RBI behind Granderson for the league lead and finished seventh in runs scored (104), ninth in slugging (.533) and 10th in OPS (.882).
He was also one of the few Yankees to keep hitting in October, posting a .318 batting average, two homers and nine RBI.
Cano led AL second basemen in fielding percentage and should be on his way to a second consecutive Gold Glove.
To the chagrin of Jeter haters everywhere, talk of his demise was greatly exaggerated.
Not only did the Captain reach the 3,000-hit milestone with a poetic home run in July and finish the season 20th on the all-time list, but he bounced back from his dismal 2010 campaign to hit a solid .297 with a .355 on-base percentage, 84 runs, 24 doubles and 16 steals.
With ignorant and impatient Yankees fans calling for Jeter to be dropped in the order during the first half of the season, he responded by going .327/.383/.428 after the All-Star break.
Gardner had three great months and three terrible months at the plate, but was tremendous all year long on the basepaths and in the field.
The speedster led the league with 49 steals and his 25.2 UZR was by far the highest among all Major Leaguers—meaning he just might be the best defender in the game.
Gardner was also the most clutch Yankee in the playoffs, hitting .412 with five RBI, but, despite being on base eight times in five games, he didn't attempt a single steal.
The 28-year-old's eight sacrifices were the most of his career, but he's still laying down way too few bunts for a man with his speed.
Teixeira is turning into a rich man's Jason Giambi, and that's not a good thing.
The power is still there (39 HR, 111 RBI), but a guy who was once a .300 hitter has now put up back-to-back seasons of .256 and .248. His on-base percentage has dropped each of the past three years as well, settling in at .341 in 2011.
But the most frustrating part of Teixeira's game is his refusal to go the opposite way or lay down a bunt when batting from the left side and facing a drastic shift.
A-Rod battled through injuries en route to the worst season of his career, but talk of his demise is just as foolish as last year's talk about Jeter's.
How incredibly reactionary do you have to be to completely discount 13 consecutive seasons of at least 30 homers and 100 RBI because of one bad injury-plagued year?
Rodriguez was terrible at the plate in the ALDS, but he was tremendous in the field and is just two years removed from hitting six postseason homers and driving in 18 runs en route to a 2009 World Series title.
You can stop with the tired Mr. May stuff—you sound like an idiot.
As expected, Swisher came back down to earth after hitting a career-high .288 last year. He batted just .260, but still got on base at a .374 clip, thanks to 95 walks—the fourth-highest total in the AL.
If you really want to dub someone Mr. May, it would be Swisher. He went just 4-19 (.211) with five strikeouts and is now a lifetime .169 hitter in the playoffs.
Martin was a definite improvement over 2010's catching corps of Jorge Posada and Francisco Cervelli, but after a torrid start in April, he didn't have much to contribute at the plate.
Martin's .237 average represented the fourth consecutive year in which it has dropped.
Nunez saw plenty of playing time this season, thanks to Jeter and A-Rod going down to injury at various points. While he was a decent hitter (.265), he didn't draw enough walks (.313 OBP), provided almost no power (.385 SLG) and ranked among the worst defensive players in baseball.
While he did improve as the year went on, Nunez's .913 fielding percentage was the second worst in the big leagues among those that played at least 350 defensive innings. Only Mark Reynolds' .897 was worse.
Posada experienced one last resurgence in the playoffs, but the fact remains that, for the past two seasons, he's been worthless.
The veteran hit just .235 and slugged under .400 while going from the Yankees' catcher to designated hitter to platoon DH to bench player in under 12 months.
Along the way, he whined about being dropped in the order—which somehow made him even more of a cult hero in New York.
Posada was a great player for a decade in the Bronx, but he has overstayed his time in the big leagues.