New York Yankees: 10 Things We Learned About the Yankees This Season
Since winning the World Series in 2009, the Yankees have yet to get past the ALCS; they have a combined two American League Championship Series wins in the past three years.
With the most recent sweep by the Detriot Tigers fresh in the minds of many New York fans, it might be tough to look past their playoff struggles and see what the 2012 Yankees really did.
The Bombers won the American League East Pennant with an American League leading 95 wins. They scored the second most runs in baseball with 808 and led all of baseball with 245 home runs.
On the mound, New York ranked 12th in the league with a 3.85 team earned run average and closer Rafael Soriano tied for third most saves in baseball with 42.
But the numbers only tell one side of the story, and if we solely look at these numbers it looks like the Yankees were a consistent team with a powerful offense capable of putting up runs.
Obviously in the playoffs this was not the case, with New York combining for only 22 hits and six runs in the ALCS.
So what can we learn out of this season that had more ups and downs than a roller coaster?
A lot, actually and in fact with contracts expiring and players getting older, the Yankee Universe is starting to change.
We Will Never See the MVP ARod Again
Since 2007 when he was the American League’s Most Valuable Player, Alex Rodriguez’s numbers have slowly been declining.
This season Rodriguez’s lack of production was heavily publicized all season, and especially in the playoffs.
The fact is that with the third baseman turning 37 next year, he will not be returning to the All-Star form he was in when the Yankees signed him.
Joe Girardi made it pretty clear that A-Rod isn’t near the player he once was by platooning him with Eric Chavez at third base in the playoffs.
We all know how utterly ridiculous Rodriguez’s contract is and that no matter what he will not live up to the money he’s being paid.
But don’t lose sight of the fact that his age (and possibly past use of steroids) is breaking down his body, and the production will never return to where it once was.
Jeter Is Getting Old Fast
At 38 years old, Derek Jeter had the most at-bats of his career and the second most hits of his career, and his batting average was the highest its been since 2009.
For the entire season, it seemed like Jeter was defying father time and for a while he was. People seemed to forget his age while he raked at the plate and only committed 10 errors all year.
But when Jeter went down with a broken ankle, all of that seemed to come crashing down. All of a sudden the ageless shortstop started to look a little older, hobbling off the field with former teammate turned manager Joe Girardi.
The sad fact for many Yankees fans resurfaced, that the captain’s days are numbered at shortstop for the Bombers.
This year Jeter was the designated hitter in 25 games; from 1995 to 2011 Jeter had been a DH in 29 games total.
Jeter has shown us this year that he can still produce during the twilight of his career, but we were all reminded that he won’t be around forever.
Gardner Is a Big Part of the Team
Although Brett Gardner only played in 16 games this season, his absence has shown how integral he is to New York.
In his first three years as a regular player for the Yankees, the outfielder hasn’t hit over .300 and only has 15 home runs total.
But what he brings to the table is hard to describe with numbers.
Gardner has game-changing speed both on the bases and in the field; between 2009 and 2011, he has stolen 122 bases.
This year the Yankees only stole 93 bases as a team, compared to 2011 when they swiped 147 bags.
With Gardner out the Yankees needed to go out and find a replacement for the hole he left in left field.
Gardner is in the prime of his career right now, and if he can stay healthy his role will continue to grow.
Cano Still Needs to Get Better
For the past few years, we have all been told of how good a hitter Robinson Cano is and with good reason.
Since 2009, the second baseman has hit over .300 every year and has shown solid power with at least 25 home runs for the past four years.
But in the playoffs Cano got ice cold. He had a total of three hits in both the Division Series and the League Championship series.
It’s always easy to critique a player on their playoff performance, even though the sample size is considerably smaller.
Cano’s cold streak however, is a serious problem.
At 29 years old, he is still young and about to hit his prime. But the key word there is about.
For Cano to be the player everyone says he can be, he needs to get better. I’m not knocking his work ethic, the fact just is that it’s his time to step up and be the star in New York.
It’s a heavy weight to put on his shoulders but a necessary one, and Cano has proved this season that he still needs to improve to step into that role.
There Is Never Too Much Pitching
Going into the Summer of 2012, the Yankees found themselves in a peculiar position: they had too many pitchers.
With Sabathia, Kuroda, Hughes, Nova, and Pettitte returning, AJ Burnett was the odd-man out. New York traded Burnett to the Pirates for two minor league players that no one has ever heard of.
But by August, the Yankees were strapped for pitching having a spot start by Freddy Garcia and pulling David Phelps out of the minors to provide some arms to eat up innings while Sabathia, Pettitte and Nova saw time on the disabled list.
Heading into the offseason Garcia, Kuroda and Pettitte are all free agents.
Who the Yankees may sign this year is unknown, but one of the biggest lessons learned from this year is there is never enough pitching.
Granderson Is a Bottom of the Lineup Hitter
In 2011, Curtis Granderson exploded onto the scene earning a Silver Slugger award for his 41 home runs, 119 runs batted in and 136 runs scored.
This year the numbers tell a very different story for the center fielder. Granderson had his second lowest hits total since 2006, and the lowest batting average of his career.
What he did do though was finish the season with 43 home runs, tied for second in the major leagues.
Granderson doesn’t look like your prototypical power hitter; he’s a lean, fast center fielder.
But what he has proven this year is that he is not a top of the lineup hitter. Although Granderson blasted a career-high in home runs, he didn’t get on base and only attempted to steal 13 bases.
Girardi learned quicker than most people this year, that though Granderson is a solid player, he needs to be hitting in the bottom of the lineup.
Young Top Prospects Are Getting Older
Everyone has heard of the “Killer B’s,” Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, and how they are supposed to be the next big thing in New York.
But with Banuelos hurt and Betances struggling, when these guys are actually going to play in the Bronx isn’t known.
Banuelos is having surgery on his arm that will most likely make him miss most of this season, putting the young lefty at age 23 before he gets a shot to make it to the big show.
Betances is most likely set for another year in Trenton or Scranton and at age 24 with little major league success or experience, whether or not Betances is the real deal is a serious question.
Aside from these two, only one of the top-10 prospects in the Yankee farm system is estimate to get a shot in the Bronx next year.
With Cashman looking to older veterans this year in Pettitte and Suzuki, it’s pretty obvious he isn’t exactly ready to pull any of these young prospects up.
Some of these young guys are getting older and not moving up in the system.
Behind Sabathia, the Rotation Is Weak
With Hiroki Kuroda set to be a free agent this offseason, the only solid starter the Yankees had behind ace C.C. Sabathia isn’t guaranteed to return.
This year more than most of the past few seasons has shown that New York needs to find consistent pitching to win.
Although the Yankees won the AL East and had a major collapse at the plate during the playoffs, all of this almost didn’t happen.
Don’t forget the race for the pennant that the Yankees were in during August when they almost blew a division lead they held seemingly all year.
The reason for this near collapse is heavily rooted in the pitching staff. With Pettitte injured most of the year, Hughes and Nova were a big part of the Yankees’ rotation that disappointed.
Hughes couldn’t string together two strong starts in a row, and Nova ended up pitching himself out of the rotation after coming off an injury.
With Kuroda’s and Pettitte’s returns not guaranteed, it is a fact learned this season that behind Sabathia New York’s rotation is very weak.
Robertson and Chamberlain Will Be Finishing Games
After Mariano Rivera tore his ACL, Rafael Soriano became one of the saviors of the Bronx by returning to form and saving 42 games.
With a player option in his contract for this year though, Soriano has hinted that he is probably going to opt out and look for more money during free agency.
Adding to this hole forming in the closer position, Rivera has also talked about possibly retiring after his injury this year.
This leaves Cashman with two options: go out and spend money on a free agent closer or find an in-house solution.
Seeing that New York’s front office has gone from big spenders to payroll cutters over the past few seasons, it’s very unlikely they will spend big money for a closer.
That leaves David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain as potential solutions. Personally, I think using both to start out couldn’t hurt.
Chamberlain has had some tough breaks this past year, but he has been working as hard as ever get back to the form he had when he broke into the league.
Robertson has electric stuff but he has struggled in big time moments, and the ninth inning is a far different mindset than the eighth inning.
But with all that being said, the front office has shown no willingness to spend big money this year, and Robertson and Chamberlain showed they can get people out.
The Future Is Not Bright in the Bronx
Last year the Yankee’s opening day roster ranked as the oldest team in the league, with the average age being 31 years and 222 days old.
Age isn’t always a bad thing; having veterans on a team can foster chemistry and help develop young players.
The problem is, there weren’t any young players with starting roles on the team. The infield had two players over 35, and the youngest infielders, Cano and Martin, are going to be 30 next season.
Between the four outfielders, Nick Swisher, Suzuki, Granderson, and Gardner, Gardner is the youngest at 29 years old.
With such an uneven ratio of older players, and a lack of young prospects getting playing time in the Bronx, the future is not bright.
This year, Cashman looked to short term contracts for older players to fill in holes and help split time with the aging stars in Jeter and Rodriguez.
The Yankees need to get young and, although they may be focusing on the farm system, they aren’t doing it the right way.
Letting old stars split time with other veterans or middle-aged journeymen isn’t lighting to way to a bright future in New York.