The New York Yankees have a fair claim on being considered the best team in baseball in 2011. They had the second best record in the majors at 97-65, and that was while playing in the toughest division (the East) in the tougher league (the AL). Anything can happen in a short series though, and the Yankees ended up going home after losing in five games to the Tigers in the ALDS despite outscoring Detroit by a total of 28-17. By the team's standards (or at least those of many fans, I suppose), that means the season was a failure.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Curtis Granderson had a monster season, hitting 41 home runs and leading the league in both runs scored and RBI (as a lead-off hitter no less!). CC Sabathia reversed the slight decline of the previous couple years and put up a Cy Young worthy season (even with Verlander's year, one could argue for Carston Charles as the deserving winner). Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, and Ivan Nova did a surprisingly effective job following Sabathia in the rotation, and there were, of course, impressive seasons put up elsewhere by Robby Cano and the like.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Derek Jeter started out slumping, posting just a .655 OPS over the first couple months and actually missing some time in June. Things improved later, but by no means was 2011 a bounceback after the down 2010. A-Rod played in only 99 games and hit merely well when he was on the field (.276/.362/.461) - he's still going to be getting around $150 M through 2017. Jorge Posada maybe hit well enough to catch, but certainly not to DH; .235/.315/.398. A lot of the team's big (and expensive) pieces are getting old.
Who would have thought that Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia would pitch over 300 innings of ~3.80 ERA ball between them in 2011? Or that Russell Martin would hit more home runs (18) than he had in the past two seasons combined? We knew Granderson was a good player, but 40+ home runs good? The Yankees having perhaps the best relief pitcher in the league wasn't surprising, but that it could have been David Robertson (1.08 ERA, 13.5 K/9) probably was.
Paying about $70 M to get just 10-11 wins of production from Jeter, A-Rod, and Mark Teixeira (who hit 39 homers but had a .239 BABIP drag his overall line down) is likely not what the Yankees were hoping for coming into the season. 2011 may have provided more evidence that the 2010 declines weren't flukes though, and that these guys are no longer stars. Rafael Soriano getting hurt and pitching to a 4.12 ERA even when on the field was probably not the plan when he was signed for three years and $35 M. And not winning (or even getting to) the World Series is obviously a disappointment given the usual expectation level in New York.
Jorge Posada looks like he may be gone - possibly even into retirement. The one-year veterans (Colon, Garcia, Andruw Jones, Eric Chavez) may be moving on as well. Otherwise many of the players for next year are already locked in, though Jesus Montero will likely be getting more playing time somewhere. I imagine that even if CC Sabathia opts out of his contract, he'll re-sign with the team.
The starting rotation will need to be re-worked - doubly so if Sabathia shocks us all and actually leaves. And Monetero either at DH or catcher (I'd guess most of the former with a bit of the latter) needs to be figured out. Otherwise, there doesn't appear to be a whole lot going on. Teixeira-Cano-Jeter-Rodriguez-Gardner-Granderson-Swisher looks like the alignment going into 2012, though with the Yankees you never know if they'll try to upgrade from good to great somewhere.
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