Despite and American League leading 95 wins this season, this just didn't seem like a great Yankees team. The Orioles and Rays were contending in the AL East all year, and the Yankees had to work really hard to hold them off. Then in the playoffs, Raul Ibanez saved their season in their 3-2 ALDS win over the Orioles before the Tigers, led by Delmon Young, Miguel Cabrera, and four fantastic starting pitchers, blew the doors off of their barn in an ALCS sweep, the first time the Yankees had been swept in a four game series since 1976. Now, as the Yankees enter the offseason, there are more questions than answers for a franchise that hasn't had many questions in the last 15 years.
If you're new here (which about 90% of our reader base is in comparison to last year), here's a brief explanation: after a team is eliminated from the playoffs, we're going to put their season under a microscope and look at just what the hell went wrong, what went right, and so on and so forth. The goal is to post these the day after a team is eliminated.
What Went Right: Robinson Cano continued his push for a nine figure payday, posting a .929 OPS and 33 homers at second base, Nick Swisher had another 20 homer, .800 OPS season in his walk year. Curtis Granderson bashed 43 homers. Derek Jeter had another solid year with a .300 average. Ichiro Suzuki performed quite well in his two months as a Yankee and looked reborn after his last season and a half with the Mariners. On the mound, CC Sabathia continued to be excellent while Hiroki Kuroda's first season in the Bronx was fantastic. Andy Pettitte had a great 12 starts for the club. The bullpen duo of David Robertson and Rafael Soriano was awesome.
What Went Wrong: Michael Pineda didn't throw an inning after shoulder surgery in the spring. Mariano Rivera blew his knee out, and didn't pitch after April. Derek Jeter broke his ankle in the playoffs. The offense hit a wall during the playoffs, led by awful efforts from Cano, Granderson, and Alex Rodriguez. Pettitte missed a good chunk of the summer with a broken ankle. Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova had extreme issues with homers during their seasons in the rotation. Sabathia missed a few starts in the middle of the year. Mark Teixeira missed 39 games, and looked nothing like the player he's being paid to be while he was healthy. Granderson hit homers but did little else, hitting .232 and stealing ten bases en route to a career worst 2.6 fWAR season. Alex Rodriguez's OPS dipped under .800 as he missed 40 games and was nearly outperformed by Eric Chavez for the season.
Most Surprising Player: This is the Yankees, they don't really have huge surprises...you know what you're getting in most cases. But after a disastrous 2011 debut season in New York, Rafael Soriano's 2012 was a huge relief to the Yankees. Soriano boosted his strikeout rate by a batter per nine, cut his walk rate by a batter per nine and lowered his ERA by nearly two runs while saving 42 games after saving just two games last season. 42 saves while replacing #42 as Yankees closer...huh. Nice coincidence there.
Most Disappointing Player: So many possible options here, but I'm going to go with Teixeira. The 32-year old failed to hit 30 homers since his rookie year of 2003, and his OBP was also his lowest since 2003. Teixiera fell short of a three win season for the first time in his career since (drumroll) 2003, and he also failed to score 100 runs or drive in 100 since that same 2003 season. All that for $23 million for the next four seasons...
Prospects Up: Mason Williams, who turned 21 near the end of the season, looked like a monster in A-ball and high-A despite playing in just 91 games. 19-year old catching prospect Gary Sanchez homered 18 times and stolen 15 bases in A-ball and high-A. Slade Heathcott had a great year in high-A at 21 in a 60 game sample.
Prospects Down: Manny Banuelos only threw 24 innings, and got Tommy John surgery after the season, meaning he'll likely miss all of 2013 as well. Jose Campos, who was acquired from the Mariners in the Pineda trade, only made five starts in the minors after shoulder problems. Dellin Betances had major command issues in AA and AAA, walking 99 batters in 131 1/3 innings. Dante Bichette Jr had an absolutely terrible year after an encouraging rookie campaign in 2011. Austin Romine was injured for most of the year, and his year was essentially a writeoff as a result. Ravel Santana's year in low-A was a bust.
Overall: It's going to be an extremely interesting offseason for the Yankees after another postseason failure. Fans are screaming for changes, and there will be holes to fill with Ichiro and Nick Swisher hitting the free agent market this offseason. The most compelling plotpoint surrounding the Yankees could be the futures of Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera with the team. A-Rod might get dealt after even more postseason struggles, and the injuries to Jeter and Rivera have rumors of retirement swirling for both. It certainly will be interesting to see what happens with the team this winter.
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Alex Rodriguez ="Mr. May." Remember Dave Winfield? Winfield was one of the best players in the game throughout his New York Yankee contract. He brought the Yankees to the 1981 American League pennant, but then had a poor World Series, which the Yankees lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games. After getting his only series hit, Winfield jokingly asked for the ball. New York Yankee owner George Steinbrenner didn't find this humorous, and criticised Winfield at the end of the series. Many commentators have since noted that Winfield’s post-season doldrums were somewhat overstated when compared to those of his teammates. In the exciting 1981 American League Division Series, Winfield batted .350 with two doubles and a triple and made some important defensive plays helping the Yankees to victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. Four of his seven hits came in games won by the Yankees. The team's offense for the most part was inconsistent, and they were also set back by key injuries to Reggie Jackson and Graig Nettles. In 1985, a bitter Steinbrenner derided Winfield by saying to New York Times writer Murray Chass,"Where is Reggie Jackson? We need a Mr. October or a Mr. September. Winfield is Mr. May." This criticism has become somewhat of an anachronism as many cite the statement to Steinbrenner after the 1981 World Series. Winfield was struggling while the Yankees eventually lost a pennant to Toronto on the second to last day of the season. The Mr. May sobriquet lived with Winfield until he won the 1992 World Series with Toronto.
Gee, doesn't this remind all Yankee fans of A Rod's performances in post season play? So what that he has 600+ home runs? What does he do when the game is on the line with the bases loaded? Whiff or pop up? Big deal! Dump A rod. He simply can't close the sale!