Tuesday, September 21, 2010
The 2010 Yankees vs. The 2009 Yankees
On September 21st 2009, the Yankees were just coming off a terrible loss, where Joba Chamberlain—mired in his innings-crunching Joba Rules—gave up 7 runs in 3 innings to the Seattle Mariners. The Yankees were 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position. But Mark Teixeira hit his 42nd double of the year and Sergio Mitre pitched 5 1/3 innings of shutout ball. In the end, it didn’t matter much because the Yankees still ended the day 5 games in front of the AL East.
The 2009 Yankees were a better hitting team. Across the board, in every category, the 2009 model was a better hitting, slugging and on-base percentage team. What happened?
Well, let’s start with Derek Jeter, who at this point last year was batting a shocking 65 points higher than he is this year. Let us then proceed to Mark Teixeira (batting average a whopping 36 points lower this year), Posada (23 points lower this season) and Granderson (25 points lower than center field counterpart Melky Cabrera). The lesser batting continues with a lower 2010 slugging percentage. Teixeira is down this year for both homers and doubles as is Derek Jeter. Rodriguez’s slugging percentage is down 34 points from last year, and Hideki Matsui’s 2009 slugging numbers from the DH role dwarf this year’s DH Frankenstein of Lance Berkman, Nick Johnson, Marcus Thames, and Austin Kearns. Overall the 2009 Yankees had an OPS+ of 122; this year, it is 109+.
Conversely, this year’s staff bests last year’s, statistically speaking. The 2010 Yankee staff has a collective ERA of 3.91, while last year’s had a 4.26 ERA. That may seem a little odd with Burnett struggling badly and Vasquez pitching like a precocious 6th grader. Remember though, last year’s squad had only had 3 reliable starters heading into the playoffs. This year, assuming Pettitte’s health, the Yankees have Sabathia—who’s pitching better this year— Pettitte, Hughes and even Ivan Nova, with Burnett a possibility for the rotation should he regain his form, and Vasquez as long spot relief.
Last year’s staff had an ERA+ 101, while this year, that number jumps to 111. The HR/9 number is down from 8.6 to 8.3, as is the BB/9 from 3.6 to 3.3. The K/9 are down, though, this year from 7.8 to 7.2. Overall though—and it’s a big assumption, considering Nova and Hughes’s age (23 and 24 respectively), and Pettitte’s health—this year’s starters are a little more solid overall. This year’s pen, with Wood, Logan Robertson, Chamberlain, Gaudin, etc, matches up favorably with last year’s pen.
On September 21st, 2009, the Yankees lost in L.A. to the Angels. After that, they went on a 7-game winning streak, jumping to a 10.5 game lead. Mixed in that stretch was a shockingly decent performance by Joba Chamberlain against Jon Lester and the Red Sox, going 6 innings and giving up only 3 runs. A-Rod hit 5 home runs in the last 2 weeks, and the Yankees were able to set up their rotation for the playoffs.
A similar end of September is needed for this year’s Yankees. While the Yankees may not have the overall depth and playoff experience they did last year, they definitely should be playing better than they are right now. The biggest necessity for the 2010 Yankees is to get the bats alive again, both the starters and the bench. So far, in September the Yankees collectively are batting just .259 and just slugging .388. Hopefully, Swisher, Gardner and Teixeira playing healthy again can help with that problem. They’re going to have to; the Yankees last 12 games are all against teams with records over .500, and with 9 of them being against the Red Sox or Rays.
While the Yankees don’t have the depth of last year’s bench and they don’t have the luxury of as many reliable choices, they still aren’t exactly poor of options. Austin Kearns, Lance Berkman, Marcus Thames are all capable of quality at-bats. They just need to go out and do it. Here’s an interesting fact: this year, according to baseball-reference.com, Yankees substitutes are batting .237; last year they were batting .313.
The Yankees, according to Las Vegas odds makers, are still the team to beat this year. And they should be. And just like last year, they need to rise to the challenge.