The New York Yankees held a 10 game lead in the division in mid-July, but had to hold on to win the AL East on the season’s final day. Despite holding the best record in the league, New York’s bats went silent during the ALCS and they went home via sweep. Chris Carelli is the Senior Editor of Yanks Go Yard and he stops by to give us the lowdown as the Yankees get set for what should be an entertaining off-season.
Author: Chris Carelli
The New York Yankees come into each season with one goal in mind and that is to win the World Series. The 2012 season was no different in that regard. The Yankees were once again able to reach the postseason by virtue of a 95-67 record, good for first place in the highly competitive American League East. They barely outlasted the Baltimore Orioles in the process, and then had to face the club in the American League Division Series. The Yankees won the ALDS in five hotly contested games earning a trip to the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers. The Yankees offense went into a severe slump just about all at once and combined with excellent pitching by the Tigers, the Yankees were swept. The regular season and postseason showed two very distinct sides to the Yankees and raised multiple questions about the team’s future.
Regular Season Summary
The Yankees got out to a slow start in April and May, posting a 21-21 record at about the one-quarter mark of the season. April was an especially tough month on the injury front. They lost Brett Gardner to injury after the first week of the season and then Mariano Rivera suffered a season ending injury to his ankle while shagging flies at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium. The Gardner injury forced Joe Girardi to use Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones in the field more than he ever intended. At first David Robertson took the reins from Rivera, but he fell victim to the injury bug as well and Rafael Soriano became the de facto closer. It ended up being a strong part of the Yankees arsenal going forward. Soriano went on to record saves in 42 out of 46 chances for the Yankees.
After the mediocre start, the Yankees went on an incredible streak which saw them win 36 of 49 games to raise their record to 57-34 and enjoyed a ten-game lead in the AL East. That was the largest lead they had for the season. From that point on the Yankees played 38-33 ball. The entire month of September was a dog fight with the Orioles and for a time the Tampa bay Rays.
During the upswing the Yankees received bumps from Derek Jeter who ended the season leading the Majors in hits with 216 and Robinson Cano had a tremendous June (.340/.416./.730 with 11 home runs and 21 RBI). Nick Swisher was also hot during the streak producing a triple slash of .321/.406/.548.
After the Yankees lead seemed insurmountable they began to slide. They suffered injuries to Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. Both men missed 40-plus days during the season, severely hampering their contributions to the team. But, the Yankees received big help from Eric Chavez as a replacement for Rodriguez. Ibanez was stellar when the Yankees were down in April and then turned it on again in September into the postseason magic which we’ll discuss later. Ichiro Suzuki was the big trade at the deadline and he turned his season around in the Bronx. Cano finished the regular season hitting .615 over the final nine games.
The Yankees suffered from the injury bug in the rotation as well. CC Sabathia won 15 games, but missed time this season, hitting the disabled list twice. Andy Pettitte, who came out of retirement and returned to the field in May, was on the shelf for a couple months after fracturing his ankle from a line drive. Hiroki Kuroda arguably the team’s best free-agent signing turned in a fantastic season going 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA. He received very little run support at times which could have prevented him from recording a 20-win season. Ivan Nova, the 2011 surprise member of the rotation was wildly inconsistent in the second half and ended up losing his spot in the rotation. Phil Hughes started out slowly along with the rest of the team but was remarkable and more the pitcher the Yankees hoped from June through October. He ended up posting a 16-13 record with a 4.23 ERA. Rookie David Phelps wore many hats; long man, spot starter and short relief and he was very good all-around.
In the pen the Yankees received surprising performances from Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada, who combined with Boone Logan to comprise the middle relief crew Girardi relied on the most to get the game to Robertson in the eighth and Soriano to close it out. Robertson was very good, but not as dominant as he was in 2011 and Soriano we’ve already mentioned was very instrumental in the Yankees success.
After playing a full month of baseball in more or less playoff atmospheres, the Yankees met the Orioles in the ALDS after the Birds defeated the Texas Rangers in the wild card play-in game. The series started in Baltimore as this season the lower seed played the first two games in their home park and the higher seed received home field advantage in the final three games. The Yankees won Game 1 behind stellar pitching from Sabathia and a Yankees offensive eruption in the ninth against Orioles closer Jim Johnson. The Orioles took Game 2 to even the series and were up on the Yankees in Game 3 before Ibanez hit a game tying homer in the ninth (off Johnson) and then the game-winning home run in the twelfth inning. Besides hitting the homers, Ibanez’s hits were huge because he did them as a pinch-hitter for Alex Rodriguez, marking the beginning of the story outside the playoffs for the Yankees. The Yankees gave back the series lead in Game 4, but Sabathia came back with an even better effort in Game 5 to send the Yankees to the ALCS. The Yankees won the entire season series with the Orioles 12-11 by a difference of only 4 runs.
In Game 1 of the ALCS, the Yankees again had a monumental comeback in the ninth inning, this time off Detroit Tigers closer Jose Valverde. Unfortunately, they were unable to take the lead and eventually lost to the Tigers 6-4 in 12 innings. Jeter was lost for the remainder of the playoffs after fracturing his left ankle (yes another fractured ankle for the Yankees), which he had been slowed by for several weeks. The Yankees bats, already on the down side went even colder from Games 2-4 prompting more benchings by Girardi. It seemed that no matter who the Yankees put up to the plate besides Suzuki, Ibanez or Teixeira they could not generate any run support for a pitching staff that performed very well. In the end they were swept and humiliated in some people’s minds.
Players with Options to Consider
- Robinson Cano – $15 million; will get picked up and talks could begin toward a long-term contract extension.
- Curtis Granderson – $15 million; this one should get picked up as well, but the thought of a long-term extension has definitely taken a hit.
- Rafael Soriano – can opt-out of contract and become a free-agent. His fantastic season puts him in a position to exercise the option and look for a multi-year deal.
Key Free Agents
- Nick Swisher – unlikely to re-sign.
- Ichiro Suzuki – could find a spot in right field to replace Swisher.
- Hiroki Kuroda – increased his value with excellent season. A definite possibility to stay in the Bronx.
- Mariano Rivera – claims to be looking to re-sign.
- Andy Pettitte – once again contemplating retirement, but if he comes back it will be with Yankees.
- Raul Ibanez – his performance in the playoffs may have netted him more money and other opportunities to explore.
- Eric Chavez – could get another one year deal with Yankees as insurance for A-Rod.
- Russell Martin – probably wishes he signed three year offer on the table last offseason. Could wind up in New York for less money considering poor overall offensive performance.
- Andruw Jones – poor season likely ends Yankee tenure.
- Brian Cashman – Is he wearing out his welcome in New York, or is he the perfect mouthpiece for Yankees’ ownership?
- Joe Girardi – His job is safe for now. Contract ends with 2013 season. Lame duck manager?
- Tony Pena – Looking for a managerial job, but would likely return as bench coach if none is offered to him.
- Larry Rothschild – He’ll be around in 2013 as the Yankees’ pitching coach for sure.
- Kevin Long – If the Yankees get out to a poor start at the plate he’s a goner.
What do the Yankees need to do this offseason?
The Yankees have a good amount of soul searching to do this offseason. After a dismal performance in the postseason, a multitude of questions arose some of which are not even on the field concerns. With an abundance of free agents and question marks with players already under contract or with options that will be picked up, the Yankees have to decide who best fits the team’s homer happy mantra which Cashman has already suggested the Yankees will not change.
Does the team create a slight balance by signing Ichiro and combining his style of play with Gardner’s, and Jeter’s for that matter? Having three contact hitters at the top and bottom of the lineup may compensate for times when the team is not driving the ball over the fence.
If they are able to sign both Kuroda and Pettitte, who will be fifth starter assuming Hughes did enough to solidify his spot and the Yankees don’t use him for trade bait? If one or neither of them signs for 2013, does Ivan Nova get another chance? Will Michael Pineda be ready to provide some innings? Does David Phelps get a crack at being a full-time member of the rotation?
Regardless of how one assesses the information at hand, the Yankees will have a very busy and incredibly eventful offseason.
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