The next team in the Call to the Pen MLB Season Preview series is the defending American League East Champion New York Yankees.
2011 NEW YORK YANKEES RECAP
As it is with every season the New York Yankees went into 2011 with high expectations. However, many pundits had them missing the postseason, with the Boston Red Sox looking unbeatable on paper and the upstart Tampa Bay Rays with another season of grooming under their belts.
A lot of this also went back to the Yankees offseason. They lost out on Cliff Lee and their contingency plans were a couple of veterans trying to rediscover themselves. They signed Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon to minor league deals hoping that at least one of them would pan out.
They invested a lot of time in trying to re-sign future Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter in a contentious negotiation. They finally agreed to a 3-year, $51 million deal with a fourth year option. They also signed Mariano Rivera to a two-year deal worth $30 million.
Yankees’ ownership (Hank and Hal Steinbrenner) went against general manager Brian Cashman’s advice and signed Rafael Soriano to a three-year deal worth $35 million. Cashman has publicly denounced the deal. The Yankees also signed Russell Martin to be their starting catcher, thus thrusting Jorge Posada into the role of DH. In the end, the offseason was a loss because of missing out on Lee.
Both the Red Sox and the Rays got off to horrible starts essentially giving the Yankees a leg in. This isn’t to say that it was shocking that the team could win, but the Red Sox and Rays gave them a head start in the standings.
The Yankees’ first issue seemed to be the rotation. Not many believed that Garcia or Colon, let alone, both of them would be successful. The team started out the season with C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes as the top three starters. Sabathia was every bit as reliable as expected turning in a 19-8 season with a 3.00 ERA. He struck out 230 batters in 237.1 innings. Burnett continued to frustrate the Yankees brass and fans alike. For a pitcher so talented, he never seemed to have his head straight. He finished the season 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA. Hughes was placed on the DL just 3 starts into the season due to arm fatigue. He returned in July and was largely ineffective.
The surprises came from Garcia, Colon and rookie Ivan Nova. Garcia and Colon were never truly shutdown starters but held many opponents in check and pitched well enough to allow the Yankees’ offense to take over. Garcia finished with a 12-8 record and a 3.62 ERA. Colon, who hadn’t pitched in the majors in two seasons, was 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA. Nova was the biggest surprise by far. He was brought up in June and never looked back. He won 16 games against only 4 losses. He was the runner-up in the Rookie of the Year voting to Tampa’s Jeremy Hellickson.
At the plate the Yankees were built for power and they displayed it throughout the season. They had eight players with double-digit home run totals. Curtis Granderson was hot early and carried his stroke all the way through the season. He ended up hitting 41 homers with 119 RBI, both team highs. He added 25 stolen bases. Robinson Cano hit .302 with 28 homers and 118 RBI. Mark Teixeira walloped 39 home runs and drove in 111.
The Yankees didn’t just bash. The combination of Jeter and Brett Gardner set the table at the top and bottom of the order. Jeter started out the season slow and again people began to question if his age was finally catching up to him. But once the middle of the season struck Jeter began to catch fire. After a DL stint he came back and finished off his pursuit of 3,000 hits in grand fashion. The 3,000th hit was a monster home run in a game in which he went 5-for-5. After the game he was hitting .270. He went on a tear for the remainder of the season. He ended up hitting .297, quelling some of the talk of his demise.
Gardner continued to flash his speed and after a few hiccups early on he began to swipe bags with more efficiency. He ended the season with 49 stolen bases.
Russell Martin was a pleasant surprise. He had some down seasons in Los Angeles with the Dodgers, but started out strong at the plate. He tailed off a bit at the end of the season, but his work behind the plate was much better than anyone expected.
Alex Rodriguez played most of the season hurt. He was only able to appear in 99 games. He managed 16 home runs and 62 RBI in 420 plate appearances.
Nick Swisher also had a rough start but turned it on late in the season. He finished with 23 HR and 85 RBI.
Jorge Posada, in what would be his final season, was frustrated by his role as DH and never really got it going. In his heart he felt he could still catch and never truly accepted the position change.
Rivera saved 44 games including # 602 which gave him the all-time saves record previously held by Trevor Hoffman. He ended with a 1.91 ERA bringing to question if he’ll ever leave the game. David Robertson established himself as one of the top set-up men in the game striking out 100 batters in 62.2 innings with a 1.08 ERA. He held batters to a .170 AVG. Robertson’s shot at the eighth inning came after Soriano was hurt and ineffective at the beginning of the season.
The Yankees played fairly consistent baseball from the start of the season through the end. June was their best month (18-8) and never had a month below .500. They clinched the AL East on September 21st in part due to the epic collapse of the Red Sox.
The Yankees faced off against the AL Central Champion Detroit Tigers and lost the 5-game series in the fifth and deciding game at Yankee Stadium by a score of 3-2. The Yankees were sent home earlier than they hoped.