Category: Whimsy Page 2 of 4

One-and-done: Yet another all-Yankees Team, Part II of II

To wrap up what I started last week, today we build a pitching staff of one-and-done Yankees pitchers. I’ll put together my five man rotation, seven arm bullpen, and a bunch of honorable mentions. Oh, and as I forgot to mention last week: I’m only considering players from my lifetime (I was born in 1990). With that, away we go:

Starting Rotation (5): Bartolo Colón, Jon Lieber, Brandon McCarthy, Lance Lynn, Jake Westbrook

Colón. (Keith Allison – CC BY SA 2.0)

Bartolo Colón’s career sputtered after he won the 2005 AL Cy Young Award. A myriad of health issues resulted in Big Sexy making just 47 starts from 2006 through 2009. After that, he didn’t make a single start in 2010. Fortunately, that wasn’t the end of the righty’s career. He made a triumphant return with the 2011 Yankees, winning a bullpen job out of camp before joining the rotation in late April. Overall, Colón threw 164 1/3 innings and recorded an impressive 4.00 ERA (95 ERA-) and 3.83 FIP (91 FIP-). That season with the Bombers was the jumpoff for his late career resurgence.

Jon Lieber underwent Tommy John surgery in late-2002, and although he was set to miss all of 2003, the Yankees signed him to a two-year contract. The bet paid off, as Lieber’s one season in pinstripes — 2004 — was solid. Though he got off to a rough start, he settled in during the second half. After a 4.77 ERA in the first half, Lieber closed out the year with a 3.94 ERA the rest of the way. The righty also pitched well in the playoffs: in three starts (21 innings), he had a 3.43 ERA, though he took the loss in Game 6 against the Red Sox in the ALCS.

The Yankees acquired Brandon McCarthy in early-July 2014. The tall and lanky right-hander was great down the stretch: he posted a 2.89 ERA and 3.22 FIP in 14 starts (90 1/3 innings), though unfortunately it wasn’t enough to get the Yankees back into the playoffs that year. It did land McCarthy a nice contract with the Dodgers after the season, at least.

I’m still mad that the Yankees didn’t bring back Lance Lynn (only half-kidding). Lynn was terrific for the Rangers last year after pitching decently for the Bombers in late-2018. The Yankees picked up Lynn from the Twins for Tyler Austin at the deadline that year and the burly right-hander pitched 11 games (9 starts) and had a 4.14 ERA (2.17 FIP!). He did get wrecked in relief of Luis Severino in Game 4 of the ALDS vs. Boston, although now we (still) wait to find out the extent of Boston’s cheating that season.

Lastly, what could have been for Jake Westbrook had he not been traded? He was part of the David Justice trade, so I’m sure the Yankees don’t have too many regrets. After all, Justice was a big part of that 2000 World Champion team. Still, Westbrook went on to have a nice career with Cleveland and St. Louis after pitching just three games for the Yankees. Honestly, I have no recollection of Westbrook actually debuting with the Yankees. I had assumed they dealt him while he was still a prospect in the minors.

Honorable Mentions: Esteban Loaiza, Denny Neagle, Jaime Garcia, Cory Lidle

Bullpen (7): Kerry Wood, Chris Hammond, Jesse Orosco, LaTroy Hawkins, Luis Ayala, Octavio Dotel, Armando Benitez

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One-time Cubs wunderkind Kerry Wood pitched in the Yankees’ bullpen in 2010. He began that season in Cleveland’s bullpen, but struggled to the tune of a 6.30 ERA. However, following a deadline day trade to the Bronx, Wood was dominant. He allowed only two runs in 26 innings with the Yankees and struck out 31 opponents.

Before I knew anything about regression to the mean, I was absolutely ecstatic when the Yankees signed Chris Hammond following his 0.95 ERA season in Atlanta. The lefty pitched well in his one season with the Yankees (2.86 ERA and 3.25 FIP), but was traded after the 2003 season to Oakland.

I’m throwing Jesse Orosco into the mix because I find it hilarious that he was 46 (!!!) when he made a cameo in pinstripes. He came aboard as a lefty specialist in a midseason trade, appeared in 15 games, and was traded away before the season ended. Orosco was best known for his time with the Mets in the mid-80s, but by virtue of being left-handed, he stuck around for 24 seasons including part of his final one with the Yankees.

LaTroy Hawkins got an absolute raw deal in New York. Yes, he pitched poorly (5.71 ERA in 41 innings), but certain segments of the fanbase were unnecessarily harsh on him. All he did “wrong” was wear number 21 for part of the year (For some reason the Yankees still won’t circulate it. It’s been almost 20 years since Paul O’Neill retired. Come on.). Hawkins was very good after they traded him to Houston mid-season and went on to continue his strong career in the bullpen through 2015.

Luis Ayala surprisingly emerged as a key fixture in the Yankees’ 2011 bullpen. The righty recorded a 2.09 ERA in 52 games. That, after signing a minor league deal, was an unexpected boon to the club’s ‘pen.

I remember wanting Octavio Dotel on the Yankees for years. That wish eventually came true, but unfortunately well past Dotel’s prime. The Yankees signed him for the 2006 season knowing he still had a few months left of Tommy John rehab. He pitched 14 games (10 innings) upon return, but allowed 13 runs and 11 walks while striking out just 7.

The Yankees had Armando Benítez for a hot minute in 2003. Formely a strongly disliked rival with Baltimore and later Mets’ closer, the Yankees traded for Benítez mid-2003. The Mets got Jason Anderson in return. The Yankees only kept Benítez for a few weeks as they dealt him to Seattle for old friend Jeff Nelson.

Honorable Mentions: Chan Ho Park, Chad Qualls, Matt Thornton, Mark Wohlers, Buddy Groom, Alan Embree, Kirby Yates, Felix Rodriguez, Andrew Bailey, Luis Ayala, Brett Tomko, Jay Witasick, Anthony Swarzak, Sergio Santos, Chaz Roe, David Carpenter, Rich Hill, Derek Lowe, Luis Vizcaíno

One-and-done: Yet another all-Yankees Team, Part I of II

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Times are tough right now and there’s not much baseball to write about or discuss (our podcast has you covered if you’re looking for that). So, why not go for a little twist on an All-Time Yankees roster? Today, I’m starting a two part series on players who spent no more than one year with the Yankees. I’m building a 25-man roster with 13 position players (covered today) and 12 pitchers (coming sometime in the future). With that, let’s get right to it.

Catcher (2): Iván Rodríguez and Sal Fasano

Pudge. (Keith Allison, CC BY SA 2.0)

Pudge in pinstripes is one of the weirder images in the Yankees’ history. The Hall of Fame backstop was a longtime rival, whether with the Rangers in the late 90s, that pesky 2003 Marlins squad, or those annoying mid-aughts Detroit clubs.

The Yankees brought in Pudge at the trade deadline in 2008 in exchange for Kyle Farnsworth. Jorge Posada, who hit the disabled list for the first time in his career that month, was out for the rest of the season. At the time, Rodríguez wasn’t much of a (power) hitter anymore, but his bat was still respectable and his glove remained top notch. Unfortunately, Pudge sputtered in pinstripes: in 101 plate appearances, the catcher hit .219/.257/.323 (51 OPS+). His OPS+ had hovered right around league before his acquisition and the previous couple of seasons, but the Yankees weren’t so fortunate to get that kind of production in Posada’s absence.

Considering that Posada was a bastion of health for most of his career, and that the Yankees were pretty stable behind the plate even after he retired (Russell Martin, Brian McCann, Gary Sánchez), it’s hard to find a backup catcher for this squad. So, just for fun, we’ll go with Sal Fasano. Because why not? He fits the criteria and was fun. Just look at this bundle of joy:

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Honorable Mentions: Kelly Stinnett, Dioner Navarro, Chris Widger, and Kevin Cash

First Base (1): John Olerud

For a franchise that’s seamlessly gone from Don Mattingly to Tino Martinez to Jason Giambi to Mark Teixeira, the Yankees sure have had a ton of random first baseman throughout the last three decades. Best laid plans and all, am I right?

Giambi and Teixeira had a few seasons mired by injuries which resulted in a number of replacements. A lot of fun names as you’ll see in the honorable mentions below, but I took Olerud here.

The Yankees brought in Johnny O mid-2004 after Seattle released him. Then 35, he had hit .245/.354/.360 (90 OPS+) with the Mariners before the Yankees grabbed him. He closed with a better .280/.367/.396 (101 OPS+) triple-slash in pinstripes.

In the playoffs, an injury kept Olerud out of games four, five, and six of the ALCS before he pinch hit in Game seven. You may remember this homer against Pedro Martínez before Things We Will Not Discuss happened in that series:

Honorable Mentions: Doug Mientkiewicz, Tony Clark, Richie Sexson, Lyle Overbay, Mark Reynolds, Steve Pearce, Travis Lee, Craig Wilson, Ike Davis, Chris Carter, Ji-Man Choi

Second Base (1): Martín Prado

I have to say: it caught me by surprise that Prado was eligible. I really thought he was around for at least a couple of years. Then again, those mid-2010 teams weren’t clubs to remember. Prado only played 37 games in pinstripes and was great: he batted .316/.336/.541 (144 OPS+) for the Bombers in 2014.

The Yanks brought Prado aboard at the deadline that year in exchange for power-hitting prospect Peter O’Brien. He played all over the field for the final two months of the season — the first year in which the Yankees were without Robinson Cano.

In the offseason, the Yankees packaged Prado with David Phelps to the Marlins in return for Nathan Eovaldi, Domingo Germán, and Garrett Jones.

Honorable Mentions: Neil Walker, Tony Womack, Brian Roberts, Mark Bellhorn

Third Base (2): Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell

Youk on rehab in Trenton.

The Greek God of Walks had an illustrious career in pinstripes, did he not? Oh, those 2013 Yankees were a treat. With Alex Rodriguez out for the start of the season, the Yankees brought in Youkilis for a cool $12 million to handle the hot corner. It did not go well. The then 34 year-old lasted just 28 games with the Yankees and hit a putrid .219/.305/.343 (80 OPS+).

Back injuries ruined any chance of Youkilis having any success with the Yankees. He hit the injured list twice, with the second time being the last straw: he underwent season-ending surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back.

Performance aside, Youkilis in pinstripes has to be one of the most bizarre marriages in recent memory. He was a longtime loathsome foe up in Boston that I can’t imagine any Yankees had a fondness for.

Then comes Lowell, who like Youkilis, had a successful run in Boston. Before that though, Lowell emerged as one of the sport’s better third basemen with the Marlins. Even further back: Lowell was once a Yankees prospect who got a cup of coffee with the ’98 squad. Instead of becoming the Bombers’ third baseman of the future, he was blocked by Scott Brosius. Thus, the Yankees dealt him to the Marlins for Todd Noel, Mark Johnson, and Ed Yarnall. Whoops!

Honorable Mentions: Aaron Boone, Todd Zeile, Morgan Ensberg, Todd Frazier, Casey McGehee, Kelly Johnson

Shortstop (2): Troy Tulowitzki, Jerry Hairston Jr.

Tulo has the most star power of the one-and-done shortstops here, and there aren’t many choices nonetheless. That’ll happen as a result of Derek Jeter and Didi Gregorius dominating the position since 1996.

Tulo was the product of the Yankees’ peculiar plan to make him the starting shortstop as Gregorius recovered from Tommy John surgery last year. It only took five games for the oft-injured Tulowitzki to go down for good, but at least he tallied one homer with the Bombers. Remember, Tulowitzki idolized Jeter and seemingly longed to play for the Yankees for years, so that was a cool moment for him.

I have to say, I was surprised to see Hairston actually play far more shortstop in 2009 than second base. It was his second most played position that year to third base, though I always remember him at the keystone for the Orioles early in his career. With that, Hairston’s my utility infielder on this roster.

Anyway, Hairston was a nice trade deadline pickup for the World Champion 2009 Yankees. He’ll perhaps be best remembered for racing around to score on Melky Cabera’s grounder in the 13th inning to win Game 2 of the 2009 ALCS.

Honorable mentions: Erick Almonte, Tony Fernández, Ángel Berroa, Adeiny Hechavarría, Pete Kozma, Reid Brignac

Left Field (2): Rondell White, Vernon Wells

Even in the dynasty years, the one position the Yankees struggled to fill was left field. Not that it really mattered, of course. The Bombers were a juggernaut. Come 2002 though, I remember being really excited about Rondell White coming aboard.

To that point, White had a lifetime .295/.351/.484 (115 OPS+) batting line and was entering his age-30 campaign. No one could have anticipated the drop off he exhibited in pinstripes, particularly after he had just finished 2001 with a career high 134 OPS+ with the Cubs. White recorded an ugly .240/.288/.378 (76 OPS+) with the Yankees and was subsequently traded in the winter. White bounced back with the Padres in 2003, but the Yankees were unquestionably happy to have Hideki Matsui roaming left field.

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Vernon Wells is my fourth outfielder. He was one of the many random players to grace that 2013 squad. You may recall that he was terrific in April: Wells hit .300/.366/.544 with six dingers in 101 plate appearances, seemingly out of nowhere. Of course, things weren’t so hot the rest of the way. Whenever each mark in your triple-slash starts with a 2, it’s not good folks. Wells finished with a .216/.258/.296 line the rest of the way. Yikes. But at least his heyday with Toronto and name recognition make him viable on this fake roster’s bench.

Honorable Mentions: Randy Winn, Austin Kearns, Glenallen Hill

Center Field (1): Kenny Lofton

2004 was a little bit awkward. Bernie Williams, the longtime Yankees center fielder, had a challenger in another longtime (but aging) great: Kenny Lofton. Though Bernie got the majority of reps in center, Lofton received his fair share and recorded 539 innings at the position in 2004.

It’s pretty well documented that Lofton wasn’t happy during his time in pinstripes because of sporadic playing time. Unfortunately for Lofton, the then 37 year-old was stuck in a crowded outfield situation with Bernie, Matsui, and Gary Sheffield. Nonetheless, Lofton was solid in limited time: he posted a a 95 OPS+ and 1.5 WAR in 83 games. Years later, when the Yankees were courting CC Sabathia in free agency, Lofton reportedly tried to steer CC away from the Bronx.

Honorable Mentions: Dewayne Wise, Shane Robinson, Slade Heathcott

Right Field (1): Andrew McCutchen

Cutch was with the Yanks for basically one month, but feels like an easy choice for one of these outfield spots. Acquired at the August 31st waiver trade dealine in 2018, the former NL MVP raked as a Yankee. In 114 plate appearances, McCutchen belted 5 homers, a .421 OBP, and a 145 OPS+.

Honorable Mentions: Aaron Guiel, Matt Lawton, Terrence Long, Brennan Boesch, David Delucci

Designated Hitter (1): Raúl Ibañez

Need I explain my choice any further?

Honorable Mentions: Lance Berkman, Travis Hafner, Ben Francisco, Matt Holliday, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Canseco, Billy Butler, Garrett Jones

Highlights From The Gerrit Cole Press Conference

This is Cole’s first win.

The big day is here. After an eleven year pursuit, the New York Yankees will unveil their new ace Gerrit Cole today. He was the main target of the offseason plan and they gave him 324 million reasons to put on the pinstripes. This is clearly a significant day in recent Yankees history. We will have all the highlights along with some brief thoughts of the presser.

  • Sitting on the dais for the press conference are Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman, Aaron Boone, Lonn Trost, Randy Levine, Michael Fishman, Matt Blake and Scott Boras. The team brought out the heavy hitters of the Yankee brain trust. This signing is a big deal and the team is not shying away from it.
  • Brian Cashman begins his statement with the story of Cole making the decision to turn down the Yankees draft offer to attend UCLA. Cashman goes on to detail the journey the team went through to acquire Cole through trade and free agency. Cashman acknowledges the hard work Cole has put in to be one of the elite free agents in the game. He believes that process created this moment as the right time for both the player and the team. Cashman also notes there is no guarantee for future success with this partnership.
  • Aaron Boone says this is a big deal for the franchise. He got the word three or four weeks ago that the Yankees were going to pursue Gerrit Cole. Boone describes meeting with Gerrit Cole as a privilege. The process of getting to know a player and person like Cole is a privilege in his mind that he did not take for granted. Boone understands how great of a player Cole is, but he was blown away by Gerrit Cole the person is. Aaron stresses the importance of culture to him and he believes Cole will be a tremendous addition to the locker room. Boone was especially impressed with Cole’s ability to communicate the processes, the nuances and approach of his craft. The Yankees manager is looking forward to experiencing the ups and downs of their journey that will ultimately be a fruitful one.
  • Gerrit Cole is officially number 45. I would love to know what he offered Luke Voit to get that number if anything at all.
  • Cole looks amazing in pinstripes if I say so myself. I say that with absolutely no bias at all.
  • Gerrit Cole brings up Hal, Boras and his wife Amy to present the original sign from when he was eleven years old and attended Game 6 of the 2001 World Series. This is the same sign from the now famous picture of Cole hanging over the outfield wall. Cole then says “I’ve always been here.” That was a very dope moment.
  • Cole gives thanks to his teammates, coaches, Boras and former teammates. He also took time to shout out Marvin Miller entering the Hall of Fame and Curt Flood pioneering free agency for the current group of players. It was a really impressive gesture to recognize those who came before him to pave the way for this historical contract. Gerrit Cole is pretty involved in the Player’s Association and this is an example of that involvement. That moment reveals a lot about Cole the person that both Boone and Cashman went out of their way to acknowledge.
  • Cole says he joined the Yankees because it was his dream. He believes it is the best organization in the league. It was his second chance to join them and he took it. He feels a lot of confidence in the organization and Cashman’s vision. It also helped that the Yankees were his favorite team.
  • Cole became a Yankee fan through his father who went to school for a few years in New York. He said it was hard not to fall in love with the Yankees during their dynasty years. The Yankees were on tv a lot right after school ended since he lived on the west coast and he watched a lot of the games.
  • It was extremely tough to turn down the Yankees after he was drafted. Cole and his family wanted to honor their commitment to UCLA and even more importantly, to education. His father is a PHd and education is paramount in their family.
  • “Pressure is a privilege.” The pressure of pitching in the playoffs is the reward for playing well in the regular season. He felt like he could see a title in his sights with Houston, but they weren’t able to accomplish that goal. Cole doesn’t think there is a better place to finish that championship journey in New York.
  • He explains the 30 pound contraption! It is a gold plated home plate that opens up and reveals an iPad. It gives a history of the New York Yankees, where to live in the city and outside of the city and other pertinent information that would inform him and his family about the organization and the city. Cole also mentioned that after he signed the Yankees gave him a Yankee hat and he didn’t take it off for about three days.
  • Cole makes it very clear that he wasn’t thinking of free agency when he took the mound in Game 3 of the ALCS. He understood the magnitude of the moment and the challenge in front of him so signing with the Yankees was the last thing on his mind.

Here are some immediate feelings from the presser:

1. If you could win a championship for a press conference, Gerrit Cole just won his first ring. He was smart, engaging, funny, reflective, selfless and confident. You could immediately see all of the qualities that would make him attractive to any franchise beyond his golden arm. He said all the right things that Yankees fans wanted to hear today.

2. The most important quote from the presser is “pressure is a privilege.” I wouldn’t be surprised if this became a t-shirt in the near future. The phrase perfectly captures Cole’s competitive character. He is embracing the challenge and journey of winning a championship in the largest market in the world. There wasn’t any doubt that Cole wanted to be a Yankee. He mentioned his decision to join the Yankees came down to his heart. There is nothing sweeter to Yankees fans ears than hearing an elite player say they wanted to put on the pinstripes. His ultimate goal is to at least win championship number 30 for the Yankees. Those are lofty goals and I am here for all of it.

3. We have to talk about the sign. That moment was awesome. It feels like this was Cole’s first big Yankee moment and he hasn’t taken the mound yet. Showing everyone the sign was great, but what that gesture represents is even better. It perfectly captures his fandom of the team. This was also a rare moment when a free agent expressed genuine and raw excitement to be a part of his new team. Cole was not putting on a show here. Gerrit Cole signing with the Yankees was truly a dream come true scenario moment for him and he didn’t shy away from it. The Yankees wanted him and he wanted the Yankees. It’s like a feel good ending from some rom-com and I am here for all of it.

4. We all may learn about the craft of pitching over the next nine years. Cole is so impressive when he talks about his process and use of analytics. He is very aware of what makes him good and he is skilled at articulating it. He is also not shy about sharing that information with the public. I go back to his post game interview on the field with Ken Rosenthal after his Game 3 ALCS victory. He succinctly summed up his game plan to attack the Yankees lineup and briefly discussed the adjustments he had to make when he knew he didn’t have great command. The Yankees have mentioned a few times that Cole knows who he is and can go into great detail of what makes that possible. It feels like we’ll all be smarter fans with Cole on the team now.

5. This is a perfect fit. CC Sabathia was a perfect fit when he signed in the winter of 2008. I would say this is an even better match. The Yankees fan plays for his favorite team. The Yankees clear need for an ace. The clear embrace of the market and expectations by that ace pitcher. The established core of the 2020 Yankees team. The arrival of the new, cutting edge pitching coach who emphasizes non traditional approaches to the craft. This is all really exciting. If you don’t want the season to start tomorrow after experiencing this then nothing will. I am fired up and ready for the new season.

The 10 Biggest (Regular Season) Hits of the Decade

After the Yankees were eliminated a few weeks ago, I took a look at the 10 biggest hits of the 2019 regular season by Win Probability Added (WPA). As a brief reminder, that metric that captures the change in win expectancy from one at-bat to the next. In other words, it measures an individual play’s impact on the outcome of a game.

With some spare time over the holiday weekend, plus the dog days of the offseason, I used Baseball-Reference’s wonderful Play Index to pull all of the Yankees’ regular season hits from 2010-2019, made a spreadsheet with the data, and sorted them by WPA. It turned into a fun exercise that brought back quite a few memories. Surprisingly, the hit I expected to top this list came in only at number two, while the decade’s biggest hit was one I’d forgotten about entirely. Baseball, man.

Before we get into it, here are a few fun facts:

  • The Yankees had 14,174 hits from 2010-2019, with the most coming in 2019 with 1,493.
  • Of those, 1,259 came off Brett Gardner’s bat, leading the 134 players who came to bat for the Bombers.
  • The team recorded hits against 1,068 pitchers in the decade, with 275 coming against David Price.
  • The Yankees had 48 walk-offs in the decade.

Anyway, with that in mind, let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

10. Frazier Punishes the Brewers

I remember this game well. In early July of 2017, the Yankees were just four games over .500. They were scuffling after a hot start to the season and felt like they were coming back down to Earth a bit. Before this July 8 game against Milwaukee, they’d lost 6 of 8 games, falling from one game out of first to 4.5.

Luis Severino gave up 3 runs on a home run in the first inning of this one but settled down after that. Down 3-0 in the 7th, Clint Frazier smashed a triple that brought the score to 3-2, scoring Jacoby Ellsbury. In the 9th, following walks to Didi Gregorius and Ellsbury, Frazier came to the plate and delivered the walk-off blow.

9. Sánchez Crushes the Twins (0.66 WPA)

This is another game I remember very well, coming in as one of my favorites of the 2018 season. Winners of 8 of 10 before this one, which came in late April, the Yankees were on a roll. The Twins, though, had other ideas–or so it seemed. Jordan Montgomery and Domingo Germán surrendered 3 runs while the Yankees couldn’t get anything going against Kyle Gibson.

Aaron Hicks would bring the score to 3-1 in the bottom of the 7th on a sac fly that scored Giancarlo Stanton, but the Yanks went down quietly in the 8th. In the 9th inning, Gregorius reached on an error, Stanton added a hit, and Sánchez absolutely unloaded on the second pitch he saw from Fernando Rodney. The good times kept rolling, and this was among the most fun games of a stretch in which the Bombers won 17 of 20.

8. McCann Buries the Rays (0.67 WPA)

This one clocks in as the first truly wild game on our list. On July 3, 2015, the Yankees hosted the Rays at Yankee Stadium while they sat 6 games above .500. The Bombers fell behind 3-0 early and then rallied in the bottom of the 8th on a Mark Teixeira 3-run home run. That tied the game and set up extra innings.

Chasen Shreve was tagged for two runs in the top of the 12th inning, which brought the score to 5-3. Shreve escaped further damage, stranding two Rays on base. In the bottom half of the inning, Brett Gardner walked, A-Rod delivered a single, Teixeira delivered another RBI blow, which made it 5-4 Rays with one out and runners on first and second. On the second pitch of his at-bat, Brian McCann made sure this game went no further.

7. Hicks Shocks the Twins For the First Time (0.71 WPA)

This is a fresh one, having topped the 2019 list and coming in as one of the most memorable Yankee games of the last decade. Of my lifetime, really. Anyway, while Hicks’ game-saving catch is the main story from this one, his two-out, two-run, go-ahead home run in the top of the 9th inning was one of the biggest hits of the last ten years.

Rodgers’ 97 mph fastball stood no chance against Hicks, who hit a rocket into the bullpen to give the Yankees an 11-10 lead. Although the lead would not hold, it was a huge piece of the puzzle in an all-time Yankee game that will air on YES Network for years to come.

6. Chris Young Stings the Rays (0.72 WPA)

Here is our first “oh yeah, this guy was a Yankee” moment of the list. I expected there to be more of these, to be honest. Anyway, with the Yankees 11.5 games out in September of a busted 2014 season, Alex Cobb brought a no-hitter into the 8th inning with a 4-0 lead. It would not last. Martin Prado drilled a 2-run homer in that frame to bring the score to 4-2, where it held until the bottom of the 9th.

After Headley reached base on a hit-by-pitch and Ichiro doubled, Zelous Wheeler struck out. That brought up Chris Young, who ended the game with a 3-run home run that capped a 5-run rally for the Yankees. It was a memorable game in a lost season.

5. Gardner Stuns the Cubs (0.73 WPA)

This is my personal favorite game on the list, and possibly of the decade. It came in early May 2017, with the Yankees at 17-9 and facing the defending champs in Chicago. Michael Pineda was tagged for two runs and the Yankees were blanked through 8 innings in Wrigley. That made the score 2-0 going into the top of the 9th.

A one-out Chase Headley single was sandwiched between a groundout and a strikeout. Ellsbury worked a two-out walk, which brought up Brett Gardner. He then worked a classic Gardner at-bat, lasting 7 pitches, and delivered a laser 3-run home run that is instantly one of the most memorable and unexpected moments of the decade. Gardner’s emotion rounding the bases still fires me up. This was one of many “oh my god” moments of the ridiculously fun 2017 campaign. I could relive this one all day.

4. A-Rod Puts the Yankees Ahead (0.74 WPA)

Here’s A-Rod’s first and only appearance on this list, coming on September 17, 2010. This is another one of those games that I really remember. Down 3-1 in Camden Yards and facing Koji Uehara, it seemed like defeat was in order for the Yanks. Jorge Posada hit a leadoff single, followed by a strikeout, a Curtis Granderson single, and a Teixeira pop-out.

That brought A-Rod to the plate with two outs. He worked a 5-pitch at-bat and then unloaded on the Uehara pitch, launching a 3-run home run that made the score 4-3 Yankees and flipping the script in this one. Mariano Rivera would come in and close the door behind him in an easy 1-2-3 9th inning, and the Yankees won the game.

3. Swisher Walks Off the Orioles (0.78 WPA)

A week before A-Rod’s big blow off Uehara, it was Nick Swisher’s turn. After a string of three consecutive losses, the Yankees hosted the Orioles at the Stadium on September 8, 2010. It looked like another loss was in order, as the Yanks mustered just one run in 8 innings against the Orioles. That changed in the 9th inning.

A-Rod led off the frame with a single, followed by a long fly out by Robinson Canó to dead center field. That brought up Nick Swisher, who hit a walk-off blast with one out to seal a memorable 3-2 Yankee victory. It was the start of a good week against Uehara–and more dominance of the Orioles at the hands of the Yankees.

2. Teixeira’s Walk-Off Grand Slam (0.82 WPA)

Coming into this exercise, I was certain that this would top the list. It is, along with the Cubs and Twins games highlighted above, the other most memorable game of the decade to me. The Yankees were ten games behind Boston on September 28, 2016 and their season was over. But that didn’t mean the games they still had to play couldn’t be fun, and boy was this one fun.

Scoreless until the 8th, Boston scored 3 runs off Adam Warren and Tommy Layne. They held the Yanks in the bottom half of the inning, too, which kept it 3-0 going into the bottom of the 9th. Gardner would log a base hit off Craig Kimbrel, while Ellsbury and Sánchez each worked walks. Kimbrel walked McCann with the bases loaded, knocking him out of the game and making the score 3-1 Boston. Joe Kelly came in and quickly recorded two outs, but Mark Teixeira had other plans. He delivered a massive walk-off grand slam off Kelly. It was great, even in a lost season. This is another one of those I could watch over and over again.

1. Beltrán Walks it Off Against Britton (0.84 WPA)

And here it is, folks: the biggest hit of the decade by WPA. I’ll confess again that I didn’t even remember this one, but hey–that’s baseball. Anyway, the Yankees trailed 3-1 in the 9th inning on June 20, 2014 against the Orioles. With the imposing Zack Britton on the mound, this one likely felt like a sealed deal. It was not.

Gardner led off the frame with a single, which was promptly followed by two consecutive outs. Teixeira walked, followed by a McCann single. That made the score 3-2, and it brought up Beltrán. He crushed the 5th pitch from Britton and sent the Yankees’ faithful home happy. Who would have guessed at the time that this would mark the biggest hit of the decade? Not I.

And that’s that, folks. The decade may not have delivered a World Series like we all hoped, but it was filled with a ton of memorable games and moments. It was a fun decade. May the next one be just as fun–but may it also be capped off by World Series win number 28.

Yankees Team of the Decade: Part II

Last week, I took a look at the Yankees’ best players by position for the last decade (2010-2019). Now, as the back-end of this series, I’m going to look at the Bombers’ best individual seasons by position in that same span.
While there are many of the same players on this list, this is highlighting the best of the best. MVP-worthy seasons for some, career-years for others. Starting with catcher, we get some familiar faces.

Catcher: 2017 Gary Sánchez

If you prorate Sánchez’s two-month torching of the American League in 2016, it’s not only the best catching season for the Yankees this decade but perhaps ever. Even with passed balls aplenty, Sánchez’s unbelievable hitting stretch (170 wRC+ in 53 games) was unrepeatable.

The next year, he was still damn good. In his first full Major League season, he set a Yankees single-season record for home runs by a catcher (33) and batted .278/.345/.531 (131 wRC+). He was an asset behind the plate with his skillful framing and had his best health in the Majors to date (122 games).

A 38-year-old Jorge Posada bashed 18 home runs in 2010, and both Russell Martin and Brian McCann had fine seasons behind the dish. Still, the 2016-17 Sánchez runs were unmatched by pinstriped catchers in the 2010s.

First Base: 2019 DJ LeMahieu

I’m clearly fudging this as LeMahieu played more games at both second and third base. However, there’s no room to supplant Robinson Canó at the keystone, and LeMahieu’s 2019 season was too good to leave out.

Leading the Next Man Up Yankees with 145 games played, he came up just shy of a batting title (.327 avg.) with a career-high 26 homers and 102 RBI. The free-agent signing catalyzed the Yankees through a trying season and onto the brink of a World Series berth.

The runner up for me was 2015 Mark Teixeira. While he hit more home runs in both 2010 and 2011 while playing full seasons, Teixeira’s 2015 season was an electric campaign cut short by a fluky injury. Over 111 games, he jumpstarted the Bombers’ wild-card efforts with a .255/.357/.548 (143 wRC+) line and mashed 31 homers in that time. Once he went down with injury, the Yankees’ division hopes were mostly sunk.

Second Base: 2012 Robinson Canó

As mentioned in the previous piece, Canó broke out at the turn of the decade and didn’t let up for his four remaining seasons with the Yankees. You could pick any of his seasons from 2010 to 2013 and you wouldn’t be wrong.

So why 2012? Not only did he establish a (since eclipsed) career-high in home runs with 33, he had a career-best .929 OPS and 149 wRC+, all while earning his second and final Gold Glove. It was the third in a five-year stretch where he finished between third and sixth in MVP voting. While the Yankees’ aging core outside of Derek Jeter needed significant time off in ’12, Canó led the way with 161 games while playing a smooth and superb brand of ball.

Honorable Mention: 2019 Gleyber Torres/DJ LeMahieu

Shortstop: 2018 Didi Gregorius

Gregorius’ career with the Yankees resembled a rising stock before a crash. He was a below-average hitter for two years while getting by on defense, then he broke out as a power-hitting all-around force hitting the in the middle of the order for a championship-caliber team.

In 2018, Didi established a Yankee record with 27 home runs by a shortstop and posted a 124 OPS+ in 134 games. For the second straight year, he earned a 20th-place finish in MVP balloting. His 2017 postseason surpassed his 2018 effort, but he played through the 2018 ALDS with a torn UCL, showing the tenacity the Bronx faithful loved from their shortstop.

Honorable Mention: 2012 Derek Jeter

Third Base: 2010 Álex Rodríguez/2019 Gio Urshela

Rodríguez settled third base for the Yankees for about a decade before succumbing to injuries (with a DH interlude). In 2010 and ’11, he was past his prime but still very good, posting 4.2 and 4.0 WAR seasons. In 2010, he continued a 30-homer, 100-RBI streak that dated back to 1998 while his bat took a step back at age-34.

Meanwhile, Urshela did something that no player post-Rodríguez could do: Combine impressive hitting and standout defense at third base. He matched Miguel Andújar’s success at the plate without the pitfalls at the hot corner. His 3.1 WAR is behind Rodríguez, but the defensive metrics underrate his steady glove.

Left Field: 2010/2017 Brett Gardner

We saw two distinctly different Brett Gardners this decade: A slap hitter who relied on speed, or a power hitter who sacrificed contact for dingers. They were both tremendous, and each had Gold Glove-worthy defense to back it up.

Funny enough, Gardy’s All-Star season was 2015 and his Gold Glove came in 2016. However, his remarkable defense in 2010 was robbed by an aging Ichiro for the award, though his 47 steals presaged his MLB-leading total a year later. In 2017, he smahed 21 home runs and played 151 games for the second time since 2011.

Center Field: 2011 Curtis Granderson

The groundwork for Grandy’s 2011 was laid in August 2010, when the struggling outfielder retooled his approach with the help of hitting coach Kevin Long. For the final 1.5 months of that season, he finally started to hit same-sided pitchers.

In 2011, Granderson’s offense went from good to lineup-carrying great. He hit 41 home runs with 26 doubles and 10 triples in putting together a career-high .916 OPS and 146 wRC+. He still had some flaws — he should have been flipped to left field with Gardner, and he struck out at a decent clip — but he was grand for the entire year. He hit 43 homers in 2012 before an injury undid his final year in the Bronx.

Right Field: 2017 Aaron Judge

Aaron Judge had the best season of any Yankee since MVP A-Rod in 2017. The numbers do all the talking. He led the AL with 52 homers, 128 runs, 127 walks and 208 strikeouts. He batted .284/.422/.627 (174 wRC+) and likely should have won MVP, all after striking out in 44.2 percent of his at-bats in 2016. No offense to Pete Alonso, but it was the best rookie season of all-time.

Judge hasn’t quite reached 2017 heights offensively in subsequent years, but his improved defense might make him a better all-around player when healthy.

Designated Hitter: 2018 Giancarlo Stanton/2015 Álex Rodríguez

The Yankees have had an eclectic group of DH seasons in the 2010s, many of which have been highly successful. 2010 Marcus Thames. 2011 Jorge Posada. 2012 Raúl Ibañez, though he played far too many games in the field.

Two seasons stand above the rest: Stanton and A-Rod. A-Rod’s last gaps in 2015 featured 30 home runs and an All-Star first half before he cratered late in his age-40 season. Stanton, meanwhile, carried the Yankees while Judge was hurt and boasted 38 homers in his Bronx debut.

Starting Pitching

  1. 2011 CC Sabathia
  2. 2017 Luis Severino
  3. 2012 Hiroki Kuroda
  4. 2016 Masahiro Tanaka
  5. 2013 Ivan Nova
  6. 2010 Andy Pettitte

The Yankees have had two pitchers pitch to an ace level for a season in this decade: Sabathia and Severino. Sabathia was at the tail-end of his prime in the early 2010s and had back-to-back top-four finishes in the Cy Young in 2010 and ’11. Sevy, meanwhile, was third in Cy Young voting in 2017 and could very well surpass that if he overcomes 2019’s health issues.

Kuroda and Tanaka mirror Sabathia and Severino in the very good category. Kuroda pitched the end of his stateside career in the Bronx and his first year with the Yankees, 2012, was the strongest of those, capped with a strong start to clinch the division and two good playoff outings. Tanaka has been consistently good, especially in big games. His abbreviated 2014 and his full 2016 seasons were the closest he came to being a regular-season ace.

I extended it to a six-man rotation because, well, why not? Nova fizzled out by the end of his time in the Bronx, but he mastered his sinker and curveball before Tommy John surgery in the early 2010s with a fine run from 2011-13, earning him Rookie of the Year consideration in 2011. The culmination of that progression was 2013, when he had health, consistency and confidence. Pettitte was superb in 2010 but in just 21 starts.

Honorable Mention: 2010 Phil Hughes, 2011 Freddy Garcia, 2015 Nathan Eovaldi, 2019 James Paxton


Closer: 2010 Mariano Rivera
The Rest: 2011 David Robertson, 2014 Dellin Betances, 2015 Andrew Miller, 2017 Chad Green, 2019 Ottavino/Kahnle/Britton/Chapman

I don’t know how you whittle down this bullpen. I nearly forgot Miller, and I had to exclude standout seasons from Rafael Soriano, Cory Wade, Luis Ayala and Adam Warren. The Yankees have been stacked in relief year-after-year.

Rivera is the closer every decade until my mind goes mush, and he had a 1.80 ERA in 2010. Robertson’s breakout (and only All-Star) year was 2011, when he struck out 100 with a 1.08 ERA in 66 2/3 innings. Betances struck out an absurd 135 batters in 2014 while often going multiple innings a la ’96 Rivera.

With Miller, his 2016 season was better, but he was traded at the deadline. Same with Chapman, but I included the entire 2019 top-four as a cop-out to having to choose between those seasons. Britton, though, was the best of the four. Finally, 2017 Chad Green rivals 2011 Robertson and 2014 Betances for the best relief seasons of the decade as he mowed down hitters with his high-spin fastball for 103 strikeouts and a 1.83 ERA in 69 innings.

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