So the regular season came to a close this afternoon, with the Yankee bats coming alive after a near-weeklong slumber, bludgeoning the Rays, 10-2.
The victory brought the Yankees to 103-59 on the season, marking the team's highest win total since 2002. Pretty much everything went the way the Yankees could have wanted it to in the last game before the playoffs: A.J. Burnett continued to pitch well, yielding only two runs (only one earned) over five innings. David Robertson pitched a scoreless 6th inning. Joba Chamberlain came in for his first relief appearance since last season and pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning. Phil Coke, Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera all looked sharp.
And, perhaps most importantly, the Yankees finally remembered that they have the best offense in baseball, lighting Tampa Bay up for all 10 of their runs in the 6th inning. Alex Rodriguez clubbed both a three-run home run and grand slam, setting an American League record for RBI in one inning, and also bringing him to an even 30 home runs and 100 RBI on the year. In an absurd 124 games, mind you. This was also the 13th time in A-Rod's career that he has reached the 30-HR/100 RBI plateau, also setting a new record. The next time you hear a Yankee fan complaining about A-Rod hitting meaningless home runs to pad his stats, feel free to punch them in the face.
Of the 23 times the Yankees scored 10-plus runs this year, this marked the second 10-plus run inning of the year, the last one coming on April 28 in an 11-0 shutout at Detroit.
We know the Yankees had an insanely potent offense in 2009, but let's take a quick look at just how punishing it was:
BA: .283, 2nd in MLB
OBP: .362, 1st
SLG: .478, 1st
HR: 244, 1st
R: 915, 1st
OPS: .839, 1st
The 2009 Yankees set a new franchise team record with 244 home runs. They finished with seven hitters with 20-plus home runs, two of which reached the 30-HR plateau. Mark Teixeira had an absolute monster of a first year in pinstripes, clubbing 39 bombs (tied for 1st in the AL) and leading the league with 122 runs batted in.
The Yankees' OPS as a team was .839. That's mind-blowing. To give you a little bit of perspective, that's the 3rd-highest Yankee team mark of all time, and the franchise's best number since they notched an .861 OPS in 1936. Yes, you read that correctly. Nineteen thirty-six. Which means, if one were so inclined, one could make a case for this being the most potent and proficient Yankee offense in 73 years. It's also the second-highest team OPS of any MLB franchise this decade, trailing only the 2003 Boston Red Sox' insane .851.
It's been one hell of a regular season to be sure, and this year's Yankees are primed for a deep run in the playoffs, with historical offensive firepower (eight of their 9 projected starters have an OPS of .854 or higher) and its strongest pitching staff in several years -- as per RAB's Mike Axisa, the Yankee staff finished with the most strikeouts and second-lowest batting average against in the AL, and also has the lowest ERA of the American league playoff teams.
As we all know, anything can happen in a short series, but even the most jaded of Yankee fans would have to admit it's hard not to like this team's chances of going all the way and bringing home its 27th World Championship.