The Yankees concluded the 2010 regular season with their ugliest stretch of play of the year, beginning the month in sole possession of first place before ultimately falling out for good on the second-to-last Friday of the season en route to a 13-17 in September/October, the team's only losing month of the season. As you know, the Yankees enter the 2010 MLB Postseason as the Wild Card, and will start the ALDS in Minnesota on Wednesday night at 8:37pm.
For Yankeeist's wrap-ups of the previous five months of the season, please click on the following:
Here are the overall and month-by-month and final team numbers for the 2010 Yankees. The data in all of the charts that follow is primarily from Fangraphs, with a little Baseball-Reference sprinkled in.
That being said, the offense wasn't exactly lighting the world on fire in September, either. The team's .331 wOBA in September/October was its second-lowest monthly mark of the season, though still good for fourth-highest in the AL, due to the team's league-leading OBP. While the team put a ton of men on base via the walk (September/October's 11.2% represented the Yankees' second-best BB% of the year), as we all know they failed in rather excruciating fashion to plate many of those runners. The team's season-low SLG of .398 for the month certainly contributed, not to mention the fact that they recorded their highest monthly K% of the season in Sept./Oct. High OBP + lack of XBH + many, many Ks = unholy amounts of missed scoring opportunities.
While the bullpen remained a strength in September the unit wasn't quite as lockdown as it had been in August, but that would've been quite a bit to ask given that Joe Girardi seemingly had to fashion five-plus innings a game from the 'pen in way too many September games.
Here are the individual player stats for September/October, sorted by wOBA for batters and FIP for pitchers:
Aside from Alex Rodriguez -- whose .411 wOBA was his best month of the season and only the second month all year he was above .400 -- and Curtis Granderson, the offense was pretty sad in September. Lance Berkman started out like a house on fire but cooled pretty significantly, falling well short of his ZiPS-projected .376 wOBA and four home runs, though he did hit for average and get on base with authority. Speaking of ZiPS, A-Rod pummeled his .272/.364/.489 (.372 wOBA) and five home runs projection in September to the tune of .295/.375/.600. More of that, please.
Brett Gardner's .336 wOBA was the same mark he put up in August. Robinson Cano's .332 was by far his worst month of the season and effectively killed any chance he may have had at the AL MVP. Did you know Derek Jeter was better than both Nick Swisher and Mark Teixiera in September? I didn't. Also, thank goodness Jorge Posada hit that monster go-ahead bomb at the Trop; otherwise I'd be killing him for the worst month he put up all season.
Now we know that the Tex and Swish were battling through injuries throughout the month, which helps explain the decline in production, As we've written numerous times, the Yankees are going to need big performances from the trio of Cano, Tex and Swish this postseason -- three guys who have basically carried the team offensively all season but didn't hit a lick last October -- if they're going to go anywhere this year, and hopefully they're as close to 100% as they can be.
On the starting pitching side of the ledger, CC Sabathia actually posted his second-worst monthly ERA of the season, but was still a beast, not to mention basically the Yankees' only reliable pitcher. Andy Pettitte returned from his groin injury and pitched OK, but remains a pretty big question mark. Phil Hughes came up really big in a couple of outings where the team really needed him, but continued to give up far too many home runs and ended up with the sixth-worst HR/9 rate among starting pitchers in the AL. Ivan Nova pitched well through the first four to five innings of most of his starts before typically imploding during the third time through the opponent's batting order.
Despite what the numbers say, A.J. Burnett wasn't actually quite as horrendous as we all feel like he pitched, though he was still pretty bad. His numbers were a bit skewed by two rain-shortened outings, and he actually turned three quality starts in out of seven tries. I'm not saying "he's cured!" or that we should be starting him in the first round or anything even remotely close to that, but I think some of his struggles may have been a bit overblown and the prospect of him possibly starting a Game 4 in the ALCS doesn't make me want to retch quite as badly as it might have.
Javier Vazquez was of course awful and likely already threw his last inning for the Yankees. In the 'pen, Kerry Wood, Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson and Boone Logan all continued to perform quite well, while Mariano Rivera, as we all know, struggled for an extended period of time for the first time all year. On the other end of the spectrum, Royce Ring failed to impress, Sergio Mitre was Sergio Mitre, Jonathan Albaladejo carried on in the legendary Yankee relief pitcher tradition of destroying AAA ball but not being able to get anyone out at the Major League level and Chad Gaudin managed to reach new heights of terrible, posting the worst FIP, by far, of any reliever in all of Major League Baseball during the month of September.
Below are the full season numbers for the 2010 Yankees, along with a handful of the team's notable castoffs. Please note that rather than including columns for both bWAR and fWAR like we've been doing for much of our analysis during the past month, we determined that the easiest solution to this would simply be to average the two numbers. Ergo, yWAR (Yankeeist WAR) was born. Please feel free to let us know if you find yWAR useful (I find it instructive, as the primary discrepancy between the two systems seems to be inflated WAR numbers on the part of Fangraphs, but in relation to their respective scales the systems are mostly in agreement as far as level of value each player provided to the team) or if you'd rather us continue to separate the two numbers.
Robinson Cano and CC Sabathia were clearly the two most valuable Yankees in 2010. Despite a decline from his red-hot start to open the season, Brett Gardner still wound up being the second-most valuable position player in terms of yWAR. If you had predicted that particular statistic prior to the season, I would've also tried to sell you a bridge. Both Tex and A-Rod came around after pretty miserable starts to the season, but both also wound up posting the lowest wOBAs of their respective careers. Alex's triple slash was also by far the worst of his Yankee career, and that's including his torrid September.
After trailing for much of the season, Curtis Granderson ultimately got the best of Austin Jackson, with a .346 wOBA to AJax's .333, though both recorded 3.1 yWAR. However, Grandy missed a month of the season, while Jackson played in 151 games for the Tigers, so Grandy almost certainly would've accumulated more WAR had he played a full season. Still, heck of a coming out party for Austin Jackson. Had the Yankees stuck AJax in center to start the season (something they weren't prepared to do) and managed to get a .333 wOBA out of him with stellar defense he would've been this year's Melky Cabrera. Speaking of Melky, as bad as Home Run Javy was, it's not like the Yanks would've been better off with Melky's .294 wOBA and -0.9 yWAR. According to Fangraphs, Melky was worth negative $5.1 million(!), which means he owes the Braves money for playing him almost every day. That's awful.
Marcus Thames provided a lot of value in his part-time role, and for all his shortcomings Francisco Cervelli still had a better year with the stick (87 OPS+) than Jose Molina did last season (46 OPS+). Neither Hideki Matsui nor Johnny Damon matched their 2009 numbers (Damon in particular lost nearly 100 points of slugging) but both posted fairly respectable campaigns. While hindsight is of course always 20/20, and I fully endorsed the Nick Johnson signing, given what happened with the Yankees' DH situation this year there's probably a case to be made for the Yankees making more of an effort to retain Matsui's services last offseason.
Three Yankee starting pitchers surpassed the 100 ERA+ mark, with Sabathia of course being the most valuable and leading the staff in ERA, FIP, xFIP, WHIP, BAA, BB/9, K/9 and HR/9. Damn. The bullpen unsurprisingly posted a number of impressive performances, with Kerry Wood's 631 OPS+ in two months reminiscent of Joba Chamberlain circa 2007. Raise your hand if you had any idea that Sergio Mitre pitched to a 130 ERA+. I have no idea how that happened.
Once the Yankees stop playing baseball games we'll have an even more comprehensive breakdown for each player's full season numbers, but we wanted to at least provide them here to give you a look at the big picture.
While on the surface this year's team seems inferior to last year's, the 2010 Yankees actually posted a significantly stronger team ERA (which goes to show you how good things were going before August and September rolled around), notching a 4.06 mark to last year's 4.28. The Yankee bullpen is also much better this year, with a 3.47 team mark compared to 3.91 in 2009.
However, this year's Yankee offense definitely left a little something to be desired. I know it seems petulant to complain about an MLB-leading .347 wOBA, but after their earth-shattering .366 mark last season -- the best team mark in all of baseball the last 10 years -- it's hard not to be slightly disappointed in losing .019 points of wOBA. The 2010 iteration of the team is obviously still very good, and clearly excelled at getting on base, but the power we've been accustomed to from Yankee teams of recent vintage wasn't quite there this year.
Ultimately, it was a September to forget, but thankfully for the Yankees and their fans, the team played well enough earlier in the season that we have postseason baseball to look forward to. Everything starts anew on Wednesday, and hopefully the team is finally ready to put this stretch of ugliness behind them and play the kind of world-beating baseball we know they're capable of.
In case this didn't thoroughly exhaust you, please also be sure to check out William's 2010 Season Recap at The Captain's Blog.