The inspiration for this post came from a column Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports wrote a few weeks ago.
I’ve enjoyed Passan’s writing for awhile now, and I thought it would be neat to write a post about 25 Yankee-specific facts. I did my best by trying to find some items that a casual Yankee fan wouldn’t know.
I must warn you, this is going to be a long post. But I think it has to be. After all, a Major League Baseball season is long. There are so many games, so many stats to digest, so many players to talk about. And the 2010 Yankee season is no exception.
Thanks to the invaluable resources that are Baseball Reference and Fangraphs, there are literally an infinite number of stats at my disposal. Most of the information you find here is attributed to those sites.
And I’ll also do my best to keep you entertained along the way.
So without further ado, here are 25 facts about the 2010 Yankees that you may or may not have known.
1. CC Sabathia’s 2010 season was the best by a Yankee starter since Mike Mussina in 2003.
People forget how good Mike Mussina was in 2003, mostly because he was overshadowed by Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. Clemens went 17-9 and won his 300th game and got his 4,000th strikeout. Pettitte won 21 games. Both were in the final year of their contract. But it was Mussina that had the best year of any starter. Mussina threw more innings, had a better ERA, walked fewer, struck out more, and had a much better WHIP than either Clemens or Pettitte that year.
If you’re going by WAR, Sabathia’s 5.5 is the highest since Mussina’s 6.2 in 2003.
To put both Sabathia’s and Mussina’s dominance into perspective, here are the highest WAR totals for Yankee starting pitchers since 1998:
1) Mike Mussina, 2001: 6.5
2) Mike Mussina, 2003: 6.2
3) CC Sabathia, 2010: 5.5
4) Roger Clemens, 2001: 5.4
5) Chien-Ming Wang, 2006: 5.4
Mike Mussina owns the top two spots. And there is Sabathia at number three.
But I still think Felix Hernandez should win the Cy Young Award.
2. A.J. Burnett was either really really good or really really bad.
Ok, you probably knew this. Early on it was pretty clear that A.J. was lights out on some days and absolutely awful on others. Burnett finished with a 10-15 record and an ERA above 5. In his fifteen losses, Burnett allowed 82 earned runs, good for a 10.35 ERA. He allowed a slash line of .352/.438/.628. So basically, in half of his starts, it was as if he faced Josh Hamiltion every time up.
Burnett actually started off the year as one of the best pitchers in baseball. On the morning of May 9th, he had a 4-0 record with a 1.99 ERA. And by the end of May, he was still a very impressive 6-2 with a 3.28 ERA. In his ten wins, he posted a 1.08 ERA and allowed a slash line of .212/.273/.271. So he wasn’t all bad.
3. True, he wasn’t all bad. But in 2010, he was mostly bad.
Here are some more ugly stats about Burnett:
In 21 starts after May: 4-13, 6.67 ERA
In 5 June starts: 0-5, 11.35 ERA
Number of Starts Burnett Gave Up At Least 3 Runs: 20
4 Runs: 15
5 Runs: 10
6 Runs: 10
7 runs: 5
8 runs: 3
4. The Yankees posted their first positive UZR season since…
Since ever! And by ever, I mean since 2002. Fangraphs only has advanced fielding data for the past eight seasons. But 2010 was the first time (in the UZR era) that the Yankees actually posted a positive number. In other words, their defense actually saved them runs this year. Compare that to 2005, when the team’s UZR was -100.
5. Kerry Wood’s stats with the Yankees were pretty good.
When Kerry Wood was acquired, he was sporting a 1-4 record with a 6.30 ERA and a 1.600 WHIP. Since coming to the Yankees, Wood has turned around his season and made a positive impact on the bullpen. It’s hard to believe, but in 24 games with the Yanks, Wood has a 0.69 ERA and 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings. The league is hitting .161 off him.
It’s worth reading those numbers again.
I don’t know what lies ahead for Wood. It will be interesting to see how he is used in the playoffs. But I think that Girardi and Co. are very confident in throwing Wood out there in big situations. And so far, he has proven his worth.
6. Jason Giambi was better in his first two years with the Yankees than Mark Teixeira.
Giambi, 2002-2003: .283/.423/.563, 82 HR, 229 RBI, 238 BB, 160 OPS+, 11.9 WAR
Teixeira, 2009-2010: .274/.374/.523, 72 HR, 230 RBI, 174 BB, 132 OPS+, 10.0 WAR
Now obviously there are a lot of caveats here. Teixeira won a World Series and delivered that huge walk-off home run in Game 2 of the ALDS last year. Giambi was basically silent during the playoffs (though his two home runs in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS were crucial in sending the game to extra innings, where Aaron Boone eventually hit that dramatic home run).
Teixeira has also been a much better fielder. No question about that.
So it’s pretty obvious that Teixeira is a better overall first baseman. But it’s interesting to note that Giambi actually outperformed Teixeira at the plate in his first two years with the Yankees.
Of course, Giambi ended up playing only 80 games the next year, and God willing, Teixeira will turn out to be a better investment in the long run.
7. Francisco Cervelli fell asleep from May through August.
It’s important to note that he is the backup catcher, and he probably put up better numbers than most backup catchers in the league. But for some reason, Cervelli stopped hitting after May. He finished the season with a .271 average, but after May 15th* he hit .235. And from May 15th through August 23rd, he hit just .185.
*It is worth noting, however, that on May 15th Cervelli was hitting .415.
8. Francisco Cervelli led the team in errors.
I don’t mean to bash on Cervelli here because I like him. I really do. I like his enthusiasm, his demeanor on the field, his old-school, no batting gloves approach at the plate. He’s the type of player that makes it fun to watch Yankee games (except when he’s hitting in a big spot). So I’ll start by saying that.
But honestly, it’s never a good thing when your backup catcher leads the team in errors. And in addition to his struggles at the plate, Cervelli struggled mightily in the field. He started 80 games and ended up with 13 errors. If Cervelli was in the starting lineup, you had a 16% chance of seeing him make an error. He’s a catcher. Think about that for a second.
Second on the Yankees in errors? Jorge Posada. Posada caught 48 less innings than Cervelli but still made eight of them.
All in all, Yankee catchers combined for 21 errors, or about 30% of the team’s total.
9. Cano, Jeter, Rodriguez combined for 16 errors.
Not bad when you consider that they combined for 44 errors in 2005. Yep, just five years ago the same trio committed a whopping 28 more errors. Even though A-Rod and Jeter have gotten older, they’ve certainly improved their fielding percentage. Granted, Jeter misses most of the balls to his left, but when he does get to a ball, he is quite efficient at making the play without error.
Robinson Cano is a whole other story.
10. Robinson Cano had a good year.
This is an understatement, to say the least. Let me first say this: he made three errors all year. Three! He played in nearly 1,400 innings and had roughly 770 chances to commit an error between his putouts and assists. And the guy missed only three times.
And yeah…offensively, Cano was a beast. He continued his remarkable durability by playing in 160 games. Guess how many games he’s missed since 2007. Twenty? Thirty? Nope. Since the start of the ’07 season, Cano has missed EIGHT games. Just eight. He is the only Yankee ever to appear in 159 or more games in four straight seasons.
Here are some other stats for you: a .319 average, 29 home runs, 109 RBI’s, 103 runs scored, 200 hits, a 141 OPS+, and a WAR of 6.0. It was quite a 2010 season for Cano. And he joins just Rogers Hornsby – THE Rogers Hornsby – as the only second basemen to have consecutive seasons of 200 hits and 25+ home runs.
11. Brett Gardner likes to take pitches.
This was both good and bad. I think early on in the season it was good. He rarely swung at pitches out of the zone and made the pitcher throw him a strike, which is why he was hitting over .300 for most of the season. But I think towards the end of the year Gardner got too picky and took a lot of easily hittable pitches.
Here is a stat that will blow you away: Gardner took the first pitch 97% of the time.* And of the 14 times Gardner made contact on the first pitch, he got eight hits.
*This stat is a little skewed. He probably swung at more than 3% of first pitches, but he only hit 3% of them into fair territory.
Overall, most hitters do hit better on the first pitch. The simple explanation for this is that the pitcher wants to get ahead and is willing to throw a strike.
But if there’s one thing we noticed about Brett Gardner, it’s that he was not afraid to hit with two strikes. In fact, he had two strikes on him in 69% of his at bats, a number that is astronomically high. By comparison, Robinson Cano had two strikes on him in 38% of his AB’s. Derek Jeter was at 42%. A-Rod was at 48%.
Even Mark Reynolds had two strikes on him less than Gardner. Reynolds, who struck out 211 times in 499 at bats, had two strikes on him 65% of the time.
So my advice to Brett Gardner would be this: Brett, I like your patience. Patience is a virtue. But your odds of getting on base with two strikes go way down. Don’t be afraid to swing at the first pitch if it’s a good one. Or the second one. And while you still have your speed, try and hit as many balls into fair territory as you can.
12. Brett Gardner is the fastest Yankee of my lifetime.
I suppose that the above statement is, in its literal form, very true. Brett Garnder IS, most likely, the fastest player to where a Yankee uniform in my lifetime (for the record, I was born in 1991).
But here I’m using number of stolen bases to determine the fastest Yankee since 1991. And Gardner’s 47 steals this year were the most by a Yankee since Rickey Henderson’s 93 SB’s in 1989.
Hard to believe it’s been 21 years since a Yankee stole at least 47 bases. But for now, Gardner holds the post-1991 single season record.
13. Ramiro Pena and his 36 OPS+ got 167 plate appearances.
In the last 20 years, here are the lowest OPS+ numbers for a Yankee player with at least 150 plate appearances:
Ramiro Pena, 2010: 36
Luis Sojo, 1998: 37
Andy Fox, 1996: 38
Tony Womack, 2005: 50
Mariano Duncan, 1997: 51
Enrique Wilson, 2004: 51
Jose Molina, 2008: 51
I’ll leave it at that.
14. The Yankees had seven players strike out at least 98 times.
This is both good and bad.
It’s a good thing because the Yankees were lucky enough to have seven players play enough games to be able to strike out 98+ times. It’s also a trend we’ve seen throughout the game. For quite a few years now, the amount of strikeouts in baseball have been rising.
But it’s also a bad thing because all those strikeouts result in less runs and less times on base.
For the record, the seven guys were: Teixeira, Jeter, Rodriguez, Gardner, Granderson, Swisher, and Posada.
15. Mariano Rivera continues to dominate.
Again, you probably knew this. His 33 saves, 1.80 ERA, and 0.833 WHIP were all very impressive, and it’s what we’ve come to expect from Mo. His SAA (slash line allowed) was an otherworldly .183/.239/.254. He threw a strike two-thirds of the time, allowed only ten extra-base hits, and continued to make hitters look silly with his cutter, all while pitching in mostly high leverage situations.
I don’t know how he does it. I don’t know how, at the age of 40, Mo posted his second-best WHIP and his fifth-best ERA ever. He may not be as durable as he used to be (his 60 innings in relief were the fewest ever in a non-injury season), but he is still the best closer in baseball.
I don’t know how much longer he’s got, but I will continue to enjoy the ride while it lasts.
16. The Yankees had three complete games, but none of them were nine innings.
This was more of a bizarre coincidence than anything else. Two of those complete games (one by Sabathia and one by Burnett) occurred in losses on the road, and Sabathia’s other one occurred because of a rainout.
In fact, 2010 was the second time ever that the Yankees didn’t have a nine-inning complete game. It also happened in 2004.
This doesn’t really show much, other than the fact that Yankee pitchers don’t throw nearly as many complete games as they used to (like when they threw 123 complete games in 1904).
17. Alex Rodriguez performed a Houdini act in September.
At the end of August, I thought there was no way A-Rod was going to continue his streak of 30-homer seasons. In fact, on September 4th, with less than a month left, he had just 21 home runs. But somehow, he managed to hit nine in a span of 21 games, and so his streak of 30-plus home run seasons (now at 13) is alive and well. It was quite the Houdini act.
18. Speaking of A-Rod, he was really efficient at driving runners in this season.
I wrote about this a few weeks ago.
In 137 games, he drove in 125 runs. In fact, he drove in one run for every 4.76 Plate Appearances, by far the best rate in baseball. I know RBI isn’t the best statistic to judge a player’s success on, but when runners were on base, A-Rod upped his game. He hit .296/.368/.556 with runners on and .246/.314/.460 with no one on. Who said A-Rod wasn’t clutch?
19. The Yankees play better on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.
There have been a bunch of great Yankee games over the past two years, and an abnormally high number of them have occurred when the game was broadcasted on ESPN.
Take last year, for example. Two of my favorite games were ESPN Sunday night games – the night Mariano Rivera recorded his 500th save (and also walked with the bases loaded against Francisco Rodriguez) and the game that Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira hit back to back home runs in the eighth inning off Daniel Bard to complete a four-game sweep over the Red Sox.
The trend continued this year. I was sure the Yankees were going to lose against the Dodgers on that Sunday night game in June. The Yankees were losing 6-2 in the ninth with one out and Jonathan Broxton on the mound. Somehow, they started a rally, culminating with big hits by Chad Huffman and Colin Curtis. Talk about unpredictability. And then Cano hit that dramatic home run in the tenth off George Sherrill.
And then I was lucky enough to attend the Sunday night game where Dustin Moseley shut down the Red Sox, while Mark Teixeira and crew clobbered their way to a win. And the Yankees weren’t done yet – last Sunday night they came back against the Red Sox and won it in extra innings on a walk-off walk.
In fact, this isn’t really a new thing. Alex Rodriguez hit a walk-off home run on a Sunday night game a few years ago. Mike Mussina was one out away from a perfect game on Sunday night. The final game played at Yankee Stadium was on a Sunday night.
Maybe the bright lights and the national spotlight have something to do with it. Or maybe this is just a random coincidence. It’s something to keep watching in 2011.
20. There is a lot to like about Phil Hughes.
This was an important year for Hughes, and I think it’s safe to say that he proved his worth in the starting rotation. He’s still only 24, but he finished the year with an 18-8 record, a 4.19 ERA, and a .244 BAA. If he can limit the amount of home runs he gives up (he gave up 25), then he’ll continue to develop as a starter.
The one knock on Hughes is that from June 13th forward, his ERA was over five. But for the most part, his 2010 season was a successful one.
21. The Yankees only used eight different starting pitchers.
Had Andy Pettitte not been injured, this number would have likely been less.
This is a testament to the durability and improved conditioning of the starting staff. Three years ago, in 2007, the Yankees used 14 different starters. In 2005, they also used 14 different starters.
Then again, those teams didn’t have CC Sabathia.
22. Nick Swisher had an entirely different approach at the plate this year.
And as a result, he hit for a higher average but got on base less often.
In 2009, he hit only .249, but got on base 37% of the time thanks to 97 walks. He saw at least four pitches in 43% of his plate appearances. And he had two strikes on him in 54% of his plate appearances.
In 2010, he hit .288, but got on base only 36% of the time. He walked just 58 times. He saw at least four pitches in 36% of his plate appearances. And he had two strikes on him in 51% of his plate appearances.
So was this new approach good or bad?
I think overall it was good. Even though he got on base less often, his slugging and OPS were higher. He also scored more runs. His power numbers were unaffected; he still hit 29 home runs. And he made the all star team too.
23. Jorge Posada tied a career high in stolen bases.
I really don’t know what got into Posada this year. You normally don’t see a 39 year old catcher tie a career high in stolen bases. But somehow, Jorge managed to steal three bases (with only one caught stealing).
How did he do this? Mostly by feasting off the element of surprise. Few pitchers threw over (or even looked over) when Posada was on first.
Overall, his three stolen bases tied him for sixth on the team.
24. David Robertson continued his ridiculous amount of strikeouts per nine innings.
I guess it would have been hard to top last year’s 13 K’s per nine innings, but Robertson still managed to strike out 71 in 61.1 innings, an average of 10.4 K’s per nine. Believe it or not, this was a career low for Robertson, and nearly a strikeout off his career pace of 11.3 K’s per nine.
I think the jury is still out on Robertson. Overall, he has been very effective. But his WHIP of 1.500 and his 4.8 walks per nine innings are not lights-out numbers. He still has to make that next step from a good reliever to a great reliever.
25. The Yankees have never lost to the Twins in the ALDS.
I’d like to end this on a positive note. In 2003, 2004, and 2009, the Yankees easily beat the Twins in the ALDS. They combined to go 9-2, including a very impressive 5-0 record at the Metrodome.
Some would say that the Twins are due to win one of these. But I think it’s pretty clear that the Yankees have the Twins’ number.
Have anything you’d like to add? Feel free to do so in the comments section below.