Yesterday I made some predictions on whether Yankee batters would do better or worse in 2011 than in 2010, today I’ll go through the pitchers.
2010: 21-7, 3.18 ERA, 3.54 FIP
2011: At this point Sabathia is who he is, I would expect a very similar season in 2011. He’s going to throw a ton of good to great innings and win a ton of games. Expect more of the same next year, which of course is a great thing. CC is an ace in every sense of the word.
2010: 11-3, 3.28 ERA, 3.85 FIP
2011: Assuming he comes back, I don’t expect Pettitte to pitch as well in 2011 as he did in 2010, though if healthy he could certainly bring more to the team. The 129 innings he pitched were the lowest of his Yankee career. I don’t think he’ll pitch to a 3.28 ERA again, but if he can make 30 starts and put up a season similar to his 2009 he’ll be better for the Yankees in the long run.
2010: 18-8, 4.19 ERA, 4.25 FIP
2011: Unlike CC and Andy, there is reason to believe he could improve greatly in 2010. As positive as his 2010 was, there is plenty of room for improvement. He may not win 18 games again, but he’ll likely be better. He went through some growing pains that all young pitchers go through and hopefully he learns from them. I also think that Hughes’ mindset may be a little different in 2011 knowing that there is no innings limit on the season, nor will he be on as strict pitch counts (20 of 29 starts were less than 105) within games. Removing these chains could certainly help him grow. And please Phil, hit a batter next year.
2010: 10-15, 5.26 ERA, 4.83 FIP
2011: Burnett has to get better in 2011, right? I expect he will. While the hiring of Larry Rothschild as pitching coach is a positive, Burnett’s success will depend primarily on himself. There was no major injury to explain his poor season, and as inconsistent as he has been throughout his career, at the end of every season his line looked ok. Clearly this wasn’t the case in 2010. One area of slight concern is that his fastball velocity did drop 1 MPH to 93.2 from 2009 to 2010, his 3rd straight year of decline and well off his career norms. Since he’s essentially a two pitch pitcher, any further drop in velocity could be deadly.
2010: 3.82 ERA, 3.58 FIP
2011: Robertson finished the year strong (playoffs aside) and we were all confident when he came in, but it’s easy to forget he got off to a horrible start. I think 2011 he puts it together and has a strong year start to finish as the primary setup man (assuming Joba is traded). If Joba is still here I think Robertson sticks to the fireman role which he has been so great at the past few years (OPS is 107 points lower with runners on, which is good because he walks so many guys).
2010: 1.80 ERA, 2.81 FIP
2011: Every year there are a ton of prognosticators who predict this is the year Rivera will age. Every year they are all wrong. Of course they all keep saying it, so one time they might be right. I certainly won’t be making that prediction. In his last 8 years Rivera has had an ERA over 2 just once. Why would I predict otherwise? In 2011 it’ll be another year of dominance for the ageless Mo.
2010: 12-9, 3.18 ERA, 2.58 FIP
2011: Of course this is dependant on Lee signing with the Yankees, but I would expect a little worse season out of Lee in 2011. Many players struggle their first year in pinstripes, though it was promising that the last big free agent class certainly bucked the trend. Lee seems to have the composure and attitude required for pitching in the Bronx without being affected, but we won’t really know until he gets here. I’m sure his record will be better, but pitching a full year in Yankee Stadium and the AL East could hurt his other (important) stats. He’ll be great, but maybe not quite as great as he was this year.
As this will be my last post at RAB, I want to thank Ben, Mike, and Joe for the opportunity to write here for the past 6 months as I truly have had a blast doing it. I also want to thank the readers for reading and commenting on my posts, both those who agreed and disagreed with me as I took a lot from both sides. The community of Yankee fans on this site is second to none and I am glad to be a part of it.
Today and tomorrow I’m going to take a look at some core Yankees and whether I think they will be better or worse in 2011 than they were in 2010. I’ll start with the hitters today, come back tomorrow as I review the pitchers.
2010: .248/.357/.454, .357 wOBA, 18 HR.
2011 Outlook: As a full time DH that is certainly a line we can live with from Posada. Despite his advanced age I think he has a shot to improve on that line as he won’t have the same wear and tear he did as a full time catcher. While the final line was a little subpar for Posada, it’s easy to forget he was OPS’ing over 1.000 heading into June (though with limited time due to injury). The one issue I could see is that Posada will have trouble adjusting to the DH position as many players have in the past (and he has struggled in 90 games as the DH in his career). Overall I expect a slightly better performance from Jorge if he is, as expected, the full time DH.
2010: .256/.365/.481, .367 wOBA, 33 HR.
2011 Outlook: 2010 was the worst year of Tex’ career since his rookie season. He’s turning 31 just after Opening Day so there’s no age related concerns. He’ll be better next year than he was this year, book it.
2010: .319/.381/.534, .389 wOBA, 29 HR
2011: I can’t see Cano improving much on his 2010, it was truly a special season, but if he can sustain his walk rate he just might do it again next year. His BABIP on the year was consistent with his career levels, his power was very similar to his 2009 season and he continues to remain healthy. I would guess he’ll have a slight regression in 2011 but still put up the second best season of his career. If the walk rate sustains or even improves though, look out.
2010: .270/.340/.370, .320 wOBA, 10 HR
2011: While Jeter’s age is working against him I expect (hope) him to improve in 2011. While I don’t know if he’ll return to his 2009 level ever again, I think he can definitely be better in the next few years than he was in 2010. I guess somebody should have told him it’s a contract year. Seriously though I think he’ll improve, but he’ll be 37 in June so there’s no guarantee. Players like Jeter have fallen of a cliff before, let’s hope he doesn’t for a few more seasons.
2010: .271/.341/.506, .363 wOBA, 30 HR
2011: While A-Rod’s 2010 was great, it was pretty poor based on the insane standards he has set. He’s regressed every year since his monster 2007 but I’d expect a little bit of a bounce back in 2011. He may never bat .300 or slug .600 again, but I would expect him to get on base at a better clip than he did this year. The good news is he continues to move further away from his serious hip injury but the bad news is that he’s getting up there in age. I don’t think he’ll be an MVP candidate, but he’ll be better.
2010: .277/.383/.379, .358 wOBA, 47 steals
2011: Gardner did all that could have been asked of him in 2010. I do worry that what we saw last year was pretty close to his ceiling though. If he can plateau there for a few years I’ll be thrilled, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him regress to the .265/.350/.360 range next year. While I don’t advocate trading Gardner I certainly would see what his value is on the trade market.
2010: .247/.324/.468, .346 wOBA, 24 HR
2011: Aside from his big early season homerun off Jonathan Papelbon, Granderson was a disappointment for quite a while with both ineffectiveness and injury. It also didn’t help that while Granderson was struggling, Austin Jackson was off to a great start in Detroit. Once Granderson took a few days off in the summer to work with Kevin Long however, he turned it on in a big way. Something clearly clicked (some may even say #cured) and I expect big things from Granderson next year.
2010: .288/.359/.491, .377 wOBA, 29 HR
2011: As we all know, Swisher seemed to substitute some walks for hits this year on his way to one of the best seasons of his career. Swisher, aside from his one year in Chicago has been pretty consistent throughout his career so I would expect something similar in 2011. I don’t see him getting a lot better than this year, nor do I see him getting worse.
I’m as big a fan of Jesus Montero as there is. I’m glad the Cliff Lee trade didn’t go through. I’m glad they didn’t trade him for Roy Halladay. I have not seen him catch in person though I think the Yankees should try him at catcher until they’re 100% sure he either can or can’t handle the position. As bullish as I am on Montero, Bill James’ 2011 projections for him just seem insane. If you haven’t seen yet, James predicts a .285/.348/.519 line with 21 HR’s. Yes, that’s in the major leagues.
How realistic is this? First, considering this in a perspective solely to Montero, that line is eerily similar to his 2010 AAA line of .289/.353/.517 line with 21 HR’s. So James prediction essentially says Montero will repeat his numbers as a 20 year old getting his first taste AAA as a 21 year old getting his first taste of the major leagues. For all of us who followed Montero this year, we know that he got off to a horrible start and a ridiculously hot finish. While the slow start is certainly a possibility (and maybe even a probability) in the major leagues, is there any way Montero would go on a tear like he did last year, hitting .351/.396/.684 after the All Star break? It took a run like that just to land at his final AAA line, and I can’t see that type of production in the major leagues over such a long period of time. That’s Pujolsian. So I’d say for Montero to approach his AAA line in the majors in 2011, he’d have to be pretty consistently awesome for 6 months (with the expected normal peaks and valleys) as a 21 year old rookie catcher, in New York, playing on a team that expects to win the World Series. Good luck with that.
How realistic is Montero’s projection in a historical context? Since 1901 how many 21 year old (or younger) catchers have ever slugged over .500 while catching at least 100 games? Answer: none. Stretch that out to 22 years old and you get two catchers: Johnny Bench in 1970 which was his 3rd year in the league and Brian McCann in 2006 in his first full season, though he was not a rookie. Even going out to the age of 23 there are only 4 more catchers who slugged .500 or greater (Nokes, Carter, Hartnett, Mauer) at such a young age. And yet, James projects Montero is to slug .517 as a 21 year old rookie. Opening this comparison up to all positions there have been 30 seasons (by 23 players) since 1901 to slug .500 or greater at age 21 or younger, again none of them catchers. The list literally is chock full of Hall of Famers as you might expect. Even if James’ projection for Montero were based on him solely DH’ing, you can still see just how historic his line would be.
I am pretty sure that Montero will not reach James’ lofty projections and it’s unfair to expect him to. That will not make him a bust, overrated or a disappointment. Let’s all acknowledge that now. If somehow Montero makes history and hits those projections we will all be beyond thrilled. I can’t wait to see Montero’s first at-bat in the majors and expect to enjoy the ride, I just want to keep things in perspective, which I simply feel James projections do not do.
I might be in the minority on this one but I’d trade Hughes for Brian Matusz. He’s lefty, younger than Hughes and just put up a very good season as a rookie. A year younger than Hughes, he outperformed Hughes in both bWAR and fWAR. I’m on the fence on Matt Wieters but will say no for now. He hasn’t been Johnny Bench reincarnated as many had predicted, but he’s been decent his first two years in the league and should still develop into a solid player. He’s not a sure thing though, so I’d stick with Hughes. Would the Orioles trade Matusz for Hughes? No. Would they trade Wieters for Hughes? I don’t think so, they have some solid young pitchers and Wieters probably fills a bigger need.
Boston Red Sox
Jon Lester is a no brainer. I’d lean towards no on Clay Buchholz, but the argument certainly could be made. Dustin Pedroia would likely be a yes if the Yankees didn’t already have the best second baseman in the AL. You could also make an argument for Kevin Youkilis, but he’s on the wrong side of 30, isn’t very durable, and wouldn’t fit a need for the Yankees. Would the Sox trade Lester for Hughes? No.
Chicago White Sox
John Danks is just a year older than Hughes but has 3 seasons better than Hughes’ 2010. This is a close one, but since Danks is lefthanded, I would make the trade. It’s pretty close and I’d consider that the tiebreaker, especially in Yankee Stadium. Would the White Sox trade Danks for Hughes? Doubtful.
Shin-Soo Choo, like his Ohio counterpart Jay Bruce would be too good to pass up, despite a lack of glaring need. Since getting a chance in 2008, Choo has been a beast, putting up a 144 OPS+ with wOBA’s of .402, .389, and .388 the past three years. You could sway me on Carlos Santana, but coming off a pretty nasty leg injury and duplicating what Montero might bring (if you think he’s sticking at catcher), I don’t think I’d make this trade if I’m the Yankees. Would the Indians trade Choo for Hughes? I think they probably would as Choo will soon get expensive in arbitration.
Despite a lack of a need and a big contract, Miguel Cabrera would be a no-brainer. Justin Verlander would also be no-brainer. Would Detroit trade either of these two for Hughes? No.
Kansas City Royals
Zack Greinke is a no brainer. I would not trade Hughes for Joakim Soria though. Some people would, I wouldn’t. As a starter expect Hughes to provide more value going forward for less money. Would the Royals trade Greinke for Hughes. No. Would they trade Soria for Hughes? They should if that offer came across their table, but being the Royals they likely wouldn’t.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
I’m pretty torn on both Dan Haren and Jered Weaver (primary for financial reasons) but I think I’d pull the trigger on Weaver but not on Haren. Weaver is younger and cheaper than Haren and is coming off an outstanding 2010 season. Would the Angels trade Weaver for Hughes? No. Would they trade Haren for Hughes? Yes.
Joe Mauer and Francisco Liriano are easy ones. You could argue Justin Morneau but I think I’d keep Hughes. Would the Twins trade Mauer or Liriano for Hughes? No.
Brett Anderson? Yes. Trevor Cahill? No. Would the A’s trade Anderson for Hughes? No.
King Felix. Enough said. Would the Mariners do it? Of course not.
Tampa Bay Rays
David Price is easy as is Evan Longoria (would love to have that contract). That’s probably it from the Rays. The Rays would not trade either of them for Hughes.
If Cliff Lee had a contract I would trade Hughes for him. Since he’s a soon to be free agent I wouldn’t, and hypothetically if you could have gotten Lee for Hughes in July, I don’t make the trade. Josh Hamilton is a yes. You could argue Neftali Feliz if you thought you could put him back in the rotation and then be better than Hughes, but I’m not willing to go out on that limb. The Rangers wouldn’t trade Hamilton for Hughes.
Toronto Blue Jays
I’m not the biggest Ricky Romero fan but as a lefty I’d consider this trade but in the end I’d stick with Hughes. Brandon Morrow has (ridiculous) upside and came on strong last year but is still volatile. Hughes to me is more of a sure thing going forward, but Morrow could be better if everything goes well. I’d stick with Hughes.
With my 25 guys in the NL and 15 in the AL I have 40 players in the majors now I would trade Hughes for. How about you?
Mark Feinsand asked on Twitter last night if there were 5 players in baseball that you would trade Phil Hughes for. Immediately the obvious answer was yes. He later followed up adding that you have to include cost, age and success in New York. He then said there are less than 20 players in the majors he would consider trading Hughes for. Off the top of my head this still seemed low, so I figured I’d scan the rosters and check it out. I’m looking at this from the Yankees perspective, not in a vacuum. Without dipping into the minor leagues as I am not a prospect expert, are there 20 (or more) guys on MLB rosters that I would trade for taking everything into consideration? Today I will address the National League, come back tomorrow for the American League.
Justin Upton is the only guy here I would trade Hughes for. While 2010 was a disappointing season for him, a 22 year old with a 111 OPS+ and 3.8 bWAR in a down season is a great commodity. Would the D-Backs trade Upton for Hughes? No.
Jason Heyward is an absolute no-brainer. I’d also go with Brian McCann, who is probably 90% of Joe Mauer at a much lower cost. While the Yankees are stacked in the catching department, if you could trade Hughes for McCann you would, then you could flip Montero in a deal to bring back your Hughes replacement. Would the Braves make either of these trades? No.
If the Yankees were ready to move Derek Jeter off of SS, or if Jeter was ready to move off SS himself, I’d trade Hughes for Starlin Castro. Considering the situation the Yankees are in it’s not a move I would make now, but young shortstops of Castro’s caliber are harder to find than pitching. Would the Cubs trade Castro for Hughes? No.
Joey Votto is a no brainer. He’s the kind of guy you’d make a spot for. Jay Bruce is just 23 years old with 68 career HR’s and is coming off a 127 OPS+, 5.3 fWAR and 4.3 bWAR season. He doesn’t fill a need with the strong Yankees outfield, but I think I’d make this trade and deal from the surplus. Would the Reds trade Votto or Bruce for Hughes? No and possibly.
Regardless of Jeter’s situation, if you could trade Hughes for Troy Tulowitzki you do that in a heartbeat. Ubaldo Jimenez would be another easy one. You could make the argument for Carlos Gonzalez but his road splits are a huge concern. Would the Rockies trade any of these three for Hughes? No.
Hanley Ramirez, like Tulo would be too good to pass up regardless of Jeter’s situation. Josh Johnson is another no-brainer. Mike Stanton would also be too good to pass up. Would the Marlins trade any of these three for Hughes? No.
None. The Astros are a mess.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Clayton Kershaw is a definite yes. You could argue for Andre Ethier and bringing his left handed bat to Yankee Stadium but he’s older than you may think (29 in April) and getting expensive. If you believe in upside you might consider Matt Kemp, but Kershaw is the only sure thing for me. Would the Dodgers trade Kershaw for Hughes? No.
Yovani Gallardo and Ryan Braun are definites for me. I wouldn’t want to bring Prince Fielder in, pay him a bunch of money, then tell him all he has to do is hit. That’s got problem written all over it.
New York Mets
I’d probably trade Hughes for David Wright and move A-Rod to DH full time but I could be easily talked out of it. I don’t think the Mets would make the trade though.
I’d take both Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels for Hughes. If the Yankees didn’t already have Cano I’d think about Utley though he’ll be 32 next year and expensive. The Phillies would not trade any of them for Hughes.
I’d consider Andrew McCutchen but I think I’d stick with Hughes. The Pirates would not make the trade however.
San Diego Padres
Adrian Gonzalez is another guy you make room for. As awesome as Mat Latos was, would I pull the trigger on a trade for Hughes? I don’t think I would (but I’d probably be wrong). Pitchers coming from the NL is always dangerous. Coming from the Padres and Petco only adds to that uncertainty. Would the Padres trade Gonzalez or Latos for Hughes? No.
San Francisco Giants
Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Buster Posey are no brainers. An argument could be made for Madison Bumgarner but I’d stick with Hughes.
St. Louis Cardinals
Albert Pujols wouldn’t fill a need and is about to get very expensive, but he’s Albert Pujols so of course I’d make the trade. Adam Wainwright and Colby Rasmus would both make the cut as well, Rasmus would force another trade from the crowded outfield but it would be worth it. Would the Cardinals trade Pujols or Wainwright for Hughes? No. Would they trade Rasmus for Hughes? I doubt it, unless Larussa really hates him and has enough pull to ship him out.
Even thought the need isn’t great, Ryan Zimmerman is and I’d trade Hughes for him. I’d also trade Hughes for Strasburg but with an eye beyond 2011 and taking a huge risk. I think the risk would be worth it as Strasburg truly has a chance to be a once in a generation type of pitcher. It’s certainly a big risk/reward situation. The Natinals would not trade either of them for Hughes.
So there we have it, I count 25 National Leaguers I would trade Hughes for if the situation presented itself. How about you? Be sure to check back tomorrow for my take on the American League.
As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on the greatest Yankee seasons of all time by position, I wanted to take a look at the top pitching seasons in Yankees history.
1. Ron Guidry, 1978. Traditionalists will love Gator’s 25-3 record, but that in itself doesn’t show just how great Guidry was in 1978. Guidry’s ERA of 1.74 led the league in by an amazing 0.53 and he became the only Yankee starter in history (min. 160 IP) with an ERA+ greater than 200, landing at 208. He was 2nd in the league in Ks and K/9, only behind Nolan Ryan, while giving up just 6.1 hits/9 and 13 HRs all season in a whopping 273.2 innings pitched. Guidry’s FIP was 2.19, leading the league by 0.52. He was flat out dominant in 1978, leading the league, batters included, in bWAR by a full win.
2. Lefty Gomez, 1937. Gomez with 8.9 bWAR was the most valuable pitcher and 2nd most valuable player in the AL in 1937. He led the league in wins, ERA, SHO, K’s, H/9, K/9 and K/BB. His 21-11 record doesn’t do him justice. Despite playing for a Yankee team that scored 979 runs, Gomez had 7 starts (21% of his total) in which they scored 2 runs or fewer. His 191 ERA+ is the third best in Yankee history and one of only three to even top 180.
3. Lefty Gomez 1934. Run support wasn’t an issues for Gomez in 1934 as he led the league with 26 wins (vs. 5 losses) while leading the league in ERA, CG, SHO, IP, K’s, WHIP, ERA+ and H/9. Per bWAR he was the most valuable pitcher in the league and 4th most valuable player, behind just Gehrig, Gehringer and Foxx, all fellow Hall of Famers.
4. Spud Chandler, 1943. Chandler was a decent pitcher who had just 809.2 career innings pitched through age 34. then, a,t 35 he had a season for the ages, winning the league MVP while leading the league in wins, ERA, CG, SHO, ERA+, WHIP and K/BB. He also OPS’d .658 in 98 AB’s for what it’s worth. His MVP was pretty legit too, as per bWAR he was tied for 2nd as most valuable player in the league. His ERA+ of 198 was 2nd in Yankee history. There is a major asterisk next to Chandler’s season, however, as in 1943 several great players, including Joe Dimaggio, Ted Wiliams and Bob Feller were off fighting in World War II.
5. Whitey Ford, 1964. Ford may have been a little better in 1958 but I’m putting his ’64 season here in part because he threw an extra 25.2 innings. His ERA was 2.13 and his FIP of 2.45 was the best of his career by 0.42. Despite leading the league in nothing, this was the best season of Ford’s career. It was the only season he cracked a bWAR of at least 6 (6.3), placing second in the league in that category (behind Dean Chance who had an amazing year).
Mariano Rivera, 1996. This was an easy one. As great as Mo has been as a closer, this was the most valuable season in his career. In his first full season in the majors, Rivera took the league by storm. He put up career highs in K/9 and allowed a career low 1 HR despite throwing 27 more innings than in any other season. While FIP has always been unkind to Mo, this was the only season of his career with a FIP under 2 (at 1.88). Despite throwing just 107.2 innings, Rivera was 9th in the league in bWAR for pitchers at 5.4.
Mariano Rivera, 2008. This of course was just an exercise in picking out Mo’s best year as a closer (though go check out what Steve Farr did in 1992, sneaky good). Though he’s had many off the charts years, I had to go with Mo’s 2008. His 12.83 K/BB ratio looks like a typo but it was legit. He also gave up just 0.5 HR/9, which is special for anyone but Mo, for him it’s average. You could easily argue about 5 of Mo’s seasons are his best and get no argument from me.
As I watched Robinson Cano hit another homerun on Wednesday night I wondered to myself, where does Cano’s season rank in history for Yankees second baseman? Second base to the Yankees doesn’t have the tradition that some other positions do, so I thought Cano would have a chance to be near the top. While I was looking I decided to take a look at the greatest seasons in Yankees history by position. I didn’t want to put too much stock into defense with the historical players and I didn’t want to be totally WAR based because of the inconsistencies, so this is primarily offensively based.
Bill Dickey 1937: Hall of Famer Dickey was even better in 1936 but only played in 112 games and didn’t have enough AB’s to qualify for the batting title. His 1937 season was a monster as well. In a career high 140 games Dickey put up a .332/.417/.570 line with a 144 OPS+ and .441 wOBA.
Runner Up: Jorge Posada 2007: Posada actually had a higher OPS+ at 153 though with a slightly inferior .970 OPS and a .417 wOBA. It was a tossup but Dickey’s reputation as a good defensive catcher gave him the edge.
Lou Gehrig 1927: Gehrig is the obvious choice, I just had to pick one of his several off the charts seasons. The famous 1927 season was Gehrig’s best. Gehrig had decent seasons in 1925 and 1926 but 1927 was his breakout with a .373/.474/.765 line. The OPS, slugging percentage and 220 OPS+ were all career highs. The perception is that Yankee Stadium’s short porch helped left handed hitters, and while it did, Gehrig was actually better on the road in 1927. He hit 23 of his 47 HR’s on the road and had a .397/.492/.805 line on the road. His OPS was more than 100 points higher than his home OPS. Wow.
Runner Up: Gehrig 1934: Gehrig’s OPS was a little higher in 1930 than 1934, but in 1934 he won both the traditional triple crown and the triple slash triple crown. Naturally he finished 5th in the MVP voting that year. Wait, what?
Tony Lazzeri 1929: Lazzeri had a season in 1929 that even the best of sluggers would be proud of. He had a .354/.429/561 line and a 159 OPS+. In Lazzeri’s first three seasons in the league (1926-1928) he finished 10th, 11th and 3rd in the MVP ballot but in his best season there was no MVP award. He wouldn’t have deserved to win, but certainly should have been top 3 again.
Runner Up: Joe Gordon 1942: Gordon put up a .322/.409/491 line and a 154 OPS+. The triple slash line is a little less impressive than Cano, but when put into context Gordon’s season was a little more impressive. Cano’s 2010 definitely falls into the top 5 in seasons by a 2b in Yankee history though.
Derek Jeter 1999: Jeter’s OPS+ of 153 blows away any other season by a SS in Yankees history. He put up a .349/.438/.552 line and even put up some strong counting numbers with 24 HR’s and 102 RBI. He was just 25 but never approached these numbers again. He’s been great almost every season since, but his 1999 is completely unmatched.
Runner Up: Jeter 2006: This the only other season in his career that Jeter OPS’d at least .900 (.900 on the nose) and he had a 132 OPS+. The 132 is the second highest in Yankee history at SS, which puts his 153 in 1999 into more context. No other Yankee SS has ever had an OPS+ of 125. Like Gehrig at 1B, Jeter owns the SS records when it comes to the Yankees.
Alex Rodriguez 2007: This was an easy one. A-Rod’s 2007 was insane, .314/.422/.645 line with 54 HR’s and a 176 OPS+. He even added 24 steals and was caught just 4 times. Not much else to say about this one, we all remember it, it was real, and it was spectacular.
Runner Up: A-Rod 2005: A-Rod’s 2005 was almost as good as his 2007, putting up a .321/.421/.610 line with 48 HR’s and a 173 OPS+. To put those two seasons into context, no other Yankee third baseman, ever, has put up an OPS+ north of 135 besides A-Rod. He’s definitely no Scotty Bro, and that’s a good thing.
Charlie Keller 1941: Keller only had 5 full seasons in the majors but they were some of the best seasons ever by a Yankee LF. I picked his 1941 season with a .298/.416/.580 line, 33 HR’s and a 162 OPS+.
Runner Up: Keller 1943: Keller’s seasons are really a tossup. He would probably be more appreciated today as he was an on-base machine but didn’t hit for a great average (though very good). In his 5 full seasons (>130 games) he never hit .300 but his OBP was over .400 4 times, and he was at .396 in his other season. His career OPS+ of 152 is top 30 all time, and his wiki page even says he was feared.
Mickey Mantle 1956: The Yankees have had monster seasons in CF by vast number of players including Dimaggio, Bernie, Murcer and Henderson, but Mantle tops the list, and his 1956 was his best season. He put up a .353/.464/.705 line with a 210 OPS+ while leading the league in HR and RBI. This was the first of Mantle’s 3 MVP awards (he should have won more) and was even better than his famous 1961 season.
Runner Up: Mantle 1957: Mantle’s rate stats were even better in 1957 than 1956 but the increase in walks (he was really feared) led to 18 fewer HR’s in ’57. He still hit 34 HR’s with a monster .365/.512/.665 line and a 221 OPS+. You could certainly argue this season was better than his ’56 season, but I gave ’56 the edge primarily due to the extra HR’s.
Babe Ruth 1920: This was another case of just figuring out which of Ruth’s years were the best as there is no one close in Yankee (or baseball) history in RF. I went with his 1920 season in which he hit .376/.532/.847 in his first year with the team. I’m guessing the Sox regretted that trade/sale pretty quickly. He broke his own record of 29 HR’s with an unheard of 54 (more than every other team). His 1.379 OPS remained a record until 2002 (Bonds) and his 255 OPS+ was the greatest post 1900 OPS+ until surpassed by Bonds (that guy was pretty good) in 2001.
Runner Up: Ruth 1921: Ruth’s 1921 may even surpass his 1920 because of an extra 82 AB’s. His rate stats were slightly better in 1920, in 1921 he hit .378/.512/.846 with 59 HR’s (more than 5 of 7 teams). Ruth’s ’27 season is his most famous season, but not his best. You could even argue that it’s his 5th or 6th best season (head explodes).
Don Baylor 1983: The Yankees haven’t had many full time DH’s in their history, so Baylor wins almost by default. Since the DH was introduced the Yankees have had 6 players play at least 100 games at DH and have an OPS+ >120. Baylor is at the top of that short list with his 138 in 1983 with a .301/.361/.494 and 21 HR’s. Baylor is the only Yankee DH to win a Silver Slugger, winning both in 1983 and 1985.
Runner Up: Hideki Matsui 2009: Matsui’s line of .274/.367/.509 is a little better than Baylor’s but 2009 was a much better year for offense than 1983 (.764 league OPS vs. .728). Matsui’s 2009 and Baylor’s 1985 seasons are very similar but since 2009 ended with a title I gave Matsui the nod as runner up.
Neil Paine in the New York Times takes a look at the Rangers and how the A-Rod contract affected the franchised and how they have recovered from it. He does his take on what happened to the Rangers, I wanted to see what the trade has mean for A-Rod’ legacy. It would be pretty interesting to try and figure out what A-Rod’s career would look like now if he were never traded to New York. How would have his career turned out?
He wouldn’t have a ring but he also wouldn’t have ever had the “choker” label attached to him as he wouldn’t have spent much time in the playoffs. His raw numbers would be better and he would have spent more time compiling stats while still a shortstop. A-Rod ended 2009 at 613 home runs, with 344 coming at short. Spending the last seven years in Arlington surely would have been better for his numbers than in Yankee Stadium(s). Had the trade never happened, could he be sitting on 650 career HR’s with over 500 at SS? Very possible. A-Rod already ranks among the greatest players of all time, but with those kind of numbers at shortstop, even in lieu of a ring, many would consider A-Rod’s career and legacy greater if he never became a Yankee.
If I had posed this question in April 2009, I would have said undoubtedly that A-Rod’s legacy as a baseball player was hurt by coming to New York. Because of the ring in 2009 I think the trade to the Yankees has helped his legacy. I’m not completely sure though, as Ted Williams went ringless (and struggled in the playoffs) but is often called the best hitter in baseball history (not that it’s correct). Barry Bonds went ringless and even despite having the taint of steroids, is considered one of the top 5 hitters of all time. Statistically the trade certainly hasn’t helped his legacy in both traditional stats and sabermetric stats and at the end of the day, baseball is truly a game about the numbers.
I’m sure A-Rod is happy that the trade went through. He has gone through a ton of crap but seems to have come through it with flying colors. He finally got his ring and wasn’t just along for the ride, he was the one doing a lot of the driving. His move to New York has obviously made him extra money (hundreds of millions of extra dollars) both on and off the field. That being said, we know A-Rod is a great historian and like any great player cares about his numbers. As much as athletes love to say it’s about winning, none of them would trade Ernie Banks’ career for David Eckstein’s simply because he has 2 rings and a World Series MVP. Karl Malone and Charles Barkley wouldn’t think for a second about trading their careers for fellow power forward Robert Horry’s seven rings. I don’t think he would be happier ringless in Texas with bigger numbers, but if given the two scenarios, I think it would have to cross his mind, wouldn’t it?
When the Jesus Montero for Cliff Lee trade fell through, the worst case scenario was that Lee would come back to haunt the Yankees in the playoffs. While that certainly could happen now, I’m here to tell you that even if the Rangers beat the Yankees spearheaded by two complete game shutouts from Lee, we should be happy the trade didn’t go through. As good as Lee is, the future of the Yankees is better off with both Montero and a great chance at getting Lee than being left without either of them in 2011.
Would Lee have been easier to sign this offseason had the trade gone through? Maybe yes, maybe no, I really can’t say. I would venture to guess that there is no major difference, even if Lee came to the Yankees and absolutely loved it, there’s no way he was taking a penny less to stay in the pinstripes. What would have happened, however, if he had a brief time in the Bronx and it didn’t go well? What if his wife was harassed at the park? What if he bombed in the playoffs and got killed in the press and booed off the mound? Considering just how awesome he is, these are pretty unlikely, but worth thinking about nonetheless. If Lee had a 4 month stint in New York that was a disaster (or even 2 bad starts that spun the whole experiment as a disaster), wouldn’t the chances of him being in a Yankee uniform in 2011 be even worse?
As it is, Lee can be sold on New York from afar. He will likely be offered the most money. He can talk to former teammate and friend CC Sabathia about how great things are here (and of course CC could feel differently if he bombed in the 2009 playoffs). I think the odds are great that Lee signs with the Yankees, and I think the odds would have been great at resigning him had they traded for him, though I don’t necessarily think those odds would be increased. Because of that, I’d much rather go into 2011 with a guarantee that Montero is in the organization and hope that they sign Lee than go into 2011 without Montero and still not be guaranteed at re-signing Lee. Before anyone goes there, the Type A pick the Yankees would have gotten for Lee (had they traded for him and he walked) wouldn’t be close to a replacement for Montero.
Often when we think about the Lee trade that wasn’t, we forget that the Yankees were trading for Cliff Lee the pending free agent. Just like there is no guarantee now they’ll sign him after the season, there’s no guarantee that had the trade been complete they would have resigned him. Can you imagine if Jesus Montero, the Yankees best hitting prospect since Derek Jeter had been traded for a 4 month rental? That would have been a disaster, even with the increased 2010 World Series odds. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good (see wonderboy Theo Epstein with Vazquez, Contreras and Pavano), and I think Cashman got lucky that the Mariners backed out of this trade. Down the line, whether Lee ends up in pinstripes or not, not trading for Cliff Lee will be a blessing for the Yankees.