A Disappointing End To A Fun Season

(Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

As you surely know by now, the Yankees season came to end last night, a 3-2 loss to the Tigers in the decisive Game Five of the ALDS. Fingers will be pointed, blame will be assigned, and (of course) little credit will be given to Detroit for their win. We’re going to see a lot (and I mean a lot) of talk about what went wrong this year and why the Yankees failed (again!) to win the World Series, but the bottom line is that the Yankees lost a best-of-five series in which they outscored their opponent by eleven runs. It happens.

No one ever likes to see their team finish the season with a loss, but that’s what will happen to seven of eight playoff teams every year. For a lot of clubs, just getting to the postseason is exciting enough; get there and anything can happen. In New York it’s considered a birthright though, and rather than acknowledge that achievement, we’re too busy tearing everyone down following a postseason exit. Last night’s loss puts a bit of a damper on what I think was an otherwise incredibly fun season, one full of surprises and milestones.

First of all, there weren’t many people expecting the Yankees to make the playoffs in the first place. After losing out on Cliff Lee, the starting rotation was going to crumble to pieces and the Yankees would be lucky to win 87 games. We were all sure of it. They instead won 97 games, finishing with the best record in the AL and six games better than the second place Rays. The Red Sox, aka the reincarnation of the 1927 Yankees, were seven back of New York following their pitching-fueled September collapse. Oh the irony. That alone was pretty awesome.

Then there were the individual performances, especially the unexpected ones. Bartolo Colon came to camp as a non-roster invitee and was throwing 96 on the black for the first three months of the season. Freddy Garcia got more ugly swings and misses than any Yankees pitcher I can remember. Ivan Nova went from not being able to get through a line more than once (he had that problem this April, remember) to being undefeated in the second half and a legitimate number two starter in the playoffs. Jesus Montero starred in September. Curtis Granderson completed the transformation from platoon outfielder to MVP candidate. David Robertson was the best Yankees reliever since Mariano Rivera in 1996. Robbie Cano was still the great Robbie Cano.

While those guys were doing that stuff, we had quite a bit of history to enjoy. Derek Jeter picked up his 3,000th career hit on a homerun of all things, part of a 5-for-5 day that including a game-winning hit in the later innings. Mo saved 44 games, tied for his most since 2004, and became the second man to ever record 600 career saves. Because that wasn’t enough, he later surpassed Trevor Hoffman’s career mark of 601 saves to become the game’s all-time saves king, as he should be.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to look back at the 2011 Yankees before switching gears and looking ahead to the 2012 (and beyond!) Yankees. An early playoff exit is never fun, but it shouldn’t take away from all the good things that happened during the regular season. The Yankees gave us a lot to root for and cheer about in 2011, a lot more than they gave us to complain about.

Season Over: Tigers knock Yanks out of ALDS

All good things must come to end, and the 2011 season came to an end for the Yankees on Thursday night. Johnny Wholestaff did his best to keep the Yankees in the game after Ivan Nova left with forearm tightness, but at the end of the day, the team couldn’t overcome numerous squandered opportunities on offense. The Tigers won 3-2, advancing to the ALCS.

(Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Pitching, Pitching, And More Pitching

The interweb was up in arms over Joe Girardi‘s micromanaging following Nova’s quick exit, which involved the use of six different relievers to cover the final seven innings. The thing that no one seems to want to acknowledge is that it worked. Was it annoying? Hell yes. But it worked. After Nova allowed three hits – all for extra bases, including back-to-back homers by Don Kelly and Delmon Young – and two runs in his two innings of work, the sextet of Phil Hughes, Boone Logan, CC Sabathia, Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, and Mariano Rivera combined to allow just one run on five hits and two walks in seven innings. They struck out ten.

I saw plenty of fans and media members saying that Girardi was managing out of desperation, well guess what? It was a desperate situation. Starter went two innings (and put the team in a two-run hole before they even came to bat) before getting hurt in a win or go home game. How dare the manager express some urgency! It wasn’t a fun process to sit through, but given the circumstances, I thought Girardi (and the pitchers themselves, don’t forget those guys) did about as good a job as possible.

(Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Story of the ALDS: Blown Chances

The story of the Yankees ALDS defeat will focus squarely on their 4-5-6 hitters, and rightfully so. Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Nick Swisher went a combined 9-for-55 (.164) with seven walks and one hit-by-pitch (.266 OBP) in the five-game series, and their inability to put the ball in play in a bases loaded, one out situation in the bottom of the seven essentially sealed the Yankees fate (in fairness, Tex did walk to force in a run). A-Rod and Swisher both struck out feebly against a struggling Joaquin Benoit to kill the rally.

Earlier in the game, the Yankees had the bases loaded with one out against Doug Fister in the fourth, but Russell Martin and Brett Gardner couldn’t hit the ball out of the infield. Martin popped up to first, Gardner to third. Fister retired seven of the first eight men he faced, but once the lineup turned over, he allowed five of eight hitters to reach base and I thought the at-bats were noticeably better and the contact noticeably harder. The Yankees scored zero runs until Robinson Cano‘s fifth inning solo homer, though.

New York outscored Detroit 28-17 in the five games, but the distribution of runs was the issue in the five-game series. The Yankees won both of their games by six runs or more, and lost the three games by four runs combined. They went 2-for-9 with men in scoring position and left eleven men on base Thursday, and the two hits didn’t even score runs. The Tigers went 1-for-9 with men in scoring position and stranded just six thanks to the stellar bullpen work, but the two first inning solo homers gave them a lead they’d never surrender.

(Nick Laham/Getty Images)


The bases loaded situation in the seventh was the Yankees last real gasp at a comeback, but Derek Jeter just narrowly missed a go-ahead two run homer in the bottom of the eighth. It looked like Don Kelly caught it right at the top of the wall in right from where I was sitting, but I haven’t seen the replay so don’t take my word for it. Another foot or three, and this is a very different recap.

In what was almost certainly his final game as a Yankee, Jorge Posada with 2-for-4 to raise his ALDS batting line to .329/.579/.571 in the five games. After a brutally ineffective regular season, Posada was far and away the team’s best hitter against the Tigers. Gardner went 2-for-4 on Thursday to raise his ALDS batting line to .412/.444/.471. Safe to say he was their second best hitter. Curtis Granderson went 1-for-4 with a walk, bringing his ALDS batting line to .260/.375/.550. That’s pretty damn close to his .262/.364/.552 regular season performance. Cano’s solo homer and a single later in the game raised his ALDS batting line to .318/.375/.682.

Very nice job by Soriano out of the bullpen this series. He retired 13 of the 14 batters he faced, but unfortunately the one was Young’s game-winning homer in Game Three. Boone faced eight batters in the series, allowed one ground ball single, and struck out six. David Robertson and Mariano Rivera retired all eleven men they faced in the series, and didn’t allow a single ball out of the infield. The pitching staff wasn’t the problem here, the guys combined for a 3.27 ERA with 47 strikeouts and just 36 hits allowed in 44 innings during the five-game set.

WPA Graph & Box Score

MLB.com has the box score and video, FanGraphs some other stuff.

Up Next

Unfortunately, a lot of Yankees-less nights are next. The four-and-a-half month offseason officially begins today, and the Yankees have to deal with Brian Cashman‘s expiring contract before anything else takes place.

Nova to have MRI on tight forearm

Ivan Nova left Game Five with tightness in his right forearm tonight, and the team announced after the game that he will undergo an MRI tomorrow. I dunno if it’s something that popped up during the game, but I sure hope it wasn’t bothering him beforehand and he tried to pitch through it anyway. Forearm tightness is a common precursor to Tommy John surgery, but there’s no point in worrying about that now. Let’s see what the MRI says before freaking out.

If you want to talk about the game or how awful the Yankees are, do it here. This thread is about Nova and his forearm. Thanks.