Let me start by saying that I am a life-long Red Sox fan. Watching post season baseball this year makes me wonder how the Red Sox even won as many games as they did this season. The teams still playing, and I stress the word T-E-A-M, look like they’re head and shoulders above and beyond the Red Sox especially when it relates to competing for World Championships.
Anyways, this isn’t about the Red Sox, I wanted to comment on the 2012 Yankees. The Yankees won more games than any other American League team. They slugged their way to 95 victories while belting 245 home runs. They lost their soon to be Hall-Of-Famer closer, Mariano Rivera, just a month into the season, they struggled some in the second half, and lost more 1-run games than they won. I’m not a Joe Girardi fan by any means, but I think he deserves a lot of credit. He managed his team, arranged his personnel, utilized his pitching staff, he worked through the ebb and flow of 2012 Yankee baseball, and won the AL East with 95 wins. After watching the debacle that was the 2012 season for the Red Sox, it was apparent to me that Joe Girardi was an integral part of Yankee success this season. Going a step further, I would dare say that the three strongest managers in the AL East are, by far, Girardi, Showalter, and Maddon. They all won 90 or more games this season, more wins than the Tigers or Cardinals, who are still playing ball. I wonder if John Farrell will join this group of top-notch managers by signing on with the island of misfit attitudes in Boston.
Honestly, listening to the press conferences after games, I was often impressed with the way Girardi handled questions. His cut-and-dry answers were honest, accurate, and rarely snide. He reminded me of Terry Francona when, at his best, he didn’t talk it up, but answered questions within the personal comfort of his baseball brilliance. Girardi managed. He made in-game decisions, as he should, and wasn’t afraid to make the move he thought was best for his club, regardless of popularity. And, until another Hall-Of-Famer to be, Derek Jeter, went down with a broken ankle bone in Game One of the ALCS, it seemed like Girardi and the Yanks would make every right move, wiggling out of trouble time after time. The Jeter injury, from here, appeared to be the official unplugging of the life support that the Yankees were clinging to. I know it was only Game One, but the Yanks were fortunate to have beaten the feisty Orioles.
Unproven, super closer of 2012, Jim Johnson, of the Orioles, assisted the Yankees to the ALCS almost as much as any of the Yankees own pitchers did. Johnson did convert two of three save opportunities in the series, but even that’s deceiving. In the other appearance that was not a save opportunity, he blew up, lasting one-third of an inning, allowing FIVE runs, and earning the loss. In the series, the Yankees battered the AL Saves leader (51) by hitting .316 against him and drove his series ERA to 10.38. What really stuck out to me was the gross lack of execution of pitches in so many of those at bats. I know guys get hits on high quality pitches from pitchers at times, then there are times when hitters would be at fault for not hammering pitches that were blatantly served up mistakes. In the last 20 seasons only two MLB Saves leaders have gone on to win the World Series in the same season that they led the MLB in saves, Brian Wilson with the Giants in 2010, and the great Mariano Rivera with the Yankees in 1999.
When we think of baseball, we think of numbers. When we remember baseball, we remember numbers. When we argue baseball, we argue numbers. So, here are some numbers. These numbers, in my opinion, show (contrary to Yankees GM, Brian Cashman) that the 2012 Yankees were closer to the second half Yankees, and the post season Yankees that we saw. During the season, the Yankees averaged an AL leading 3.32 extra base hits per game. In the post season that number dropped to 2.33 per game. Okay, maybe not earth shattering, but the teams’ post season leaders in XBH (extra base hits) were Raúl Ibañez, part-timer, with four; Ichiro Suzuki, signed as a part-timer, with three; Eduardo Núñez, part-timer who wasn’t even on the original ALCS Roster, with three. More numbers. The Yankees struck out 7.2 times per game in the regular season. In the post season that number jumped to 9.2 times per game. That’s two-thirds of an inning more per game that they didn’t even put the ball in play, and when they did it was with one less XBH than they were getting most of the year. In regular season play, the Bronx Bombers averaged 9.02 hits per game, or one an inning. In the post season they averaged just 6.67 hits per game. Ichiro had as many XBH in the post season as Robinson Canó and Mark Teixeira combined. Curtis Granderson followed up a stellar season of batting .232 while obliterating his own Yankee Team Record with 195 strikeouts by batting .100 with 16 strikeouts in the playoffs. Twenty, yes, twenty times a Yankee has hit more than 43 homers in a season, but with regard to whiffing, not even Danny Tartabull, Alfonso Soriano, or Jesse Barfield ever came close to the degree of swinging and missing that Granderson has each of the last two seasons. I wonder how Austin Jackson and Phil Coke are doing. Anyhow, the Yankees were playing post season baseball when most others were not, and numbers, or not, Joe Girardi should get an awful lot of credit for their run. I mean, he didn’t even come to bat in the post season, and still had as many XBH as A-Rod and Eric Chávez combined.
The Yankees won 95 games, which in the old days, would have been good enough to win the AL Pennant and an automatic trip to the World Series. In one seven game series, maybe the Yankees would have been good enough to win title number 28. Over the last 43 years, the Yankees are 7-4 in the Fall Classic, which is still impressive. Compared to the previous 48 years though, when the Yanks went 20-9 in the World Series, the last 43 years look pretty thin. Even so, this year they played in the ALCS, to me, it was through the ‘dog days’ and into the post season, that these Yankees looked a little closer to the truth.