Yankees 2013 Recap: The Year Everyone Played 3rd Base

975517_10151705290480555_1720384794_nWell, it’s late November, and the Yankees watched as their bitter rivals won their 3rd Championship in the last 10 years.  It was just the 2nd season New York wasn’t a playoff participant in last past 19 years.  So not a bad run.

It was a strange year for the Yankees, and the biggest story was the injury bug.  Every position had some player go down in 2013.  Let’s start with the names that appeared on the disabled list and go from there.

  • Curtis Granderson – (2x) Hand broken by a HBP in his first at-bat of spring training.  Then, 8 games after returning in May, another HBP broke his pinkie.  His pop was only in the lineup 61 times.
  • Derek Jeter – (4x) Started season on DL with re-fracture in left ankle.  1 game after returning, he hit shelf again with a strained calf.  A quad and finally more trouble with the ankle ended his season in September. The captain played in just 17 games.
  • Alex Rodriguez – (1x) That pesky hip kept the Yankees 3rd baseman out until August 5th.  He wasn’t the same guy when he came back, and his season ended with lingering soreness in his legs.
  • Mark Teixeira – (2x) A torn tendon in his right wrist kept the switch-hitting 1st baseman out of all but 15 games this year.  He made his season debut on May 31st, but would eventually have season ending surgery.
  • Kevin Youkilis – (2x) In his first year as a Yankee, Youk got off to a good start, then back issues popped up, and never went away.  Surgery ended his season. He appeared in just 28 games.
  • Francisco Cervelli – (1x) He went down in early April when he fractured his right hand thanks to a foul tip while catching.  Then just when the Yankees thought they’d get their catcher back, an MRI found a stress reaction in his throwing elbow, effectively ending his season, playing in just 17 games.
  • David Robertson – (1x) The setup man went down with shoulder soreness in early September, but finished the year pain-free.
  • Eduardo Nunez – (1x) This was the year Nunez was supposed to take the next step.  Instead he spent a lot of time on the DL.  First he went down with sore ribs in May.  Then he battled leg issues in August, though he never hit the shelf again.
  • Travis Hafner – (1x) After a blistering start, Hafner struggled in May to July.  It came out he’d been playing through shoulder pain, a strained rotator cuff, effectively ending his season.
  • Jayson Nix – (1x) Nix did a good job filling in on the left side of the infield, but his season came to an end in August thanks to a calf strain.
  • Brett Gardner – (1x) Another guy who stayed healthy for most of the year, but an oblique strain ended his year in mid-September.
  • CC Sabathia – (1x) A grade 2 hamstring injury shut him down before his final start of the season.  It takes 8 weeks to heal, so no danger of missing time next season.
  • Andy Pettitte – (1x) The lefty missed a couple starts in late May with a strained trapezius muscle.  One of the few injuries that didn’t linger for New York.
  • David Phelps – (1x) Phelps hit the shelf in July, when he suffered a right forearm strain. He then re-injured the arm while rehabbing in August.  He would return late in September.
  • Boone Logan – The lefty-specialist saw his season cut short when it was found that he had a bone spur in his pitching elbow.  Surgery to come.
  • Michael Pineda – Two years after the big trade with Seattle, Pineda has yet to suit up for New York in the majors.  He did make 20 minor league appearances on his way back from shoulder surgery.

Not to mention all the day-to-day injuries this team had.  It may have been easier to just tell you who didn’t make the DL.  The many injuries forced the Yankees to dig deep into a weak farm system, as well as look league wide for depth.  The Bombers used a total of 56 different players, a team record.  

  • 1st base – 10 players (Lyle Overbay 127 games)
  • 2nd base – 8 players (Robinson Cano 151 games)
  • 3rd base – 11 players (Jayson Nix 41 games)
  • Shortstop – 8 players (Eduardo Nunez 74 games)
  • Outfield – 13 players (Vernon Wells 72 games in LF, Brett Gardner 138 games in CF and Ichiro Suzuki 121 games in RF)
  • Designated Hitter – 16 players (Travis Hafner 66 games)
  • Catcher – 4 players (Chris Stewart 107 games)
  • Starters – 9 players (CC Sabathia & Hiroki Kuroda 32 appearances)
  • Relievers – 21 players (David Robertson 70 appearances)

You can see from the breakdown that there was a lot of overlap.  Guys like Vernon Wells, a center-fielder by trade, made multiple appearances in the infield.  Position players were called upon to pitch innings.  3rd base and short stop were basically revolving doors where a new guy was there everyday.

Adding to the injuries, were bad years from usually reliable guys, as well as role players.  The biggest offender?  Once ace CC Sabathia.  This was a guy who took the ball every fifth day, and you usually felt like a win was coming.  But the lefty finished just a game above .500 at 14-13 and with an ERA hovering around 5.  He led the league in games where he allowed at least 3 earned runs at 22.  He led the team in home runs allowed at 28.  All numbers that are not CC like.

Guys like Lyle Overbay, Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells all contributed to wins, but they were all very cold for longer stretches.  Overbay filled in great with the glove at 1st for Teixeria, and when he did hit, it was usually a clutch RBI.  He led the team with 13 go-ahead RBIs.  But after great Aprils for Hafner and Wells, there’s very little good to talk about.  Hafner of course missed most of the season, while Wells contributed with the glove, and by staying healthy, but was a let down in many big spots in the 2nd half.

And despite the turnover, and the down years, the Yankees managed to win 85 games and stay in the Wild Card hunt until game 157.  It was a 10-win drop off from their AL East crown a year ago.  They played terribly against teams in their division, as well as teams with winning records.  There are a lot of games you can go back to and say that’s why they’re not still playing.

That brings me to my best moments/biggest surprises, and worst moments of the year:

Best of 2013

  • 10.  I put this last because it’s not too surprising, but still great.  It’s the fact that at 43, Mariano Rivera came back off a torn Achilles injury to be just as good as ever.  Sure he blew a few more saves than usual, but he was healthy all year, and still saved 44 games for the bombers.  He leaves us on top.
  • 9. Jayson Nix.  He played a lot more than you thought going into the year, but he did a solid job wherever he played.  He isn’t an average hitter, but he got on base enough, and is a smart baserunner, so he was able to move him self over to the tune of 13 steals to 1 caught stealing.
  • 8. Preston Claiborne’s emergence in the bullpen.  He ended the season poorly, but he came out of the gate retiring everyone in sight.  Claiborne quickly leapfrogged guys to become a late inning option for Joe Girardi.   Look for him to compete for the setup role next season.
  • 7. Shawn Kelley.  Here’s another guy that was invited to spring training who made the team, and decided he’d just strike everyone out.  After a rough April, Kelley was dominant in June and July, and finished the year striking out way more than a better an inning.  He’s another guy who could factor heavily in the pen in 2014.
  • 6. Lyle Overbay.  He wasn’t even at Spring Training until March 26th, when the Red Sox released him.  Losing Mark Teixeira was made easier because of Overbay, who is a great defensive 1st baseman.  He also drove in a lot of meaningful runs for New York, and he did something very rare in 2013, he stayed healthy.
  • 5.  Getting off to a 30-18 start despite all the early injuries.  The Yankees were shocking some people, with contributions from guys you never thought would be on the team.  Guys like Vernon Wells, who came out swinging in his first year as a Yankee.
  • 4. Their big 9-6 come from behind win in Boston on August 18.  Otherwise known as the game Ryan Dempster threw at A-Rod on 4 straight pitches.  Already on a bit of a hot streak, you thought maybe it would propel the team towards a playoff spot.  It didn’t, but it sure added another interesting chapter to Yankees/Red Sox.
  • 3. My biggest surprise of the year was Alfonso Soriano.  No one saw his return to the Bronx coming, and he’s a huge reason why the Yankees remained in the playoff chase as long as he did.  He added energy and pop to a lineup that struggled to score runs all year.  And for a guy not known for his defense, he made some spectacular plays in left.
  • 2. Andy Pettitte’s final major league start, a complete game on September 28th in Houston.  At 41, the lefty threw his season high to walk-off in style.  It was a fitting place for his last start, since the Astros are the only other team he ever played for, and being a Texas boy, his family was in attendance.
  • 1. Mariano Rivera’s final appearance of his career. What a moment at Yankee Stadium on September 26th when Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter came in to take the closer out in the 9th.  Tears of joy, sadness flowed from baseball’s all-time saves leader, as well as the eyes of mound that night.  A perfect sendoff for a guy who was near perfect for nearly 2 decades.

Worst of 2013

  • 10.  Being swept by the Mets.  They lost 3 of those games by a combined 4 runs, including a blown save in the final appearance at Citifield by Rivera.  The Mets finished below .500 again.
  • 9. Bad offense all year.  You can blame injuries, but if you’re a major league player, you have to be able to drive guys in scoring position home.  The Yankees found ways to get guys on in the 1st half, but often left them stranded.  This team was bad at moving guys over, and couldn’t adapt to life without the long ball.  Even when pop returned to the lineup, close games were lost because a lack of execution.
  • 8. The awful year turned in by Phil Hughes.  He finished at an abysmal 4-14.  If he even wins 3 more, this season could have been a lot different.  He had some very good starts, but those get lost in the very bad ones.  He actually got the less run support than Kuroda, but that means nothing when you’re allowing nearly 5 runs a game.  Hughes had one good season starting, but his best year came in 2009 as a reliever.  There’s very little chance we see him back in a Yankees uniform.  He’s a fly ball pitcher who needs to be in a pitcher friendly park.
  • 7. If Hughes was awful, Joba Chamberlain was abysmal.  He couldn’t pitch in close games, he couldn’t pitch in blowouts.  At least Hughes has had good times on this team.  Chamberlain came on the scene quick, and flamed out even quicker.
  • 6. The loss of Curtis Granderson on the first pitch of spring training.  One pitch meant the loss of Robinson Cano’s protection in the lineup, and a guy who hit 84 homers the previous 2 seasons combined.  Losing him a 2nd time wasn’t any better.
  • 5. Being swept in Fenway in mid-September.  They entered the series just a game back in the wildcard with 16 to go and 3 left with Tampa.  But the Sox were clearly on a different level, and outscored the Yankees 22-7.
  • 4. Being swept in Chicago by the White Sox in early August.  It was the series where ARod returned, but it didn’t matter.  The series finale was marked by another Rivera blown save.
  • 3. Biggest surprise.  Like I said early, CC Sabathia’s drop off.  In four previous seasons with the Yankees, he hadn’t lost more than 8 games, and his worst ERA came last season at 3.38.  This year it was over a run and a half worse.  They need him to bounce back next year in a big way.
  • 2. The injuries.  You go into a season knowing you’ll need more than your 25 man roster, because injuries are apart of the game.  But the number of injuries to key players, and how it seemed they’d get one back and lose another was unusual. Having to constantly release players to make room for others, or place someone on the 60-day DL is hard for any team to overcome.
  • 1. The lack of real depth to cope with the injuries.  Having to play guys out of position because your farm system is weak is unacceptable.  Years of bad drafting, poor scouting and trading away guys came back to haunt the Yankees this year.  Sometimes prolonged success hurts teams, because it lulls them into a false sense of security.  New York didn’t factor in that eventually, guys would have to take over for guys like Jeter, and A-Rod or even Jorge Posada.  This is the Yankees biggest issue heading into 2014 and beyond.

So clearly a lot to think about when it comes to the strange 2013 season.  I had fun watching the roller-coaster ride, even if it didn’t end the way the fan in me wanted it to.

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UPDATE: Joe Girardi isn’t going anywhere. He signed a new deal that will keep him the manager of the pinstripes til 2017.  Robinson Cano is still asking for $300 million-plus, so the All-Star 2nd baseman remains teamless with no one willing to give him that much money.  Alex Rodriguez still doesn’t know the fate of his appeal of the 211-game Biogenesis suspension.  This team has yet to make any splashes on the free agent market, meaning they still have a lot of holes to fill.

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Wild Weekend Ends on Walk-Off Wild Pitch

Things just happen when it’s Yankees vs Red Sox in September.

Down 1-0 early, Mark Reynolds tied the game with an RBI double in the 4th.  2 out rallys are always big, but they’re even bigger against a pitcher like Jon Lester as you fight for your playoff lives.

Robinson Cano would give New York the lead on a two run double in the 5th.  He now has 97 RBIs on the season.

Hiroki Kuroda has been off his game the last month, but he fought his way through 6 innings of 2 run ball and left up 3-2.  Shawn Kelley returned after a few days off with a forearm issue to throw up a scoreless 7th.  And in the 8th Joe Girardi showed just his bad the team needed this game, as well as how beat up his bullpen is. For the first time since 2006, Mariano Rivera came in tasked with getting a two inning save.  Mo last pitched Friday when he blew his sixth save of the year.  He got through the 8th, but needed 20 pitches to do so. Then in the 9th, he surrendered a game tying solo shot to the light hitting Will Middlebrooks.

So yet again the Yankees offense was tasked with picking up the overworked bullpen.  Brett Gardner was retired to start the inning. Ichiro Suzuki singled, then stole second base.  Vernon Wells flew out to right, but Suzuki was able to advance to third, which would prove key.

So with two outs and Alfonso Soriano at the plate, Boston reliever Brandon Workman threw a wild pitch, allowing Suzuki to score.  The wild finished saved the bombers from the 4-game sweep and keeps their head above water on the wildcard chase.  After a 5-1 start, New York finishes their home-stand 6-4.
Now they’ve got to contend with a 10 game road trip starting with 4 games in Baltimore.  It’s a series that will mean either leapfrogging them again, or sinking farther down the standings.  The O’s lost today, so the Yankees enter just a .5 game behind.

But don’t forget even if the bombers do well against the O’s, three games in Fenway await them next weekend.  The Yankees goal on the road trip is to at least win both series and stay within 3 of Tampa who they face the following week in the Bronx.

Yankees Drop 3rd Straight to Sox

David Huff was unable to replicate what he did in two great relief outings.  Instead he was pummeled in 3.1 innings, allowing 9 in a 13-9 loss to Boston.

It felt like a spring training game for bombers, with Huff, newcomer Jim Miller and Brett Marshall getting the call to hold down a potent Sox lineup.  But down 9 after 4, the Yankees were behind the 8 ball all day, and they just couldn’t out-slug the Sox.

Mike Napoli continues to have a big year against the Yankees, smacking two more homers.  Jonny Gomes added a dinger, and shortstop phenom Xander Bogaerts hit his first career.   Boston got the most out of their 14 hits, scoring 13.  Starter John Lackey picked up his 9th win, despite giving up 7 runs in 5.2 innings.

Another good day for the offense, but it just wasn’t enough.  Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Robinson Cano all had multi-hit games.  Gardner and Mark Reynolds each drove in 2 runs.

And tell me if you’ve heard this before? Derek Jeter left the game with an injury?  Yes, you read that right.  For the third time this year, the captain exited a game with a leg injury.  This time it appears to be an issue with/near the area he fractured the left ankle last October,  He’s already been on the DL three times this season.

An overworked pen is starting to fall apart, and it’s not only showing in the 3 blown leads on the home stand.  Shawn Kelley is down with a forearm issue, and David Robertson could be DL bound with a sore shoulder.

These are injuries the Yankees cannot afford this late in the year, coupled with 3 big losses this weekend to Boston.

To make matters worse, Baltimore walked-off in 10, extending their lead over New York, however the two teams play a  4-game set starting Monday.

Hiroki Kuroda must find a way to get back to his first half self, though at 38 and carrying the team on his back early on, he’s looked tired and might stay that way for the remainder of 2013.

A sweep would all but ensure no postseason, even with 7 games against Tampa and Baltimore left.  These teams continue to win, and New York still has to go back to Fenway next weekend.

They’ve made it interesting, but can the offense find a way to save the lack of pitching?  The Yankees can only hope CC Sabathia and Kuroda can find something to go along with Kuroda and Pettitte, or start looking towards 2014.

Yanks Let One Get Away

Dreams of a sweep, turned into one of the Yankees tougher losses this season. Andy Pettitte was cruising along when things fell apart in the 7th, leading to a 7-3 Baltimore win.

Pitching a shutout through 6, Pettitte allowed the first two runners on in the 7th, and was replaced by reliever Shawn Kelley. Kelly had been on a stretch since May where he hadn’t allowed many inherited runners to score. That would change.

It was a seven run outburst in the seventh, and the first run allowed was the first scored by the Orioles since the 6th inning on Friday. They’d add three more, taking the lead on a 3-run shot off the bat of shortstop JJ Hardy (24).

Pettitte picked up a no-decision in the loss, giving up 2 runs. Kelley wasn’t alone in his struggles, Joba Chamberlain came in to hold the O’s at 4-3, and instead surrendered a 3-run shot of his own to Adam Jones.

Alfonso Soriano drove in his 36th RBI in 34 games since rejoining the Yankees. Brett Gardner and Eduardo Nunez both had multi-hit games.

The loss put the Yanks back a .5 game behind the Orioles. Both teams, along with Cleveland, were helped by yet another Tampa lost again, so the bombers remain 3.5 games back. Next up on the 10-game homestand, the Chicago White Sox. But don’t look past the Sox, who swept the bombers early last month.

Phil Hughes gets the ball for New York. The Sox counter with Jose Quintana.

*** September Callups: 5 were brought up: infielder David Adams, catcher JR Murphy, and pitchers Brett Marshall, Cesar Cabral and Dellin Betances, with Preston Claiborne soon to follow