It's October baseball (even though, as I'm writing this, it technically still September), and once again, for the second year in a row, the lights will be dark in Yankee Stadium. And so, while we watch what should hopefully be an exciting offseason, it's also time to begin to look back at the last year in the Bronx, starting with the position players.
We know the general storyline for this year - despite spending more than $500M this past offseason, mostly to upgrade the offense, the Yankees could barely score this year, and in fact did worse at the plate than the 2013 squad that gave regular ABs to Chris Stewart, Jayson Nix, and Vernon Wells. But this year, who are the culprits? [NOTE - all stats from baseball-reference and FanGraphs; WAR stats are differentiated, with letter corresponding to site; Grades are based relative to their expected contribution coming into the season]
Brian McCann, C (.232/.286/.406, 23 HR, 75 RBI, 1.8 bWAR, 2.3 fWAR, 92 wRC+)
This is not what the Yankees paid big bucks for; not at all. McCann seemed overmatched for much of the season, and besides the occasional HR, he simply did not produce. However, nothing but good - no, great - things have been said about him by the pitching staff, and as the great pitching this year showed, whatever he's doing, it worked. By season's end, he seemed to start getting into a groove offensively, and if he can carry his late-season production into 2015, the Yankees will effectively gain a solid middle-of-the-order bat. Beyond, that, many believe his pinch-running for Jeter in the Captain's last game was a passing of the torch.....is it? We'll see next year.
Francisco Cervelli, C/1B (.301/.370/.432, 146 AB, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 1.1 bWAR, 1.3 fWAR, 128 wRC+)
If Cervelli is healthy, not only is he arguably the best backup catcher in baseball, he's a solid starter. Big question....IF he's healthy, because he never seems to be.
Still, he proved once again this season why he's worth sticking around - he's willing and able to play around the diamond when called upon, and while not a power hitter, he gets on base quite a bit.
Mark Teixeira, 1B (.216/.313/.398, 22 HR, 62 RBI, 1.0 bWAR, 0.8 fWAR, 100 wRC+)
There's not a whole lot to say - Teixeira was not very good this season. Clearly the wrist was still bothering him, as he consistently was forced to receive cortisone shots just to stay on the field - and aside from a few stretches in the first half where he hit HR like they grew on trees, he was less than worthless at the plate. Expect this to continue if he either does not start going the other way or rediscover his power stroke from 2012 - and given his age, I wouldn't count on the latter.
Brian Roberts, 2B (.237/.300/.398, 5 RBI, 21 RBI, 7 SB, 1.5 bWAR, 0.2 fWAR, 84 wRC+)
In theory, Brian Roberts could have been one of the best hitters on this team; he had speed, he put the ball in play at a relatively high rate, and he had one of the highest hard-hit-ball rates in the league. But eventually the Yankees could not wait around for him to start producing, leading to his release back at the trade deadline, after the acquisition of Stephen Drew.
Brian, you had a great career on the Orioles, and it was always exciting to see you play in your prime. But unfortunately, your days as a baseball player are over.
Stephen Drew, 2B/SS (.150/.219/.271, 3 HR, 15 RBI, -0.6 bWAR, -1.3 fWAR, 32 wRC+)
Can you believe this guy was looking for a big contract this past winter? Granted, surely his lack of spring training didn't help, but still, this is among the worst offensive performances of an everyday player I have seen. Seriously, this is not pitcher-bad, this is worse. The good news? If the Yankees wanted to keep him to play SS next season, he's going to be cheap, and surely, he can't be this bad again....
Grade: On a scale from 0 to Pablo Sanchez in Backyard Baseball, this season was the square root of negative one.
(Bonus points if you get the joke)
Derek Jeter, SS (.256/.304/.313, 4 HR, 50 RBI, 10 SB, 0.2 bWAR, -0.3 fWAR, 73 wRC+)
We will miss Jeter. We won't miss his production at SS; virtually anybody on the free agent market is an upgrade. Still, he was one of the team's most consistent players for most of the season, and if he could get to the ball, he almost guaranteed an out, so it could be worse.
Brendan Ryan, IF
He was not signed to hit. He didn't hit, to the point that it wasn't even worth looking up. Proof? When the Yankees sent out the "I Don't Care" lineup against Boston this Friday, which included Cervelli as the power-hitting 1B and rookie Jose Pirela as the leadoff man, he was batting seventh.
Grade....in all honesty, is it fair to give him one?
Yangervis Solarte, 3B (.254/.337/.381, 6 HR, 31 RBI,1.0 bWAR, 1.1 fWAR, 104 wRC+)
For the first six weeks of the season, nobody on this team hit better than Yangervis Solarte. He did it all - he played solid defense, he got on base, he drove in runs, he hit HRs. In truth, his April was why this team was in a position to trade him for Chase Headley at the trade deadline. And if anyone's interested...he did solid in San Diego; not great, but solid. I wish him the best of luck, and hope he has a long and prosperous career.
Grade: B for performance, A+ for the excitement he brought the fanbase
Chase Headley, 3B/1B (.262/.371/.398, 6 HR, 17 RBI in 58 G, 2.1 bWAR, 2.8 fWAR, 121 wRC+)
His stats are a little misleading; if he weren't for the atrocious lineup around him, Headley would have quite a few more RBIs. He simply wasn't on base all that often with RISP. He brought excellent defense at the hot corner, proved he could serve as a competent backup to Teixeira at first, and hit enough to show that he is definitely one of the top free agent 3B this winter. Chase wasn't brought on to be an All-Star, he was brought on to be a solid and consistent player, and he was. The Yankees offense was horrible, but don't blame Headley.
And remember...he sure had quite an entrance into Yankee lore.
Kelly Johnson, 3B/1B (.219/.304/.373, 6 HR, 22 RBI in 77 G, 0.7 bWAR, 0.7 fWAR, 91 wRC+)
Not gonna lie, in my opinion Johnson was a huge disappointment. I looked at his stats over the last few years - 16 HRs annually, whether in Toronto or Tampa Bay or wherever - and drooled at what he could do in Yankee Stadium, even at the bottom of the order. And instead we got...this. While it's true that he might have been distracted from having to handle two new positions, one of which he played only because of Teixeira's hamstring injury early in the season, it was still not enough on this offensively-starved team, which is why he has the distinction of being the only player in baseball to be traded from the Yankees to the Red Sox, and then traded to the Orioles barely a month later. And we got Stephen Drew out of the deal, which we can and should hold against him.
Brett Gardner, LF (.256/.327/.422, 17 HR, 58 RBI, 21 SB, 4.0 bWAR, 3.2 fWAR, 110 wRC+)
That batting average is deceiving, and the result of a poor August - at the trade deadline, Gardner had a solid .270 average. His power numbers were surprisingly high this year, which is why he ended the season as the #3 guy, although his stolen base totals have suffered - he had a grand total of 6 after the All-Star Break. Still, although a little more aggressiveness would have been nice, he was one of the team's leading hitters this season no matter how you look at it, and his offseason contract extension is already looking like a steal. Now if only he stole more often.
Hahahahaha.....OK, I'll show myself out. Grade: A-
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF (.271/.328/.419, 16 HR, 70 RBI, 39 SB, 3.3 bWAR, 3.6 fWAR, 107 wRC+)
Again....he was almost exactly like Gardner this year. Miscast in the #3 hole much of the season, he drove in a lot of runs (well, relatively speaking), stole a lot of bases, utilized the short porch in Yankee Stadium to increase his HR totals, and played his usual great defense (despite what your fancy sabermetrics say...they do not take into account the reduced amount of range he has to cover, which thus shows up as a bad year based on the stats). While we won't know for sure if his contract will be worth it, for now at least, he's doing exactly what he has to - get on base, and run.
Carlos Beltran, DH/RF (.233/.301/.402, 15 HR, 49 RBI, -0.2 bWAR , -0.5 fWAR, 95 wRC+)
Like Tex, there's not much to say. He just wasn't all that good, although he was hampered all season by an elbow injury (which, I believe, he suffered wen he fell over the concrete wall two weeks into the season), which limited his ability to play the field. While it remains to be seen how much an impact the elbow surgery he just had will have, but when we look at this season, all we can say is that aside from a few hot streaks, he was rather worthless. Still, I'm rather impressed with his 3 SB, considering how much damage his knees have had over the years.
Ichiro Suzuki, RF (.284/.324/.340, 1 HR, 22 RBI, 15 SB, 1.0 bWAR, 0.4 fWAR, 86 wRC+)
Ichiro was not supposed to play as much as he did. When he was a 4th OF and had regular rest, he was among the league's best hitters when he played. But when forced into daily service due to Beltran's injury and Soriano's general ineffectiveness, he tapered off due to fatigue. He got on base at a decent clip though, which was useful, and when he chose his spots, he can still steal bases with the best of them. And even at age 40, Ichiro is still one of the best defenders in the league.
Martin Prado, 2B/3B/LF/RF (.316/.336/.541, 7 HR, 16 RBI in 37 G, 2.1 bWAR, 1.4 fWAR, 146 wRC+)
When Prado had the emergency appendectomy two weeks ago, he was the hottest hitter on the team; ever since the Yankees acquired him at the trade deadline for essentially nothing, all he has done is hit, and play superb defense all around the diamond. He did everything Girardi asked of him, and then some, and if he picks up where he left off - heck, if he picks up half where he left off - next season, then he will arguably the biggest asset in the Yankees' lineup.
Chris Young, LF/RF (.282/.354/.521, 3 HR, 10 RBI in 23 G, 0.9 bWAR, 1.0 fWAR, 146 wRC+)
When he started playing regularly due to injuries, many Yankees fans thought he was in it for garbage time, but he nearly-singlehandedly kept the Yankees in the wild card hunt all the way to the end. There is a very good ballplayer in there somewhere, and for a short time, it surfaced. He very well might get some attention this winter, and deservedly so, despite his terrible run with the Mets.
Zelous Wheeler, Eury Perez, John Ryan Murphy, Austin Romine, Jose Pirela
Honestly, we don't have enough on these guys to make a true judgement.......so........yea. Some of these guys might be fighting for roster spots in spring training, others might become trade chips this winter. Time will tell.
Alfonso Soriano, RF
And there you have it - the 2014 New York Yankees offense. Please, aside from Jeter, refrain from taking pictures; trust me, you don't really want to remember this terrible, terrible, terrible team....
Oh, don't make me remember the horror! He looked clueless at the plate this year, and every time he hit the ball, it honestly seemed like an accident. He had a good career, and a great run at the end of last year, but he is more than done now.