The other day I saw an article on MLB.com discussing 9 amazing but under-appreciated seasons in baseball over the past 20 seasons. I figured I’d do this for the Yankees.
These aren’t going to be MVP seasons like ARod in 2007 or ROY seasons like Judge in 2017. They are seasons that you may have forgotten but should know a thing or two about.
Without further adieu, here are 9 amazing but under-appreciated seasons by a Yankee since 2000… (in no particular order)
1. Jorge Posada’s 2007
.338/.426/.543, 157 wRC+, 20 HR, 42 doubles
It’s up for debate what season was Posada’s best. 2000, 2003, and 2007 are all in the running. If I had to pick his best overall year, I’d choose 2000 — the year he led the team in WAR. But I’m writing about 2007 because a few things jump out that are probably overlooked.
At age 35, Posada had his best offensive season and finished 6th in MVP voting. A 157 wRC+ means he was 57% better than the league-average hitter that year, the best of his 17-year career.
Posada, along with ARod, also carried the Yankees offense in April and May when the team was otherwise struggling. Jorge posted two months that season where he almost hit .400 — .394 in May and .395 in September. Batting average is not usually something you think about with Posada, which is why his .338 BA (64 points better than his career mark) jumps out.
2007 also marked the end of an 8-year stretch where Posada was the best hitting catcher in the league. He led his peers in fWAR, wRC+, and wOBA, and only Mike Piazza hit more home runs over that span (187 to 183).
Jorge Posada 2000-2007 was a freakin' beast.
.283/.389/.492 132 wRC+ 4.6 fWAR avg season
He did what Sanchez did in 2017 for 8 straight years.
Unfortunately an injury in 2008 made it so we’ll never know if Posada would have had a repeat offensive season, but his prime was undoubtedly great. If you go by JAWS, a scale that measures a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness by comparing him to the players at his position who are already enshrined, Posada has a HOF case — and certainly deserved better than just 3.8% of the vote in his first, and only, year on the ballot.
The 2014 Yankees didn’t have a ton going for them, but that wasn’t Dellin Betances’ fault.
This was his rookie season despite debuting back in 2011, and it was arguably his best. Dellin finished 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting (behind Jose Abreu and Matt Shoemaker) and stupidly didn’t get any Cy Young votes. Some may argue 2015 was Dellin’s best, but he posted better… everything… in ’14.
The number that jumps out to me is 90 innings, an insane amount for a relief pitcher. The season reminded me of Mariano Rivera’s 1996, when he threw 107 innings and was the unsung hero of the Yankees bullpen.
His first and best season in the Bronx, the Giambino put up numbers similar to his Oakland days. After ’02 his batting average dropped off a cliff (he hit .248 the rest of his time with the Yanks) and injuries started to pile up, but that is not to say he wasn’t still a very productive hitter. He just never topped his ’02 stats in any category above.
Ex-teammate Miguel Tejada ended up winning MVP this season (can’t believe they didn’t give the award to Scott Hatteberg) but an argument can be made for Giambi, who finished 5th.
Revisionist history says that Giambi’s walk-off slam was the turning point for his season, but the truth is that his cold start really only lasted until mid-April and at this point in the season he was slashing .286/.385/.506. Not the MVP-level numbers he ended with, but by May 17th he had already gotten over his Bronx jitters. Maybe this moment earned him his pinstripes, however. Or was it his signature Yankee moment?
4. Bobby Abreu’s 2006
58 games, .330 BA, 7 HR, 16 doubles, 138 OPS+
Maybe this one is cheating, but the Yankees acquired Abreu (along with Cory Lidle, RIP) from the Phillies at the trade deadline and he did nothing but rake for the rest of the season. At the time the only thing I really knew about Abreu was that he mashed a million homers in the 2005 Home Run Derby out of nowhere, but I was happy to see Abreu wasn’t “done” like the Phillies thought he was.
This goes down as a brilliant Cashman trade because they gave up 4 players I’ve never heard of and got a right fielder, who despite his fear of walls, was a consistent force in the lineup. They were in need of an outfielder after Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield both went down with injuries, which unfortunately led to a nightmare scenario in the ALDS where Sheffield played first base and probably cost the Yankees a victory… but that’s a rant for another blog.
Abreu kind of got screwed on timing with both the Yankees and Phillies, who went on to win World Series shortly after he left each team. Either way, a 120 OPS+ over 2.5 seasons with the Yanks is nothing to sneeze at.
5. Hiroki Kuroda’s 2012
219.2 IP, 3.32 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 127 ERA+
Hiroki Kuroda was a Yankee, and a pretty damn good one too. 2012 — his first with the Yanks — was his best, but he was remarkably consistent over his 3 seasons in New York.
(Side note: I was pretty bummed when he decided to go back to Japan after 2014. I wanted the Yankees to keep giving him those $15 million 1-year contracts until he couldn’t pitch anymore.)
Everything about Kuroda’s 2012 spells workhorse. Over 200 innings, mid-3.00 ERA, and 3 complete games. The team came to expect 7 innings, 8 hits, and 3 runs every time he took the mound. Get in, get out, and go home. Wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am.
Nothing flashy, just reliable.
6. Nick Swisher’s 2010
.288 BA, 29 HR, 33 doubles, 134 wRC+, 4.4 fWAR
Not only was it Swisher’s best season in New York, it was the best season of his career.
Swishalicious worked with Kevin Long to simplify his stance before the 2010 season and it paid off. Oddly enough his BB% was lower and K% higher than his career marks, so what made this Swisher’s best season? He had a .335 BABIP. Luck? Maybe a little, but he was pretty consistent month-to-month and, other than Robbie Cano, was the team’s most productive hitter in 2010.
In 2011 the Grandy-man had one of the best power seasons by a Yankee outfielder this century. What made this season his best, and better than ’12 when he slugged 43 homers, is that he walked more and struck out less than other season with the Yankees and his .916 OPS was the best of his career.
This season is probably what Cashman envisioned when he acquired Granderson from Detroit before the 2010 season. He finished 4th in MVP but you can’t really make an argument he should have finished any higher — Justin Verlander won (which was slightly controversial) and Jacoby Ellsbury (ha!) and Jose Bautista finished ahead of Grandy with 8+ WAR seasons.
8. Hideki Matsui’s 2004
.298/.390/.522, 31 HR, 34 doubles, 140 wRC+
When the Yankees acquired Godzilla from Japan, 16 homers (his 2003 total) was not what fans had in mind. Even though Matsui was solid and durable (he also had the consecutive game streak going), 2004 is when he popped.
Matsui posted his best home run total, on-base and slugging percentage, and highest WAR season. Not to drudge-up bad memories, but he was an animal in the postseason that year too, hitting .412 with 3 HR, 7 doubles and 13 RBI in 11 games. If the Yankees didn’t… you know… Matsui would have probably been ALCS MVP and who knows what happens vs St. Louis in the World Series?
2004 started with a trip to Japan, so maybe that lit a fire under Matsui.
Moose’s first season in pinstripes was his best and he deserved to be the AL Cy Young despite finishing 5th in voting. Why did he finish so low? Because voters still looked at W-L record to determine pitcher effectiveness, and Mussina went 17-11 whereas his teammate and Cy Young winner, Roger Clemens, went 20-3.
Clemens of course had a fantastic season, but Mussina led the league in FIP, ERA+ and WAR, and finished second behind Freddy Garcia in ERA. If Mussina achieved those things in today’s game he would unquestionably win a Cy Young award.
Not winning the Cy wasn’t Moose’s only heartbreak in 2001. He was also 1-out away from perfection at Fenway Park in September when that scumbag Carl Everett broke it up.
Narrow misses was kind of the story of Mussina’s career up until he got into the Hall of Fame. I wouldn’t have voted him in, but there’s no denying Moose was a great pitcher and had a fantastic 2001 season.