The Yankees had the best record in baseball for much of the season, but were bested by an upstart Texas team in the ALCS.
I wouldn't put too much stock into the playoff loss though. The Yanks lost four out of six multiple times during the regular season, but this time it happened to be in the LCS. Even the '27 Yankees lost four of six at points in their historic run.
In the ALCS, Phil Hughes disappointed and most of the hitters did too (Tex, Thames, Gardner, Swisher, A-Rod and Posada all OPS'ed under .700). Some writers out there attributed the loss to the the age-old storyline of 'Old vs. Young.' The Yankees were old and the Rangers young. They claim the old players like A-Rod and Posada failed to step up in the playoffs, yet they fail to mention the same of younger hitters like Tex, Gardner and Swisher (all 30 or under).
Anyway, there was still a lot to be happy about this past season. Most notably, our second-baseman.
He had a tremendous 2009 season (.320/.352/.520) but who among us thought he would top that and be in contention for the MVP? He stepped his game up even more and became the best player on a team laden with All-Stars and future Hall of Famers. Cano will only be 28 next year, so it shouldn't surprise if he posts similar numbers for the next 4-5 seasons.
The speedy outfielder had a breakout season and gave incredible value out of the left-field spot. He led the team in OBP (.383) and steals (47) and MLB in pitches/plate appearance (4.6), proving he can and should be the lead-off hitter next year. Gardner also contributed impressive defense: UZR has him at +22 while BRef has him around +15.
As good as CC was in his initial Yankee season, he proved even better this year. He was easily the best hurler on the team and one of the best in the AL. Sabathia continues to provide excellent pitching and reliability equivalent or even in excess of his contract. Something to keep in mind is his impending opt-out clause. He has the right to become a free agent after 2011, but it he doesn't, he'll be a Yankee another four years.
Despite a rocky stretch toward the end of the year, it was another outstanding campaign for the game's best closer. His WHIP (.833) was the second best of his career, but his endurance continues to decline, as he threw just 60 innings, the second lowest of his career and the lowest since 2002.
The occasional DH got a lot more playing time than was intended when Nick Johnson (un)expectedly went down in early May. Did you realize Thames' OPS was almost identical to Teixeira's and A-Rod's? That says a lot about Thames but also something (not so good) about the 3-4 hitters.
Yes, A-Rod had a disappointing year. I don't really care that he homered 30 times and drove in 125 runs, his OPS+ (123) was the lowest it's been since 1997. He also had his lowest stolen base total in eight years with four. The player the Yankees re-signed in 2007 to that ludicrous 10-year deal is not the same as he once was. He's not as durable - you used to count on A-Rod for 150+ games every year. He hasn't played 140 since '07. We have to hope he bounces back healthy and productive next year or he'll be dropped from the cleanup spot. Frankly, I can see the 2011 3-5 hitters as Cano-Tex-A-Rod.
For as much as A.J. basically met expectations in 2009, he fell well short this year. His ERA, hit rate and HR rate were all career worsts. It's worrisome considering his M.O. was that he was injury prone, had shaky control but dynamite stuff: he'll walk his fair share of batters but is tough to hit. That wasn't the case this year, when he had his lowest K rate since 2001 but maintained the same walk rate. That means a lot more balls in play, and while his BABIP was a bit elevated (.323), it wasn't so much that his ERA should have risen almost a run-and-a-half. The only reason he's not in the ugly section is, surprisingly, his durability. Despite a poor season, he never missed a start and only missed the 200 inning plateau because of ineffectiveness, not injuries.
If only we could go back in time and trade him after the 2007 season. At the time, rumors had him mentioned as the top piece in potential trades for pitchers like Johan Santana and Roy Halladay. If you remember, he was more highly thought of than even Phil Hughes, and was considered totally untouchable by some.
After losing out to Hughes for the fifth starter spot, he struggled through most of the year, compiling an ERA near 6.00 by the end of July. He pitched significantly better the last two months of the season (2.36 ERA, 27 K, 5 BB), but he had already been moved down from the "Eighth Inning Guy" to the third set-up man behind Kerry Wood and David Robertson. Now come's word that he will remain a reliever next year as well. What a waste.
Career lows in all three triple-slash categories (.270/.340/.370) might signify the end of Jeter's career as an icon. His defense has always been shaky, but you could usually point to his hitting. Not so this year. He was the worst everyday hitter on the team, yet Joe Girardi kept putting him in the one or two spots (155 times to be exact). He should feel extremely lucky if he gets more than $10 million/year (which he will), but the new contract should ensure that Jeter is amenable to batting in the bottom third of the order.
I was admittedly a fan of acquiring Vazquez back in December of last year. He was a 200-inning horse that could be relied on for quality work. Who knows what happened between '09 and '10, but it guaranteed he won't be wearing pinstripes next year. His ERA never dropped below 4.45, his velocity came and went, and it got so bad that he was removed from the rotation in late August.
One of the appealing factors of Vazquez was his impending free agency and the potential to acquire draft picks if/when he signed elsewhere. Coming off such a disappointing year, there's a chance Vazquez may actually accept arbitration, and if Brian Cashman thinks so, he won't offer it and the Yanks will get nothing in return when Vazquez signs with a new team.
I was also a fan of signing Johnson because I foolishly believed he would remain healthy. He was coming off a year in which he played 133 games, primarily at first-base. As the Yankees' DH, there would be even less wear on his body and therefore reason to be optimistic. The signing ultimately proved worthless when he hurt his wrist in early May and never played again.