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More Thoughts on 100 Wins and the Bullpen

I mentioned in passing this morning that in 1954 the Yankees won 100 games but finished in second behind the 111 win Indians. It was Mickey Mantle's fourth season and he was 22 years old.

Mantle hit .300/.408/.525, scored 100 runs and walked 100 times while playing strong defense in center field. In many ways, his season relative to the league was comparable to Curtis Granderson's 2011. Mantle placed 15th in MVP voting (Yogi won the award, and Yankees' 20 game winner Bob Grim finished 7th [bonus points if you can tell me a story or two about Grim, because I haven't heard of him]).

Mantle hadn't yet lived up to expectations, hadn't stepped out of DiMaggio's shadow, and hadn't been the leader as the Yankees won it all. And so, in the court of public opinion, he was punished for his shortcomings.

Garcia, Colon and Granderson have exceeded expectations.

Sabathia, Cano, Gardner and Swisher have performed to expectations.

I think it's fair to suggest that all the others have underperformed.

Part of the Yankees' current march to excellence comes from an incredibly balanced team (there's a reason they had so many All-Stars). Credit has to be given to the coaches and the training staff: while the DL trips have been high profile, Arod, Jeter, Soriano, Colon, Joba (I'm not forgetting Chavez, but he's the exception), the team has been remarkably free of injury given its age. And when someone has gone down, there's always been someone to pick up the slack (except for catcher, call up Jesus Montero).

But credit also has to be given to the bullpen, anchored by D-Rob and Mo.

Despite the manager's insistence on giving important outs to Sergio Mitre and Luis Ayala (Fire Joe Girardi), the Yankee bullpen has been among the best in the AL. They stand third in runs allowed, behind only the Mariners and the Angels; only 25% of the inherited runners score, second best in the league, which is two parts luck and one part putting the right guy on the mound at the right time (ok, maybe just Punish Joe Girardi?); they post the third best K/9 in the AL and despite David Robertson's best efforts, the 6th best BB/9; they lead the league in FIP and WAR.

Are these Yankees better than 2009, when a relentless offense masked the struggles of the starting rotation, and when CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and AE Pettitte carried the Yankees through the postseason to a championship parade? That team rolled to 103 wins and won the division by 8 games. Why does having stiffer competition from the Red Sox and (potentially) the Phillies make us think of this team as inferior?