Well everyone, we've reached the final Pinstripe Alley post for 2014, and what better way to end than counting down to the new year with numbers arbitrarily associated with the Yankees? The 2014 season was a rough one for the Bronx Bombers, as they missed the playoffs for the second year in a row and now face the unknown without their Captain for the first time in 20 years, but there's plenty to like about the Yankees' future. Let us not forget the good times of the 2014 season though; while they tended to be few and far between, here are 10 things I will remember about these Yankees.
Five 10-strikeout games from Masahiro Tanaka's
One of the great crimes of the 2014 campaign was that we were robbed of seeing the great Tanaka pitch a full season of starts. #TANAK was absolutely phenomenal in his rookie season, notching at least 10 strikeouts in a game on five different occasions. Even though he made just 20 starts, he was just the 11th Yankee to have five 10-strikeout games in one season, and only the second to do it in under 25 starts. Please stay healthy in 2015, Tanaka. The Yankees badly need more pitchers like you.
Number of times Michael Pineda allowed 1 ER or less in his 13 starts
Hey, speaking of guys who need to stay healthy in 2015, a 30-start Pineda would go a long, long way to making the 2015 rotation less of a concern. On the occasions that "Big Mike" was heatlhy in 2014 and did, in fact, take the mound, he was sensational. In 13 starts, he allowed one earned run or less an amazing nine times. Unsurprisingly, his ERA for the season was quite low: 1.89 in 76 1/3 innings. There have been plenty of starters in major league history to have nine starts of such minimal offensive production against, but I seriously doubt many of them have occurred when the pitcher in question didn't even make 15 starts. Pineda's stuff is so nasty; here's hoping we see much more of him in 2015.
Number of times Dellin Betances struck out the side
This guy did stay healthy in 2014, and boy, was it spectacular. Like Mariano Rivera in 1996, Dealin' Dellin quickly ascended from middle relief to the setup man role, and he put together one of the greatest relief seasons you'll ever see. He pitcher 70 games, 90 inning, yielded a mere 1.40 ERA and 1.64 FIP while notching an unworldly WHIP of 0.778 (a mark bested by Mo just once), and struck out a Yankees bullpen record of 135 men, a 13.5 K/9 rate. Betances struck out the side eight times in 2014; four times he did so while not even allowing a baserunner. When they actually made contact against his slurve, opposing batters hit a pitiful .075/.122/.124t. Whether he's setting up again or closing in 2015, opposing batters are not going to feel comfortable against him next year. It will be delightful.
Awesome seasons of David Robertson
Sigh. Gonna miss this guy. Best of luck on the South Side, D-Rob. Don't be too nasty against the Yankees, please. Even if some fans were unfairly rough on you, we were always huge fans.
Alfonso Soriano homers in 2014
Yes, Sori was unfortunately dreadful this year, a disappointing follow-up to his superb second-half surge for the Yankees after his trade from the Cubs last year. But when he was hot, Soriano was one of the most entertaining players in baseball to watch, from his quick wrists and home run power to his speed on the bases which almost made him the first 40/40 Yankee. I wrote a retrospective on him shortly after he was finally released, but LTL nicely summed it up:
requiem for Sori
Let’s not have this year cloud our memory of him. He was one of the most exciting players the Yankees had during his first run. He easily could have been the MVP of the 2001 World Series. And he gave the offense a boost last year and kept a mediocre (at best) team in contention a lot longer than it should have been. Via con Dios, Sori.
by long time listener on Jul 6, 2014 | 12:26 PM
Number of times Jacoby Ellsbury was caught stealing... in 44 attempts
Upon first hearing that the Yankees had signed former Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a huge seven-year, $153 million contract, I was as shocked as anyone else. However, as I slowly began to read more about him, I realized just how valuable he could be to the Yankees. Sure enough, he turned out to be arguably the best position player on the Yankees this year. Ellsbury posted a 111 OPS+, hit the second-most homers of his career, and stole 39 bases, second-best in the American League. Remarkably, he was only caught five times, an 88.6% success rate... and the umpires blew one of those out calls, too. I would sign up in a heartbeat for more of this in 2015.
Yankees walk-off homers in 2014
The dingers were regrettably uncommon in 2014 for the Yankees as they only hit 147 dingers, a total almost as low as the 144 they recorded last year. They did make a few of them count though, as their four walk-off homers were the most they had in a season since the walk-off-happy 2009 campaign. Although the Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and Chase Headley walk-offs were fun, my favorite was the absolutely shocking Chris Young walk-off against the Rays, below. Just listen to the announcers' reaction and look at the game thread from that moment on; it was just about the funniest thing imaginable.
Brett Gardner homers against Yu Darvish
There's no denying that Rangers righty Yu Darvish is one of the most talented pitchers in baseball. Brett Gardner is a fine player, but prior to 2014, he had never been considered much of a power threat. Indeed, even with his 17-homer 2014 included, he only has 40 career homers in seven seasons. He has only homered more than once against three pitchers; two of them are Brandon Morrow and Drew Hutcherson, who he has each taken deep twice. Inexplicably however, he owns Yu Darvish. After taking Darvish deep three times in 2014, he has four career homers against the Japanese ace, hitting an astounding .455/.500/1.545 against him in 12 plate appearances. I don't know what it is that Gardner has figured out about him that basically no one else in the league has, but I want it to continue. It was just one small part of his awesome 2014, and it is hilarious.
Derek Jeter and his unforgettable finale
The Captain's last game at Yankee Stadium will be one to remember for years to come. In fact, there's a strong chance that this is the only memory some fans will have of the 2014 season. If that's all that will be remembered, then dammit, it's a fantastic memory. For all his struggles and tribulations of the Farewell Tour, this was almost a perfect way for him to end his career at Yankee Stadium.
Man I am most excited to see in spring training
We close 2014 with one more look to the promise of 2015. It's 50 days until pitchers and catchers, but we all have at least one person we'll be paying close attention to in spring training. Even though they're meaningless games, it will be damn exciting to see Rob Refsnyder seemingly finally get his shot to be the Yankees' second baseman. After the dark days of Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew constantly polluting the position once made outstanding by my favorite player, it would be a breath of fresh air to see Refsnyder grab that position by the horns and at least have a season similar to Robbie's rookie year of 2005. Fingers crossed, Ref.
Have a wonderful New Year's Eve and an equally awesome 2015, Yankees fans.