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How the 2019 Yankees compare to their 2009 counterparts

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How does this year’s vaunted Yankees lineup compare to that of the World Series champs from ten years ago?

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Ten years ago today, on April 3, 2009, the New York Yankees opened their new ballpark in an exhibition match against the Chicago Cubs in a game that they would win 7-4. Unknown to Yankees fans at the time, that day began a magical season where the Bronx Bombers would take home the 27th World Series title in franchise history. A high-flying offense with a propensity for the long ball carried the team. When everybody was healthy, they lacked a hole in the lineup.

Ten years have passed since that epic season, the last time that a World Series title was brought home to New York. Much has changed around baseball — repeatedly, even, with an influx of elite pitching causing a rise in “three outcome hitting” that has sparked a revolution in how teams view pitching. Through all this time, however, the Yankees have continued to construct their lineup in a remarkably similar way.

Sure, the names have changed. Gleyber Torres replaced Robinson Cano as the young “homegrown” second baseman (with the caveat that Torres isn’t completely homegrown) and Gary Sanchez replaced Jorge Posada as the power-hitting catcher with defensive question marks, to list two examples. If you take away the names and just look at the profiles, though, at first glance it would be a little hard to tell the difference between the 2009 and 2019 Yankees lineups.

How deep does that similarity run, however? To start, let’s take a look at some 2009 team stats, courtesy of Baseball Reference, alongside stats calculated from FanGraph’s team projections:

2009 vs 2019 Offense

Statistic 2009 Stats 2009 Rates 2019 Projections 2019 Projected Rates
Statistic 2009 Stats 2009 Rates 2019 Projections 2019 Projected Rates
Total Hits 1604 - 1330 -
Doubles 325 20% 246 18%
Triples 21 1.30% 17 1.20%
Home Runs 244 15% 260 20%
Extra-Base Hits 590 36% 523 39%
Walks 663 - 554 -
AVG 0.283 - 0.257 -
OBP 0.362 - 0.322 -

These stats, on their own, show us that the 2019 squad is expected to rely more on the home run ball than that of the 2009 team, sacrificing a handful of doubles in the process; even so, the projections expect a higher percentage of extra-base hits this year, largely driven by the increase in home runs.

The breakdown of extra-base hits, however, does not tell the whole story, as the league has changed greatly in the last ten years. In order to better compare these two teams, it’s important to look at how they compare relative to the rest of the league. Here, we will turn from using the 2019 projections to the 2018 final stats as a way to approximate the 2019 club (as their final line of .249/.329/.451 matches fairly well the .257/.322 partial split that I have been able to calculate from the projections), and show how the team compares to the rest of the league.

2009 & 2018 vs. League Averages

Statistic 2009 Yankees 2009 Average Percent Difference 2018 Yankees 2018 Average Percent Difference
Statistic 2009 Yankees 2009 Average Percent Difference 2018 Yankees 2018 Average Percent Difference
Total Runs 915 747 122.49 851 721 118.0305132
Doubles 325 291 111.68 269 276 97.46376812
Triples 21 32 65.63 23 28 82.14285714
Home Runs 244 168 145.24 267 186 143.5483871
AVG 0.283 0.262 108.02 0.249 0.248 100.4032258
OBP 0.362 0.333 108.71 0.329 0.318 103.4591195
SLG 0.478 0.418 114.35 0.451 0.409 110.2689487

In both years, the Yankees offense was substantially better than the league average, with the only weakness being a relative inability to hit triples. Nonetheless, the 2009 squad slightly edges out the 2018 squad in terms of performance relative to the rest of the league, scoring 22% more than the league average team in 2009 compared to only 18% more in 2018. When it came to hitting home runs, the record-setting 2018 squad only managed to be 43% better than league average, while the 2009 champions were 45% better.

Of course, none of this tells us exactly how the 2019 lineup will fare, and there is plenty of reason to be hopeful that the 2019 squad will be remembered as one of the greatest lineups of all time. More than anything else, this shows us just how much the league has evolved in the last ten years, with comparatively less offense, albeit of a flashier sort. Even so, the 2019 Yankees still have a ways to go before matching the success of that vaunted 2009 lineup.