There have been worse seasons in Yankees’ history. By win loss record, it’s not even the worst Yankees’ season in the past decade. However, the 2013 Yankees’ season was just the absolute pits.
It’s not just that they were mediocre. They were. It’s that they were mediocre and almost everyone remotely fun got injured at some point. The list of notables to miss large chunks of the season includes Derek Jeter, Alex Rodríguez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and Francisco Cervelli. Chris Stewart played 109 games. Jayson Nix played 87. Lyle Overbay played 142!
Despite that, they actually finished with a winning record. While no one that watched a significant amount would think that the 2013 Yankees were good, they were in the playoff race until fairly late in the season. It was a minor miracle.
As a lover of dumb baseball, the season is a cult favorite of mine. No matter how stupid things got, something stupider seemed to follow. In retrospect, it’s actually pretty funny. However, what could’ve been done to make them actually good?
Using Out of the Park Baseball 21, I’ve re-simulated the 2013 season four times. However in each one, I’ve given the 2013 Yankees one legend from the past in what was the legend’s best season. Can the likes of Babe Ruth save this team or were the 2013 Yankees just cursed to be unspeakably boring?
In real life, right field was mostly manned in 2013 by Ichiro Suzuki, with Vernon Wells and Brennan Boesch also getting a bunch of innings. Boesch hit well, albeit in just 53 plate appearances, but other than that right field was pretty barren. They even had Lyle Overbay play there “to keep his bat in the lineup.” For this experiment, we have transported 1920 Babe Ruth, who put up a 255 OPS+ that year, his career best.
Ruth more than delivers, hitting .390/.548/.841 with 63 home runs, which was good for an even better 275 OPS+. He was worth 16.2 WAR, and led the league in all sorts of categories.
For whatever reason, despite have the luxury of having what would be maybe the greatest single-season batter ever in their lineup, they don’t take advantage and barely improve. Despite not really needing to have Ichiro in the lineup, they do anyway and play him at DH nearly every day. In this universe, they also acquire Evan Gattis, which would’ve been an improvement on watching Chris Stewart every day.
They finished way behind the first place Red Sox and miss out on the Wild Card spots as well.
Record: 87-55, +2 wins
Lyle Overbay was one of the Yankees’ better hitters in 2013, to the point where, as previously mentioned, they played him in right field. That doesn’t mean he was good. Overbay put up an 89 OPS+. They got some better production when Mark Reynolds showed up, but nothing spectacular. There was also the one game where Travis Ishikawa played. So what would happen if you replace him with one of, if not the greatest first baseman ever?
For Gehrig’s season, we imported his best hitting season: 1927, where he hit 47 home runs and a career best 220 OPS+. Unfortunately, importing that into 2013 had next to no effect.
Gehrig hit .348/.446/.664 with 42 home runs and 10.8 WAR. However, the 2013 Yankees apparently liked Overbay’s bat more than we even thought, as they spend a lot of time playing him at first and DHing Gehrig. The result is the same record as real life and a playoff-missing season.
Record: 85-77, same as real life
So we’ve tried two hitters, let’s see if what happens if we insert the best pitching season in Yankees history into the rotation. “Louisiana Lightning’s” 1978 was incredible, not only winning him a Cy Young but getting him a second place MVP finish.
Good news is, he was awesome, putting up a 2.03 ERA (218 ERA+) in 252.1 innings in this new 2013. He puts up 7.7 WAR as the ace of the rotation. Bad news is, the offense other than Robinson Canó and Brett Gardner are horrific. Like worse than in real life even. As a result this version of the Yankees are even worse than they actually were. Guidry’s 1978 helped the Yankees to a World Series. The version imported into 2013 gets them a losing record.
Record: 78-84, -7 wins
After Francisco Cervelli went out early in the season, we were forced to watch Chris Stewart catch all season long. We had to watch him put up a 59 OPS+. We had to watch him accidentally strike out on two pitches. What if instead, the best catcher in franchise history replaced him?
In 1956, Berra came second in MVP voting. He actually won it three times, but his ‘56 season was better than any of those years. He hit 30 home runs and put up a 142 OPS+ from behind the plate.
Turns out, he’s a pretty big improvement on Chris Stewart. In the heart of the 2013 Yankees’ order, he hits .298/.394/.515 with 26 home runs while accruing 7.1 WAR. Stewart played over 100 games in real life, but with Berra he’s the backup and can be a wet fish of a bat in only 40 games.
Led by Berra, the Yankees finish in second in the AL East and get in the playoffs as one of the Wild Cards. They knocked off the Mariners in the Wild Card Game, but lost in four in the ALDS to the Athletics.
Record: 89-73, +4 wins
It appears the only thing that would’ve helped the 2013 Yankees was one of the greatest catchers of all time, and even then, it only would’ve helped a little bit. Rest in peace, 2013 Yankees, you very dumb baseball team.