Going into the 2013 season, New York Yankees Manager Joe Girardi knew his lineup would have to score runs differently. The term “Bronx Bombers” will not be used with this Yankees lineup, and this was before the Curtis Granderson injury. The Yankees lost quality players from last season’s team; those players took with them 94 HR and 279 RBI, that’s not even counting the numbers Alex Rodriguez put up in 2012. Adding insult to injury, no pun intended, the Yankees lost 43 HR from Granderson, their leading home run man from a season ago and his 106 RBI, until May. With one pitch all the runs lost from last season nearly doubled, which will force the Yankees to rely less on the long ball and more on manufacturing runs.
This is not only an offensive issue, it also puts pressure on a pitching staff that is top-heavy. Even the Yankees best pitcher, CC Sabathia, is coming off one of his worst seasons; he was still good, but he, and the rest of the pitchers are on notice that they need to take their game to another level this year. The Yankees were not going to be a team this season, even before Granderson got hurt, that would rely on home runs, or be like any Yankee lineup in recent memory. Girardi, ironically, was talking about the teams’ new approach to scoring runs the inning Granderson was injured.
Girardi said, “We may still score some runs but it will be in a different way than we are accustomed to.”
The Yankees may be forced to play this way, losing so much of the power from last season’s team, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a problem. One of the Yankees biggest issues last season was how they always seemed to wait for someone to hit a homer to bail them out. Also, many players came up with runners in scoring position and instead of just trying to make contact to drive in a run, they would swing for the fences to get them all in. This was an on-and-off problem during the regular season, but the Yankees still won the AL East and made it all the way to the ALDS. They didn’t make it that far with the hitting; it was the pitching that carried the Yankees into the series with the Detroit Tigers.
Even in the ALCS, the Yankees weren’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard with crooked numbers, they could have easily been knocked out in the first-round of the playoffs as the Yankee bats went cold. It wasn’t like it was just a few guys, the entire lineup made average pitchers on the Baltimore Orioles and the Tigers look like CY Young. The major reason the Yankees were sent packing by the Tigers was the inability to get timely hits when they needed them; actually, the Yankees had a hard time getting any hits in the ALDS.
To say the loss of players from the 2012 team isn’t a big deal, or to say that it doesn’t hurt not having Granderson until May would be a lie, because it does make things a lot more difficult on an aging team.
Many may not remember, but the only Yankees hitter to have a great season in 2012 was Derek Jeter. Jeter batted .316, had 216 hits, 32 doubles and came around to score 99 runs. Many look back at Robinson Cano’s numbers, and if they did not follow the team that closely, they may not realize he got hot late, which made his numbers look a lot better.
The captain may be going into his 19th season, but he was the only clutch hitter on the Yankees last season. Jeter looked as good as he ever has, going with pitches, driving them the other way and with two strikes, he was one of the best hitters in all of baseball. These are the things many Yankees didn’t do last season, but have to this season for the team to be successful.
Having a healthy Brett Gardner back batting in the top of the order, with Jeter and a full season with Ichiro Suzuki on the team, the Yankees do have the ability to play small ball and produce runs. The Yankees may not be the highest scoring team in the league, but they have different weapons this season; it may be a different brand of Yankees baseball, but it still can be a winning brand of Yankees baseball.
Nik Swartz is the Featured Columnist for the New York Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @Sweetnesz13