Please click on the following links for TYA’s previous monthly wrap-ups for the 2011 season:
Following one of their most dominating offensive months in recent history in August, the Yankee bats went into hibernation in September. No one made too big a deal out of this, since the team still kept right on winning all the way to clinching home field advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs, but the offense was really pretty terrible this past month.
In fact, the team’s September wOBA of .316 was their second-worst month out of the 66 months dating back to the beginning of the 2001 season, and their second-worst September heading into a postseason since 2001, when they wOBAed .303. Of course, they made it all the way to Game 7 of the World Series that year, but also only hit .183 against the Diamondbacks across those seven games. As an additional point of comparison, the 2009 World Champion Yankees wOBAed .370 in September.
Now in fairness, the team’s neutered offensive attack in September was due in part to Joe Girardi getting his guys plenty of rest heading up to the playoffs, as well as the fact that the Yankees were playing with house money for the final week of the season after clinching their playoff berth — not to mention not exactly trying their damndest to beat the Rays in the final three games of the year — all of which is totally fine, as long as the offense can kick it back into high gear starting tomorrow.
The pitching staff also mostly had a September to forget, and when looking at the offense and pitching numbers without context it’s actually kind of amazing the Yankees wound up having a winning month. They completed the 2011 season with two more wins than the 2010 team, actually scored slightly more runs per game — 5.35 to 5.30 — while posting a slightly worse wOBA — .346 compared to .347 — but did it in a tougher run-scoring environment — 113 wRC+ against 112 wRC+. That 113 wRC+ is also a touch disappointing — not in a “teh offense sucks” way but in a used-to-being-spoiled-with-near-historic-offensive-outputs way when you consider that the offense had topped out at 119 as late as August 23, even though it was highly unlikely they’d have been able to maintain that pace.
The Yankees’ forgettable offensive month, combined with Texas’ absurdly hot (.396 wOBA) September actually dropped the Yankees .002 points behind the Rangers, finishing third in the league on the season in wOBA, which is a little disappointing after two straight seasons of leading all of MLB in wOBA. Still, .346 is nothing to sneeze at.
As I predicted back in June, even with a rather rough August and September, the Yankee pitching staff did manage to come in with a sub-4.00 ERA for only the 11th time in the past 34 seasons, posting a 3.74 mark that was good for 4th-best in the American League and the team’s lowest seasonal mark since the 1985 squad compiled a 3.69 ERA.
Here are the individual offensive performances from September (screengrab c/o Fangraphs)
After years of waiting, Jesus Montero had himself quite the MLB debut, huh? A .328/.406/.590 triple slash, .421 wOBA and 165 wRC+ across his first career 69 plate appearances is way better than even the most optimistic fan could have expected. While it’s highly unlikely that this is Montero’s true talent level (.400 BABIP and 24.5% K% say hello), it was still incredibly refreshing to see Montero rake immediately out of the gate, and he could end up being a key weapon for the Yankees in the postseason, given the relatively diminished offensive contributions of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira.
The only other everyday player who really hit much of anything in September was Robinson Cano (120 wRC+), though Derek Jeter, Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez turned in above-average performances, while Tex’s two-homr-run game last night saved him from a below-average month. Being that he carried the team the entire year Curtis Granderson more than gets a pass for what was easily his worst month of the season, but the team will need MVP candidate Curtis to step back up in October.
Surprise, surprise, CC Sabathia was the most valuable pitcher on the month, but Ivan Nova of course had perhaps his best month of the season, leading to his Game 2 starting nod. Believe it or not, A.J. Burnett was arguably the Yankees’ third-best starter in September, which is why I’m not so sure it’s a guarantee that he doesn’t make the playoff roster, even if the fanbase would likely lose their minds if he ended up making a start at some point.
So there you have it — another regular season in the books. We’ll be previewing the heck out of the playoffs, but even if the Yankees get bounced in the first round — which, given how even the playing field looks this year is as likely as the team advancing — this will certainly go down as one of the more surprising and memorable campaigns in recent team history.
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