In case you missed it, the 2015 New York Yankees’ season ended last Tuesday night at the hands of the Houston Astros in the American League Wild Card Game by a 3-0 score. But not everything is as bad as it seems. Keep in mind that the Yankees weren’t even supposed to get this far despite the feelings of disappointment that accompany such a lousy performance. But now that the Yankees have failed their final exam (as will 29 other teams), it’s time to see their report card as we close the books (or binders!) on the 2015 Yankees season.
When McCann stumbled early on in the season, every Yankee fan around wanted him gone off the team for good. But after Memorial Day, McCann went on a tear. Despite another late season slump (a common occurrence for the Yankees), he slashed .232/.320/.437, a marked improvement from last season. His 26 homers and consistent defense make him one of the Yankees’ most valuable players.
John Ryan Murphy:
Oh what a season it was for the Yankees’ first-year backup backstop. Murphy became a legitimate option for Joe Girardi versus lefties and righties alike, hitting .277 with a .327 OBP and several clutch hits. His defense is almost as good as the elite McCann’s, and he spurred several memes for his hilarious post-clinching champagne celebration antics. Seriously, Google them.
The day was August 17, 2015. Texeira was in the middle of an MVP caliber year, almost his best in pinstripes after looking like toast from 2012-2014, and then disaster struck. After fouling a ball off of his leg, Tex’s season was done after a .255 average, 31 Tex Messages, and countless memorable defensive plays. His replacement, Greg Bird, produced at an almost-Texeira level, but the loss of Texeira absolutely killed the Yankees’ 2015 season. Here’s to one more comeback.
Somehow, some way, Stephen Drew made it into 131 games and hit above .200. Barely. Drew’s season numbers ended up at .201, 17 homers, and fine defensive metrics. But despite the sense that he somehow exceeded expectations with those numbers, that’s only because the expectations were oh so low. Drew could feasibly return to the Yankees in 2016 as a utility infielder, replacing Brendan Ryan. Drew isn’t as bad as some people think, but he certainly isn’t anything special.
Around the time that I posted an article on the progression of Didi Gregorius into a league-average shortstop, the man took off to extraordinary levels. Didi’s defense was among the tops at his position by the eye test and metrics alike, and his hitting became a strong point by the end of the season. A .265 average and 9 homers is more than acceptable for someone batting eighth with Gregorius’ defensive pedigree. It’s now safe to say that the Yankees have found their shortstop of the future.
2015 was a tale of multiple seasons for Chase Headley. First, there was the terrible, no good, very bad Chase Headley that inhibited the Yankee lineup until July which hit .245, posted a subpar .299 OBP, and committed at least 10 errors. Then there was the summer Headley, which cleaned up its defense and hit .334 with a humongous .407 OBP. Finally, there was September Headley, which hit .192 and committed multiple errors. Which one is the real Headley? Probably his season total numbers, a .259 hitter with a steady eye, mild power, and flashy yet maddening defense. Which may or not be worth $52 million.
Gardner was one of many Yankees to succumb to the dreaded second-half slump, but his seemed more prolonged. Gardy hit just .206 and stole just 5 bases after the Midsummer Classic, despite earning a berth in the game by hitting .302, making clutch plays, and stealing 15 bases in the first half. Yet somehow, Gardner’s season numbers in 2015 were higher than his in 2014 in all categories except home runs, meaning that there’s still hope for Gardner to rediscover his game.
Is it becoming a theme that the Yankees were a first-half team? Well Ellsbury was a first-half player all right. Prior to the All-Star Game, Ellsbury was one of baseball’s preeminent leadoff men, hitting .318 with a .399 OBP and thieving 14 bags. But after, he hit just .220 and swiped 7 bases. Ellsbury was benched in the Wild Card Game, putting an end to his miserable season. His final numbers were a .257 average and a .318 OBP, hardly a $153 million leadoff man. If Ellsbury is healthy next year, his comeback will be great.
Did anyone think that Carlos Beltran would remain useful after his putrid April? In it, he hit .162 with no power and looked terrible in the field. But for the remainder of the season, Beltran became the Yankees’ best hitter, hitting over .300 with 19 homers, several of the clutch variety, and certainly earned his $15 million. But can he again at age 39 next year with Aaron Judge breathing down his neck?
The Designated Hitter:
Okay. So I thought that Alex Rodriguez could maybe be good for a .250 average and 18 homers in the preseason, and that was among the high end of A-Rod expectations. So how about a .250/.356/.486 slash line to go with 33 homers to shut everyone up? I’ll take it! A-Rod faded quite hideously in August and September, but an offseason of rest should behoove him in his upcoming age-41 season. The Yankees will need close to a repeat performance in 2016, something that is hard to see coming true, but who even knows with Alex anymore? Maybe he’ll blast 50 homers just for the heck of it.
The Yankees’ ace had a good year in 2015. Despite some claims that he wasn’t a dominant pitcher anymore, all of Tanaka’s rate stats increased or stayed the same as last year’s except for one huge one: his home run rate. Tanaka gave up way too many homers in 2015, something that needs to be corrected. Count on it though, there’s no way losing the Wild Card Game will sit well with the ultra-competitive Tanaka.
“Big Mike” wasn’t himself for the majority of the 2015 season. While he stayed healthy for most of the season, a 4.37 ERA, .278 BAA, and 21 homers weren’t what the Yankees wanted to see from their number 2 starter. Pineda was so good at times yet so bad at others that he likely profiles as a solid third starter for the future, which, while it isn’t a bad thing, isn’t totally what the Yankees hoped for.
While “Sevy’s” debut came a bit earlier than expected, he forced the Yankees’ hand with a stellar minor league season split between Trenton and Scranton. Severino’s 2.89 ERA was among baseball’s leaders after his promotion, and every start that he pitches in is a can’t-miss affair. Expectations will be raised substantially for Severino next season, but if anyone can handle them, he can.
“Nasty Nate” was nasty in both ways during the 2015 season. At the precipice of the year, Eovaldi was all over the place and getting hit hard for it. But after a disastrous start versus his ex-team, the Miami Marlins, Eovaldi became the Yankee’s 2nd-best starter. His 98+ mph fastball, sneaky slider, and devastating splitter combine for a 1-2-3 punch of legit “stuff”. Evo suffered a forearm injury late in the season, but should be good to go for 2016.
Oh where to begin with CC. After a dreadful first 2.5 months of the season, CC became the Yankees’ 2nd-most dependable starter after the All-Star Break. He regained his velocity, his breaking ball, and his swagger. But after the Yankees clinched a playoff berth, CC went on a bender and soon after checked himself into a rehab clinic for his alcohol problems. What the Yankees get out of him in 2016 is anyone’s guess.
Miller was just as good as advertised in 2015. In 60 appearances, he posted a 2.04 ERA, 100 strikeouts, a .151 BAA, and went 36-38 in save situations. His control wavered at times, but for the most part there was nothing to complain about regarding Miller. Anyone still wish the Yankees had kept David Robertson over Miller?
Dellin wasn’t quite as good as his 2014 season, but he was still a top-5 reliever. In a whopping 84 innings, Dellin went 6-4 with a 1.50 ERA, a crazy 131 strikeouts, and .157 BAA. He walked way too many (40) and gave up a few many homers (6), but if anyone is even remotely disappointed with Betances’ 2015 season, they’re delusional. Miller and Betances give the Yankees the best 1-2 punch in the MLB.
The Other Guys:
Wilson, the return for Frankie Cervelli, quietly became the Yankees’ best non-Miller-or-Betances reliever. A 5-0 record, 3.10 ERA, and a 97 mph fastball attest to that fact. Wilson is no LOOGY; righties gain no advantage off of him. Adam Warren shuffled between the rotation and bullpen, but still posted 104 strikeouts, a 1.16 WHIP, and a .236 BAA. Chasen Shreve looked to be the Yankees’ secret weapon; an unknown yet potent force in the middle innings. Instead, Shreve collapsed in September completely, but he should be good to go for 2016. A shuttle of AAA relievers rounded out the bullpen, but guys like Jacob Lindgren, Branden Pinder, Nick Rumbelow, and James Pazos all have a chance of making the big club in the near future.
It’s hard to be down on this Yankee season. There were many positives to take from the campaign, but many weaknesses were made glaringly obvious. Count on the Yankees fielding a similar squad in 2016, with hopefully an even better result.