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Top 5 Yankees of the 2011 Season

2011 New York Yankees (Photo by AP)

2011 Recap

The New York Yankees as a whole had a very impressive season, especially with everything considered. Entering the season with a questionable starting rotation and facing injury after injury as the season went on, the Yankees fought their way through adversary and recorded another 95-plus win season.

Milestones were reached and history was made. Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit echoed through the world of baseball and gave Yankee fans a chance to witness something they had never seen before. Mariano Rivera did something that has been long anticipated, surpassing Trevor Hoffman as the all-time leader in saves and taking the throne as the greatest closer ever to step on a baseball diamond, even if we did already know that all the way back in 1997.

The offense was once against stifling, leading the league in almost every offensive category. Home runs were hit on a daily basis and at a record pace; as expected of course. But the pitching has been the real story; something not expected at all. Throughout the offseason, a big question mark loomed over the starting five of the Yankees, leading people to believe that the team simply wasn’t strong enough to compete with the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays. 162 games later, the New York Yankees finished in first place of the American League East division and with the best record in the American League.

Everybody in the lineup and in the clubhouse has done their part all year but five players have stood out the most.

#5: Ivan Nova

16-4 Record, 3.70 ERA

What a pleasant surprise the twenty-four year old rookie as been all year. Last year Ivan Nova displayed the stuff to be good enough for a spot in the rotation. This year, he solidified that spot in the rotation, ending the season on a twelve game winning streak. Nova is not a pitcher that will overpower you at the plate but he has shown resiliency and displayed the ability to consistently pitch out of trouble and maintain his cool in big spots of a game.

More importantly, he has given the Yankees a face at the two spot in the rotation. Entering the season, there was no clear order in the rotation that would follow CC Sabathia. Ivan Nova has provided the Yankees with stability and certainty in the rotation, earning himself a game two or three start in the American League Divisional Series.

He is a young pitcher with a bright future and a front-runner for the Rookie of the Year award. He youths up an already aging and relatively old Yankee team. Recording sixteen wins in the American League East is impressive in itself and would be for any pitcher. Ivan Nova has already proved he can pitch in New York and on the biggest stage of them all; Yankee Stadium.

#4: CC Sabathia

19-8 record, 3.00 ERA, 230 Strikeouts, 231.7 Innings Pitched

Posting his lowest earned run average in his three year stint with the Yankees, CC Sabathia has once again been the work horse and the anchor of the starting rotation. He has also been the security blanket of the Yankees. In a slump? No worries, CC is pitching today. Every other pitcher is pitching poorly. No worries, CC is pitching today.

After posting 15 wins from April to July, seeming practically untouchable in most of his starts, CC began to struggle for most of August. Even though he was not pitching as well as the CC everybody knows, the big left hander won what was probably the biggest game of the year. In the first game of a crucial series against the Red Sox late in August, Sabathia pitched six innings of two run ball, finally beating the team that had given him the most problems all year. The win also jump started the Yankees, leading to their first series win against the Red Sox of the season.

It is tough to imagine life without CC Sabathia on the New York Yankees.

#3: Curtis Granderson

41 Home Runs, 119 Runs Batted In, 136 Runs Scored, 10 Triples, 25 Stolen Bases

“MVP! MVP! MVP!”

It seems that every year a different Yankee hears the chants of MVP every time they step up to the plate. This year, it was Curtis Granderson’s turn in a season where he has sparked the Yankees offense with one swing of the bat more than anyone. He has simply done it all from getting on base and stealing bases to covering so much ground in center field and tracking down fly ball after fly ball.

Despite his low average and his late season struggles, Curtis Granderson has powered the Yankee offense. His 41 home runs on the season are just as impressive as his 135 runs scored. He surpassed his career high for home runs of 30 and has truly found his power, his swing, and his ability to hit left handed pitching. Yankee Stadium has complimented his playing style very well but it is Curtis Granderson that has left us saying wow on a daily basis.

In one season, Curtis Granderson has become an elite player in the MLB and has made everyone aware of his existence.

#2: Mariano Rivera

44 Saves, 1.91 Earned Run Average, 60 Strikeouts and 8 Walks Allowed

There is no surprise that Mariano Rivera has made his way on this list considering he has been number one on it for the past fifteen years.

Mariano Rivera. Enough Said.

The very sound of Metallica’s song, Enter Sandman, makes opponents shake in fear. He has dominated his competition year in and year out with one pitch. Yes, one pitch. His famous cut fastball has become the most dangerous pitch in all of baseball and Mariano Rivera could easily be the most dangerous pitcher ever to wear a professional uniform.

Not only did Mariano Rivera become the all-time saves leader, he has proven that age is irrelevant in this game. If anything, the forty-two year old closer has gotten even better as his eligibility for an AARP card creeps closer. At forty-two years old, Mariano Rivera is still a force to be reckoned with and the most valuable weapon a team could have, especially in the postseason.

#1: David Robertson

4-0 Record, 1.08 Earned Run Average, 100 Strikeouts, 34 Holds

Whatever the situation was, however many runners he inherited, whatever the score was, and however many outs their were, David Robertson did his job. He has paved the road to Mariano better than anyone else ever has. If you looked up dominant in the dictionary, David Robertson’s picture would pop up. If you looked up the phrase “lights out” on the internet, video clips would be played of David Robertson’s extremely impressive performance throughout the 2011 season.

It is very easy to win games when you have Mariano Rivera lingering around, waiting to strike in the ninth inning. Getting to Mariano, especially during an injury-plagued year, is anything but easy. Although, David Robertson has made it look a little too easy. His fastball has had life all year and his appearance in the eighth has been equivalent to Mariano’s appearance in the ninth; intimidating. He pitches even better with runners on base, making it even more difficult to hit him and avoid seeing Mariano an inning later.

David Robertson has been part of the three-headed monster the Yankees have created in their bullpen this year. While Rafael Soriano has been shaky, Robertson has been the exact opposite, joining Mariano in turning the Yankees bullpen into the best in the league. While every other team plays a nine inning game 162 times, the Yankees are only playing seven innings.

Wrap-up

In a lineup consisting of big names like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, and Russell Martin, pitching has overshadowed the offense and has dominated this countdown. Yes, Robinson Cano also had an MVP-caliber season but we already knew that was going to happen. Despite injuries, A-Rod will always be dangerous. Jeter scratched and clawed his way back to .300; a place almost to familiar for him to stray away from for so long. Tex, Swish, and Martin all provided lots of power and each played their respective positions above par.

One through nine in the lineup, they will find a way to hurt you. The Yankees will always be the Yankees. That should never be a surprise to anyone. Before the season started, words to describe the offense were not the same to describe the pitching. Inning after inning, game after game, month after month, Yankee pitching became just as valuable and just as impressive as the hitting.

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One comment for “Top 5 Yankees of the 2011 Season”

  1. New Post: Top 5 Yankees of the 2011 Season http://t.co/nt6Uy3es

    Posted by Sports of New York | September 30, 2011, 2:24 am

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