As of July 18, the Yankees are 57-34, lead the AL East by 9.5 games, and have the best record in baseball by two games. Currently, the Yankees are playing at a winning percentage of .626, and are on pace for 101 wins.
Some may credit C.C. Sabathia for holding down the pitching staff, while others may give props to Robinson Cano for being the center of the offense. Yet, one man behind it all should get the majority of credit on why the Yankees have played so well this season, and he is not a typical name one would guess.
Although some may consider this is the best we’ve seen the Yankees play baseball since 2009, the 2012 squad has been plagued by injuries before the season even began. Top offseason acquisition Michael Pineda was placed on the 15-Day DL to start the season, and later underwent arthroscopic surgery on May 1 after suffering an anterior labral tear in his right shoulder, effectively knocking him out for at least a year.
Left fielder Brett Gardner, who recorded a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 5.1 in 2011, also went down early. The outfielder suffered a bone bruise on April 17 attempting to catch a fly ball, and has since suffered three setbacks. After his third setback, it was reported that he would undergo arthroscopic surgery as well, this time to remove inflamed tissue in his elbow.
Finally, the Yankees lost the best closer in the history of the game in early May to an ACL tear after trying to catch a fly ball during batting practice. Such an injury was immediately diagnosed as season-ending.
The Yankees also lost David Robertson for a month, and Andy Pettitte still has yet to return since suffering a fractured ankle in late June. With all these injuries occurring to key pieces of the active roster, the Yankees needed to turn to their bench at a time where they were not adequately prepared.
Fortunately, the bench and bullpen the Yankees created in the offseason and throughout 2012 so far has been exceeding expectations. Names such as Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones, Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada have all successfully filled in for injuries, while other signings such as Eric Chavez have bolstered the offense. These minor moves went by in an unnoticed fashion during the offseason and spring training, but it is clear now deals such as these can be crucial if injuries flare up during the season.
So who am I giving credit to for the success of the 2012 New York Yankees? The one and only Brian Cashman, along with his team of scouts.
Eppley and Rapada were both claimed off waivers during spring training from the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles. Although struggling in the majors, both pitchers pitched dominantly with their 2011 minor league ball clubs, notching K/9’s well above 8.00. This success continued with Triple-A Empire State in 2012, which warranted call-ups to the big club. The two have successfully filled in during David Robertson’s and Mariano Rivera’s absence.
Ibanez and Jones have also successfully filled in at their position, this time working as a platoon for the injured Brett Gardner. The two have combined for 24 home runs and 66 RBI’s in 131 games. Jones has also hit five of those home runs in the month of July alone.
Finally, due to Alex Rodriguez spending more and more time DH’ing in 2012, Chavez has stepped in with flying colors. In 61 games, Chavez has recorded eight home runs and 20 RBI’s, while also notching a wOBA (weighed on-base average) of .351, his highest since 2004. Chavez is also batting .278 on the season, his highest since 2003.
Brian Cashman and his team of scouts successfully built a bench and bullpen prepared for any concerns during the 2012 season. Whether it is Chavez, Jones, Ibanez, Rapada, or Eppley, all have shown promise in 2012, and their stats indicate they show no sign of slowing down.