Friday, May 24, 2013

The 1996 Yankees vs. The 2013 Yankees

All season long we have all heard the comparisons of the 2013 Yankees to the gritty, scrappy, pitching first, timely hitting 1996 Yankees team that nobody expected to compete with a rookie short stop, a team without their captain Don Mattingly, and a new manager that owner George Steinbrenner did not even want, that ultimately ended up winning the World Series. Are the comparisons justified? Let's take a look and before I even get started I just want to compare similarities, in no way am I comparing certain players nor do I think for example that Brett Gardner will ever be Bernie Williams. With that little disclaimer posted let's get started with the comparisons.

Constructing The 1996 Team vs. The 2013 Team

The 1996 New York Yankees finished the season with a 92-70 record on their way to winning the American League East easily by four games over the Baltimore Orioles. This team was not a bunch of All Stars assembled and expected to win but a rag tag bunch of players assembled from the inside out with a few veteran high points inserted where necessary. This team was assembled with free agent moves like Mariano Duncan, David Cone, and Dwight Gooden signing free agent contracts along with trades for guys like Tim Raines, Graeme Lloyd, Cecil Fielder, David Weathers, and Charlie Hayes while mixing in a Luis Sojo claim off waivers. The Yankees implanted young guys in Bernie Williams in CF, Derek Jeter at SS, Jorge Posada serving some time as a back up catcher, and Mariano Rivera as the set up man. The 2013 Yankees are on the verge of giving austerity a shot again and are beginning to assemble a team in a similar way. The Yankees have young guys starting at catcher in Francisco Cervelli, Brett Gardner starting in center, David Robertson as the set up man, Joba Chamberlain as the 7th inning man, and have given young guys like Eduardo Nunez, David Adams, Preston Claiborne, Adam Warren and others every opportunity to succeed this season rather than emptying the farm like in years past.  The 2013 team did not go out and sign the big free agent but rather spent frugally while bringing in Travis Hafner, Ichiro Suzuki, Lyle Overbay, Kevin Youkilis, Chien Ming Wang, and Hiroki Kuroda and trading for guys like Vernon Wells, Shawn Kelley, and Chris Nelson. The Yankees then and the Yankees now spent wisely, took chances on guys nobody wanted in Darryl Strawberry and Vernon Wells, and relied on the prospects in big spots to succeed and did more times then they didn't.

1996 Starting Rotation vs. 2013 Starting Rotation

LHP Andy Pettitte -- LHP CC Sabathia
RHP Jimmy Key -- RHP Hiroki Kuroda
LHP Kenny Rogers -- LHP Andy Pettitte
RHP Dwight Gooden -- RHP Phil Hughes
RHP David Cone -- RHP Ivan Nova/David Phelps

I am just amazed that the fact that the hand that each pitchers throws is exactly the same as it was 17 seasons ago. Andy Pettitte was a young hard throwing lefty who ate up a ton of innings throwing 221 IP and winning 21 games while being the runner up for the Cy Young Award winner. Andy was easily the ace of the staff, the work horse, and the stopper... sounds a lot like CC Sabathia. Jimmy Key was the savvy veteran that made his start every 5th day and didn't over power people but always found a way to win, he won 12 games in 1996 in 30 starts, which sounds a lot like Hiroki Kuroda. Kenny Rogers was the left handed pitcher that did not throw in the upper 90's but hit his spots and had incredible command while winning 12 games in 1996 and draws comparisons to the kind of pitcher Andy Pettitte is at age 40 in my eyes. Dwight Gooden and David Cone were veteran free agents brought in to solidify the back end of the rotation with eating innings and keeping the Yankees in the game. Phil Hughes, David Phelps, and Ivan Nova all are here to do about the same except they are young and entering their primes. Either way the starting rotation seems to be eerily similar to the 1996 staff that won 68 games if you include Ramiro Mendoza and Wally Whitehurt's spot starts.

1996 Starters  vs. 2013 Starters (when healthy)

C- Joe Girardi -- Francisco Cervelli 
1B- Tino Martinez -- Mark Teixeira
2B- Mariano Duncan -- Robinson Cano
SS- Derek Jeter -- Derek Jeter
3B- Wade Boggs -- Alex Rodriguez
LF- Tim Raines -- Curtis Granderson
CF- Bernie Williams -- Brett Gardner
RF- Paul O'Niell -- Ichiro Suzuki
DH- Ruben Sierra -- Travis Hafner

The Cervelli and Girardi comparison does not hold much water to be honest with Cervelli being so young and actually pretty capable with the bat while Girardi was a veteran and all defense and no bat. Maybe the Chris Stewart and Jor Girardi comparison would be better and the Francisco Cervelli as the back up and Jorge Posada comparison would be better but where would that leave Jim Leyritz? Tino Martinez and Mark Teixeira are both veteran bats with stellar defense hitting in the middle of a Yankees lineup. Wade Boggs and Alex Rodriguez are both veteran guys who may have lost a step after setting up big time careers elsewhere before becoming Yankees but can win the Yankees fan base over with a good playoff run, see 2009. Brett Gardner can only be compared to Bernie Williams by being a speedy home grown center fielder because they are two different kinds of players but the similarities are still there at this point in Bernie's career. Paul O'Niell and Ichiro are both the hired mercenary veteran guys manning right field for the Yankees after making big time careers for themselves in other cities. 

1996 Bullpen vs. 2013 Bullpen

John Wetteland -- Mariano Rivera
Mariano Rivera -- David Robertson
Graeme Lloyd -- Boone Logan
Jeff Nelson -- Joba Chamberlain
Bob Wickman -- Shawn Kelley
Ramiro Mendoza -- David Phelps
Brian Boehringer -- Preston Claiborne

Obviously the first comparison is a shut down closer in John Wetteland in 1996 and the greatest closer of all time in Mariano Rivera in 2013. The next comparison is obvious with a young fire balling Mariano Rivera in 1996 being compared to Mr. Houdini himself in David Robertson from 2013. Graeme Lloyd was a shut down LOOGY, the term LOOGY used loosely here, before baseball knew what a LOOGY was and that sounds an awful lot like Boone Logan from the 2013 team. Is David Phelps not the 2013 version of Ramiro Mendoza by being able to shut down an inning from the bullpen, save a bullpen by throwing a ton of innings, or make a spot start whenever necessary? The Yankees bullpen then was pieced together on the fly, something that Joe Girardi has had to do a lot as the manager of the Yankees during his tenure, and mixed and matched a lot until Joe Torre decided to just pitch Mariano and Wetteland two innings each and turning every game into a 6 IP game. The Yankees bullpen is honestly a lot better and a lot deeper in 2013 which is a scary thought because that 1996 bullpen really came together when it mattered. 

1996 Bench vs. 2013 Bench

Cecil Fielder -- Travis Hafner
Darryl Strawberry -- Vernon Wells
Luis Sojo -- Jayson Nix
Charlie Hayes -- Kevin Youkilis
Jim Leyritz -- Chris Stewart

Cecil Fielder was a veteran that had no business playing the field after finding his fame with another team previously and now chasing a ring with the Yankees, a lot like Travis Hafner is doing right now as we speak. Nobody wanted Darryl Strawberry after his debacle of a career with the New York Mets much like nobody wanted Vernon Wells, as evident by the Angels trying to basically give him away with no takers, before the season and both worked out well for the Yankees. Luis Sojo is that scrappy kind of player that could play all over the infield in a pinch and was not great with the bat but more than made up with it with his versatility, ability to get on base, and defense. Jayson Nix is doing all that and then some for the Yankees this season and was a huge, yet underrated, part of the 2012 Yankees team. The only comparison I could find for the Charlie Hayes and Kevin Youkilis situation is that Kevin Youkilis is going to catch the final out in foul ground at Yankees Stadium to clinch the Yankees 28th World Series title.... Go Yankees!

Nobody expected the 1996 Yankees to win the World Series and nobody expects the 2013 Yankees to even make the playoffs, ask Curt Schilling and John Kruk from ESPN about our last place finish, which made things even sweeter when Joe Torre got his first ring. Will the 2013 version of the Yankees win the World Series? Who knows! Baseball is a different game now and is a story of three seasons, the first half, the second half, and the post season. The best team does not always win anymore it is more times than most the hottest team that ends up hoisting that World Series trophy. The great thing about this 2013 team is though, much like the 1996 team, they won't win the World Series this year because they are expected to they will win it because they want it more and will work harder than anyone and everyone to get it. 

1 comment:

Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)