LADY AT THE BAT: The 2015 vs 2009 Yankees: Looking back at the 2009 ALCS

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The 2015 vs 2009 Yankees: Looking back at the 2009 ALCS

One of the many perks of being a Yankees fan is that, when the team is struggling in a series, it’s usually always possible to look back to a happier series against that same opponent.

With the Yankees struggling against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, a flashback to 2009, when the Yankees beat the Angels 4-2 in the A.L.C.S, on their march to the their most recent World Series win, is a welcome relief.

It feels like yesterday but it has been almost six full years. The Yankees current roster has just four players from that last championship. (the Angels have just two.)

The 2015 Yankees, compared to that 2009 powerhouse. makes for an interesting comparison:

Infield
The main changes in the infield are at SS, where Didi Gregorius is trying to replace a Yankee legend and future Hall of Famer in Derek Jeter who, even in his worst offensive year, exceeds Sir Didi’s production, and at 2B, where Stephen Drew can’t even match Mario Mendoza let alone the prolific production of Robinson Cano. Jorge Posada had a great 2009 regular season and a decent A.L.C.S. McCann is doing better in his second year as the Yankees main backstop, but has yet to match the offensive output of Posada

Outfield
The ’09 A.L.C.S outfield of Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner and Johnny Damon all batted over .300 in six games and played flawless defense. Brett Gardner, if possible, has upped his game, especially recently when he won A.L. Player of the Week. He has shifted over to LF to make room for Jacoby Ellsbury, who has replaced Damon as the former Red Sox on the Yankees roster. The oft injured Ellsbury is a revelation when in the lineup and his defense is an absolute improvement (although you can see his arm heading the way of Damon’s), but the Yankees just have to hold their breath that he’s healthy enough to return.  The '09 A.L.C.S. Cabrera is probably better than the 2015 regular season Beltran. Beltran has a reputation as a post-season savant, but he needs to be consistent in the regular season to get the team back there.

Starting Pitching
CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes were the starting four that carried the Yankees through the 2009 post season. Sabathia was the A.L.C.S. MVP with a 1.13 ERA, earning 2 wins, even pitching on short rest for the 2nd start. In 2015, Sabathia is struggling with almost a 6 ERA, only 3 wins on the season and none since his June 7 start. Burnett and Hughes are long gone, neither seemingly cut out for the NY Cauldron. Where the key word for the 2009 post-season rotation was resilient / dominant, the corresponding word for the 2015 rotation is inconsistent.

Bullpen
The 2009 post-season bullpen was defined by, of course, Mariano Rivera and the surprising Damaso Marte who, despite his checkered injury history, earned every bit of the money the Yankees paid him for his A.L.C.S and World Series performances. Mariano Rivera picked up two saves and David Robertson established his worth as a dominant set-up man, giving up only 1 hit across 2 innings. The 2015 pen has an injured closer and overworked set-up men but, if healthy, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances can be as dominant as Robertson and Rivera. The missing piece is the flash in the pan dominance of Marte. The 2015 Yankees bullpen has its share of lefties, but it remains to be seen whether they can step up in truly key situations.

The 2015 Yankees will try to avoid the sweep against the 2015 Angels tonight. If both can perform the way the 2009 teams did, New York will have a good chance to do just that.

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