In 2009, the Yankees got a good “rebound” seasons from a few different players.
Jorge Posada missed plenty of time in 2008, but recovered to have the fourth highest OPS+ of his career.
Derek Jeter was bothered by a hand injury for a good portion of 2008 and added 100 points to his OPS.
Hideki Mastui also saw a big jump in his OPS, 81 points.
Finally, Nick Swisher rebounded in the biggest way. 2008 was a career worst for Swisher, whereas 2009 was arguably a career best and the same goes for second baseman Robinson Cano.
In 2010, it’s fair to wonder if these same players will have years like they did in 2009. The team is also hoping for a bit of a “bounceback” year from Curtis Gradnerson; though he hit a career high 30 home runs, he had a career low OBP and the second lowest SLG of his career. Randy Winn had a career worst year, especially against LHP, but his role is much smaller so his rebound is less necessary. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen.
Let’s start with Winn. In an article I wrote right after Winn was signed, I listed his wOBA and wRC+ totals from 2002-2009:
I’ll repeat what I said then: 2009 and 2006 seem to be outliers. While Winn will likely be a bench player, if he can rebound to what he’s generally been for the last eight years–an average player–he will be a valuable substitute player. Winn’s rebound will not have to be a huge one, especially considering his “diminished” role (yes, I know, I’m a broken record with this), for his 2010 to be successful.
Staying with the new guys, let’s look at Curtis Granderson. As we saw in Moshe’s post about interesting hitting splits, Granderson should benefit from playing in Yankee Stadium. Playing 81 games in a park that’s quite inviting for lefty power hitters should definitely help Curtis in 2010.
Javy Vazquez had his best year ever in 2009, and moving to the A.L. East, he probably won’t be that good again. 2003-2009 showed an interesting trend ERA+ wise for Vazquez. In the odd numbered years–’03, ’05, and ’07–he had ERA+ marks of at least 100. In the even numbered years–’04, ’06, and ’08–he had ERA+ numbers below 100. Hopefully, he bucks that trend in 2010; I’m optimistic and think he can do that, but some regression from 2009 would be understandable, considering just how good ’09 was. Regardless, 2010 is different for Vazquez. This season, he will not be counted on to head a rotation. When the season starts, he’ll likely be the fourth starter. If Vazquez can do what he’s done every year since 2000–pitch at least 190 innings and strike out at least 175 batters–he’ll be incredibly valuable for the Yankees, making the trade look even better.
Moving to the “incumbent” Yankees, let’s start in the infield. Robinson Cano’s 2009 looked a lot more like his career than 2008 did. Like Swisher, 2009 was the rule and 2008 was the exception. I expect both of these guys to hit at a high level again. Swisher may not slug .498 again, but he’s sure as hell not going to slug as low as the .410 he did in 2008. The only thing that scares me with Cano is that if the hits aren’t falling–like in the first half of 2008–he’s essentially neutralized as a player. His on base skills are still iffy and if his line drives aren’t turning into hits, Cano will have big problems. Granted, this is true of literally everyone. However, with players like Nick Swisher, who have very good on base skills, it’s a lot less troubling.
Though they’ve had sustained success for longest of this group, there is a good argument to be made that the pair of Jeter and Posada is the least likely to repeat its 2009 performance. This isn’t because they aren’t good hitters, they are (they’re two of the best in the league at their respective positions); it’s because they’re the oldest and it’s because they play the most physically demanding positions (non-starting pitcher division). I don’t think Jeter’s going to be as mediocre as he was in 2008 and I don’t think Posada will be as punch-less (.411 SLG) as he was in 2008. However, it’s highly unlikely for us to expect them both to put up 130 and higher OPS+’s.