The Yankees came out of the All-Star break trailing the Red Sox by three games in the AL East and were staring at a tough schedule that included two West Coast trips -- including one series at the Angels -- three series against the Sox, and several long stretches against teams over .500 with few days off.
But this team put it all together. The got the pitching. They got the offense. They played good defense. And as a result they went a major league best 52-22 and rolled to the best record in the majors at 103-59.
We've seen the Yankees put together great second halves in the past. In 2005, the Yankees when 49-27. In '06 47-29. And in 2007 the posted a 51-25 record after the All-Star break.
But unlike those years, the Yankees got the pitching to match their unrelenting offense. Check out the post-All-Star break ERAs:
- 2005: 4.48
- 2006: 4.54
- 2007: 4.64
- 2009: 3.94 (AL Best)
But that's not all. In the second half the staff also led the AL in saves (26), strikeouts (603), BAA (.247), SLG (.385), OPS (.703), was second in WHIP (1.32) and allowed the fewest hits (624) and homers (69).
That success was built on the extremely large shoulders of the ace, CC Sabathia, who went 11-2 with a 2.74 ERA after the break. He also found plenty of help from Andy Pettitte, who had typical Pettitte second half, going 6-3 with a 3.31 ERA in 14 starts.
Yes, A.J. Burnett had a roller coaster have, failing to win a game in August, but finishing well with four consecutive strong starts. Meanwhile, the Yankees messed with Joba Chamberlain's head so much, it's hard worth discussing his putrid second half.
The bullpen, meanwhile, jelled nicely as Phil Hughes solidified the troublesome eighth-inning role and finished the year at 5-1 with a 1.40 ERA and three saves in 44 appearances as a reliever. Mariano Rivera was as good as ever, going 2-1 with a 0.92 ERA and 21 saves in 22 chances.
That allowed the rest of the relievers to settle into roles. David Robertson emerged an effective weapon in the sixth or seventh, striking out 63 in just 43-2/3 innings for the year. Damaso Marte returned from his injury problem and showed that he can be effective -- for a change. Alfredo Aceves won 10 games as a reliever and his versatility as both a long and short man proved invaluable. Phil Coke and Brian Bruney both had their ups and downs.
As a result, the Yankees were able to win games in a variety of ways and seemed to cast off the troubles they had against the better teams. After starting the year 0-8 against the Sox, the Yankees won nine of the next 10 to split the season series. They also took three of four against the Angels and won a series in Anaheim for the first time since May 2004. The Yanks also started the second half by sweeping the Tigers, winning two 1-0 games.
But it wasn't often the offense was slowed. For the year, the Yankees led the majors in runs (915), homers (244), OBP (.362), SLG (.478), OPS (.839) and walks (603), was second in batting average (.283) and was actually 11th in steals (111).
That production was led by an infield that had will be ranked among the best in the history of the game. Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez combined to commit just 33 errors all season.
And offensively they were unstoppable with Teixeira and Jeter putting up MVP-caliber seasons.
Teixeira, in his first season in New York, adapted quickly, hitting .292 with 39 homers, 122 RBI and .948 OPS.
Cano hit .320 with 204 hits, 25 homers, 85 RBI and 48 doubles, though he inexplicable struggled badly in runners in scoring position.
Jeter hit .334 with 212 hits, 18 homers, 66 RBI, 107 runs and 30 steals, passing Lou Gehrig as the franchise's all-time hit leader along the way.
And A-Rod, despite missing the first five weeks of the season, still managed to hit .286 with 30 homers, 100 RBI, .933 OPS and 14 steals. I'd argue that this was A-Rod's best season as a Yankees. Yes, he had a historic season in 2007, but this year, A-Rod appears to finally understand what it takes to win -- and that's what matters most in New York.
Of course, he has to prove that further in the playoffs.
The result was a dominant team that after the All-Star break posted four winning streaks of at least seven games, had just three two-game losing streaks and two three-game losing streaks.
So today as we await to find out whether it will be the Twins or Tigers in the ALDS, take a moment to appreciate the regular season -- but just a moment.
Come Wednesday, all of those gaudy numbers and all of the wins mean absolutely nothing.
The postseason is a different animal and as we've seen in the past, an early exit will render the regular season meaningless.
There are 11 more wins to get.
And the Yankees still have a lot to prove.