At the beginning of the year, many feared the Yankees were hitting “too many home runs”. According to the most often expressed concern, the team’s inability to play small ball would eventually prove costly in October (a myth disproven in an earlier CBN post). Well, those worried by the Yankees’ reliance on the long ball can rest easy now because the team’s offense has evolved into the most balanced in the American League.
Note: Yellow markers indicate years in which the Yankees led in both categories.
Over the years, the Yankees have been synonymous with power. In 37 of 110 seasons (not including the present), the Bronx Bombers have finished first in home runs, so it should come as no surprise that the 2011 team currently leads the league with 160. However, some might be shocked to know the Yankees’ 120 stolen bases are tied with the Kansas City Royals for the top spot (the team’s success rate of 76% is also tops in the A.L.).
The last time the Yankees led the league in steals was 1985, when Rickey Henderson set a then single season franchise record with 80 (Henderson would break his own record in 1986 and 1988). However, before that season, no Yankees’ ball club had finished first in steals since 1938, when the team set the pace with a relatively low accumulation of 91. In total, eight teams in franchise history have led the league in steals, which illustrates how much more the Yankees have relied on power.
Yankees’ Top-10 Seasons in Home Runs and Stolen Bases
|Year||HRs||Team Leader||Year||SB||Team Leader|
|2009||244||Mark Teixeira (39)||1910||288||Bert Daniels (41)|
|2004||242||Arod, Sheffield (36)||1911||269||Birdie Cree (48)|
|1961||240||Roger Maris (61)||1914||251||Fritz Maisel (74)|
|2003||230||Jason Giambi (41)||1912||247||Bert Daniels (37)|
|2005||229||Alex Rodriguez (48)||1908||231||Charlie Hemphill (42)|
|2002||223||Jason Giambi (41)||1901||207||Cy Seymour (38)|
|2006||210||Jason Giambi (37)||1907||206||Wid Conroy (41)|
|1998||207||Tino Martinez (28)||1913||203||Bert Daniels (27)|
|2000||205||Bernie Williams (30)||1905||200||Dave Fultz (44)|
|2001||203||Tino Martinez (34)||1915||198||Fritz Maisel (51)|
Although the 2011 Yankees are unlikely to approach the franchise records of 244 home runs (2009) and 288 stolen bases (1910), they could become only the fourth pinstripe squad to finish first in both categories (the only other A.L. franchise to accomplish that feat was the 1995 Cleveland Indians). Once again, you have to go all the back to the 1930s to find a Yankees’ team that displayed preeminence in both power and speed. In fact, all three dual first place rankings occurred during that decade, although it should be noted that the leading totals were relatively low because the era deemphasized the stolen base.
Note: Rankings for each category do not total 110 season because of ties. Teams listed in order of most cumulative category leading finishes.
Not surprisingly, the Yankees led the league in runs during each season in which they also finished first in home runs and stolen bases. The same trend also holds this season. Despite all of the publicity given to the Red Sox offense, the Yankees are the team that leads the American League in runs scored (albeit by only three). If they can hold onto that margin, it would give the Yankees the top spot in runs for the 31st time in franchise history, and the fifth time in six years, a level of dominance surpassed only by the 1926-1933 lineups, which outscored the league in seven of eight seasons.
Using the long ball and small ball, the Yankees’ offense has proven to be one of the most dynamic in franchise history. Only five other teams in club history have scored more runs relative to the league average, so the lineup’s diversification has clearly paid dividends. As a result, the Bronx Bombers’ bats have left little reason for concern, which only means Yankees’ fans will now have to find something else about which to worry.