The five winningest Yankee teams — 1927, 1932, 1939, 1961, and 1998 — all won between 106 and 114 games in the regular season and went a combined 27-3 in the postseason en route to five of the most famous championships in history. Their shadows loom large over all other Yankee teams, just as the Yankees themselves loom large over the rest of the league. Each had a run differential over 200 runs. The 1939 Yankees, behind Joe DiMaggio's first MVP campaign, had a mind-boggling run differential of 411 runs over 154 games, which translates to 2.7 runs per game and the top spot on ESPN's ranking of all the Yankee title teams. (The '09 squad is ranked 10th on that list.)
By contrast, the 2009 Yanks lost four playoff games in this postseason (which included two more rounds than the first four teams mentioned had to play). The '09 Yankee squad also finished second in baseball with a run differential of 162, exactly one run a game.
In other words, 2009 may be the most expensive Yankee championship in history, but it's far from the best — more 1999 than '98. The offense was terrific, leading the majors with 915 runs and a club-record 244 homers.
But the pitching was merely pedestrian, as the team allowed slightly more than the major league average of runs. By the time the World Series rolled around Joe Girardi could trust only three starters and one reliever. They were far from the halcyon days a decade ago of Mendoza-Stanton-Nelson-Rivera, despite my expectations to the contrary.
The best Yankee teams have had both dominant pitching and dominant hitting, but when push comes to shove the Yankees have always made their name — and their nickname — on their offense. The 1920s Yankees basically invented the modern offense, centered around sluggers in the No. 3 and No. 4 holes and supplemented by mashers throughout the lineup with few weak hitters anywhere on the diamond. The template hasn't changed much in the four score and several years since then.
These Yankees arguably have the best infield in franchise history, even compared to the highest-scoring offense in Yankee history, the '31 Yanks, with Hall of Fame C Bill Dickey, 1B Lou Gehrig, 2B Tony Lazzeri, and 3B Joe Sewell. In 1931, Lazzeri, Sewell, and light-hitting shortstop Lyn Lary all put up an OPS under .800, and Dickey's was only .820. The five combined for 76 homers and 46 of those were from Gehrig.
No, they weren't quite as balanced top to bottom as they were in 1998, or 1927. But they were still the best team in baseball. And when you've reached the point where you start inspiring comparisons to the best Yankee squads of all time, you're a pretty good team.