By any usual measurement, the 2013 season was a failure for the New York Yankees.
The bar is set a bit higher when a franchise has 27 World Series titles and has made the postseason in every season but one in the wild-card era.
Make that every season but two.
The Yankees finished third in the American League East at 85-77 and were eliminated from playoff contention with a little less than a week to go. It's their worst finish since they were 76-86 in 1992, also the last time they failed to break the .500 mark.
Yet it's hard not to be just a little bit impressed by what the Yankees did this year. They were outscored by 21 runs this season, with opponents touching the plate 671 times to just 650 for the not-so-much-with-the-bombing Bronx Bombers. That should have equated to a record of 79-83, according to the Pythagorean winning percentage developed by sabermetrics guru Bill James.
That means the Yankees were about six games better than they should have been. No team in the American League over-performed their scoring differential more; only the Philadelphia Phillies, who finished 73-89 with a run-differential that should have put them at 66-96, did better.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were 94-68 against a Pythagorean mark of 88-74, matching the Yanks.
Maybe instead of just a success/failure measure, one could look at the 2013 New York Yankees in much the same way NASA judged the ill-fated flight of Apollo 13: a successful failure.
So many things went wrong in terms of injuries for New York this season and it was borne out in much of the positional production.
With Mark Teixeira missing all but 15 games because of a wrist injury, Yankee first basemen hit just .229/.292/.397 with 22 homers and 83 RBIs. Only the Houston Astros, Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers hit for a lower average and the .690 OPS was the worst in the American League, besting only the Miami Marlins and the Brewers.
Yankee third basemen, with Alex Rodriguez missing 118 games because of hip surgery, batted .231, tied with the Cincinnati Reds for 26th-best in baseball. Their .633 OPS and 52 RBIs were ahead of only the Marlins and Yankee third basemen hit just 12 homers this season, ranking 26th in the majors.
Derek Jeter missed all but 17 games and the production from the shortstop position hit the skids, as well. Yankees shortstops hit .228, 26th in MLB, and had an OPS of .598, also 26th.
Then there were the designated hitters.
Given that because of all the injuries, players were being shuffled around all over the place. It was hoped that Travis Hafner would help after he signed as a free agent. But even before a shoulder injury sidelined him for two months, "Kronk" wasn't hitting. Hafner hit just .202/.301/.378 with 12 homers and 37 RBIs in 299 plate appearances.
As a group, Yankee DHs hit an American League-worst .189/.276/.307 with 16 home runs (12th in the AL) and 61 RBIs (14th, ahead of only the Minnesota Twins).
For some perspective on that batting line, consider that the pitchers for the Los Angeles Dodgers combined for a .176/.233/.227 line and you begin to understand just how putrid the Yankee DHs were in 2013.
It's not likely that manager Joe Girardi will get a lot of consideration for American League Manager of the Year, not with the performances turned in by Boston Red Sox managers former (Terry Francona has the Cleveland Indians in the playoffs for the first time since 2007) and present (John Farrell got Boston back to the postseason for the first time since 2009).
But that shouldn't diminish the job done by Girardi this season. Besides the injuries and the offensive woes, his ace starting pitcher, CC Sabathia, had the worst season of his career. Reliever Joba Chamberlain couldn't be trusted at all. Phil Hughes turned in one of the worst free-agent year performances in recent history, going 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA and being dumped from the rotation in September.
With Girardi's contract up, the Joe-to-Chicago speculation got turned up from medium to hot on Monday when it was announced that the Cubs wouldn't be bringing back Dale Sveum in 2014. As much as the thought of Girardi teaming up with former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein is enough to make a Yankee fan's brain want to spontaneously combust, Girardi did begin his career as a player at Wrigley Field with the Cubs and might not be averse to the idea of lowered expectations.
I mean, if you go 85-77 in Chicago right now, you're a conquering hero, not the subject of debate over just how big a failure your season really was.
Phil Watson is a freelance commentator and journalist who covers the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets for the Yahoo Contributor Network. He is also editor of brewers101.com and holds an editorial position at HoopsHabit.com.
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