Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Playoffs Primer-- Ye Newe Yorke Yankeee

Maybe it's just my internal bias and hatred of the Boston Red Sox shining through, but the Yankees are actually my favorite to get through to the World Series from the AL side (making them my favorite to take the whole thing).  I'm not sure why; maybe I'm just trying to be different, or maybe I'm reading in to this whole W-L record thing, which places the Yanks 2.5 games ahead of the rival Sox with 22 games to play (BOS only has 21).

Personally, I had written off the Yankees coming in to this year, thinking that they and the Rays would probably finish close to each other, and double digits out of the division behind the almighty Red Sox.  I decided that they were getting too old and had no pitching beyond CC and David Robertson/Mo.  What I didn't know was that Curtis Granderson learned how to hit lefty pitching, and that Bartolo Colon would have some amazing surgery to use fat to create a forcefield and shore his shoulder up.  They're still going to be shackled by the Jeter and A-Rod contracts in the future... I just thought it was going to start this year.  Next year, maybe (please)?

The only reason that I remotely fear for the chances of both the Yanks and Sox is the issue of starting pitching depth.  This is a Yankees primer though, so I'll stop talking about two teams at once immediately, with the Sox probably coming next.  CC Sabathia is at the front of the Yankee rotation, and will be a workhorse all the way through-- nobody is going to dispute that.  He's clearly the ace of the staff, that's not anything to worry about.  Beyond CC, however... yeesh.

Bartolo Colon has been the second best starter for them this season, but I really don't know if he can keep up with the workload after either sucking, not pitching, or some kind of combination of the two in each of the last 5 years.  Seriously, the last time he threw as many innings as he has this season was 2005, and it's caught up with him over the 2nd half of the year, with an .818 OPS against since the all-star break.

Ivan Nova has been just as good as Colon if we consider the entire season, and has been better over the 2nd half.  Phil Hughes, Freddy Garcia and AJ Burnett are all probably better true-talent pitchers than Nova, but Nova's got a bunch of wins (OMG!), and will probably bump Hughes out of the rotation (maybe Burnett too if they opt to go with a 4-man rotation for the playoffs).

The bullpen has seen some drastic improvement over the season after replacements for Pedro Feliciano and Rafael Soriano were needed.  The Yankees practically picked up every single reliever that was a free agent or on waivers as if they were throwing shit at a wall looking for something to stick.  Since Soriano's return from the DL, he's been pretty solid.  David Robertson and Mariano Rivera have been their usual selves, and the odd aforementioned acquisition from throughout the season, mixed with whoever doesn't make the rotation should make the bullpen at least passable.

As far as the offense is concerned, I don't think there's really anything to worry about there.  Curtis Granderson has put up MVP numbers, Mark Teixeira too, Brett Gardner has become a younger, whiter, better version of what Carl Crawford used to be, Robinson Cano is still amazing, and despite being old and much worse than they used to be, Derek Jeter and A-Rod are still contributing offensively.

I feel pretty comfortable in saying that the Yankees, win or lose, will play multiple slugfests in the playoffs, especially if they get paired up against the Red Sox or Rangers at any point (AL East winner will get DET in the first round), and thus, probably won't really need to worry all that much in the event of allowing 6 runs to their opponents (or 10, in the case of Baltimore the other night).

The MLB playoffs are filled with a lot of random variance; 5 games to determine who wins a series is a really small sample, and, as we saw last year with the Giants, the best team doesn't necessarily win those.  The probability of having the worst of any two teams win a game isn't incredibly huge, and thus, no one team, as good as they may be, can ever really have much more than a 50% chance of getting through to the second round (7 games is also a small sample you jackasses).  Just because the Yankees have the best record in the AL doesn't make them the best team (but they are), and certainly doesn't make them at all probable to get to the World Series, let alone the ALCS.

However, if experience means anything (note-- negligible at best, imo), most of these guys have been there and done it.  The Yankees are an offensive juggernaut who have gotten some good pitching, and have won more than their fair share of dumpster fire 11-10 ballgames.  The overall team is going to improve by subtraction of whoever they deem to be their worst starter(s).  It's pretty scary to me that they chose to stand pat, both at the trade deadline, and at the waiver deadline, and that may come back to bite them.  Despite that, they remain the best team (1 and 1A with BOS) around.  They just always seem to win those big games, and if nothing else, the lack of injuries give them the slight edge over Boston.

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