Sep
15

What’s important in the final two weeks

By

The end is nigh. Today marks the final day off in the Yankees’ 2011 regular season schedule. They’ll play 14 games in 13 days starting Friday, running through a gauntlet of AL East foes (and the Twins once). That might sound like a daunting task, but the Yankees have mitigated it by placing themselves in a favorable position.

At the start of September they trailed the Red Sox by a game and a half, though they had a comfortable 7.5 game lead in the Wild Card race. Since then the Red Sox have collapsed, going 3-10 and yielding the AL East lead. The Yankees now sit four games ahead of their foes and have a magic number of 11. Even more importantly, their magic number for a playoff spot is down to seven. This is important, since it takes a little emphasis off the grueling schedule ahead.

Because they haven’t yet clinched the Yankees can’t quite start planning ahead. They’ve taken their foot off the accelerator to a degree, but they can’t trot out a lineup composed almost exclusively of September call-ups just yet. But with the Sox and the Rays locking horns this weekend, the Yankees stand to gain some ground. They could be in a position to clinch the Wild Card early next week, and the division not long after.

The expediency with which they clinch holds a certain importance this year, since the team faces a few challenges as they prepare for the playoffs. Here are some things to consider in the final two weeks.

Get Alex Rodriguez Reps

Joe Girardi said that Rodriguez will appear on Friday’s lineup card, and barring any last-minute setbacks he’ll play third base and bat fourth in that game. There’s a chance that he could hold those spots for each of the 14 remaining games. He has appeared in just 90 this year, and is guaranteed to play in his fewest number of games since 1995. Resting him at this point would be counterproductive.

Getting Alex going is of great importance right now. As we’ve seen throughout the year, even the best bats on the team can go cold for stretches. Even Curtis Granderson, the team MVP, has slowed down lately. The more quality bats the Yankees have in the lineup, the better chances they get a few who are hot and will produce runs in the postseason. Despite his power outage Rodriguez has still been one of the most productive Yankees, on a rate basis, this season. Getting him sharp in time for the postseason will surely add some runs to the ledger.

Rest The Walking Wounded

Playing through injuries is the reality of a 162-game schedule. Every player does it at some time or another, but that doesn’t mean he could use a breather when convenient. These guys will likely keep playing straight through the game when they clinch, but will be due a few games off in the days following.

Russell Martin could use a couple of days off. He’s battled through nagging injuries all year, most recently a foul ball off the thumb. Nick Swisher has that elbow issue, and while it doesn’t seem to be much of a problem now he could still probably use a few days without high-stress throws. And that doesn’t even mention the guys who could use a breather after going at breakneck speed all season, such as Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson.

In essence, clinching early allows Girardi to give these guys a few days to back off, recover, and get ready for the playoffs. The earlier they clinch the earlier they can take these breaks, and the earlier they can get back in the swing of things.

Lining up the pitching staff

The Yankees are already shifting around the pitching staff, but as Mike mentioned earlier this week, they have to do some serious rotation juggling to get CC in line for a Game 1 start in the ALDS. They also have to line up the guys they want going in Games 2 and 3 as well. The sooner they clinch, the sooner they can tinker with things and give guys extra (or perhaps short) rest leading into the series.

While there is no way to line up the bullpen, the same principle applies to them as the position players. There’s a certain balance the Yankees need to strike between giving them rest and giving them work to keep them sharp. A week of meaningless games will afford them that exact opportunity. Heading into the playoffs they should have Soriano, Robertson, and Rivera rested and sharp enough to pitch any game needed.

Categories : Playoffs
  • Paul Proteus

    What’s important is that we get Mariano his 602nd save and have Jorgie catch that save. It’s just one inning and I think it would mean a lot to Jorgie to have one last great Yankee moment with his friend.

    Granderson needs to make a push for the MVP. The offense probably cost Nova the ROY last night so that’s gone, just get him lined up for Game 2 or 3 in the ALDS. Other than that, secure the division and secure HFA.

    • Cris Pengiuci

      What’s important are the things listed in the article. Your points (hope your at least partially in jest) are not.

      • Alex Murphy

        I do think it would be nice to bring posada in to catch it though…

        • Cris Pengiuci

          Well, there are mulitple ways of seeing that. I understand the different sides of the argument and if Jorge wants it and Joe agrees to do it, I see no issue with it. However, it’s not important in the grand scheme of things.

        • hogsmog

          nice=/=important. None of Paul’s concerns have anything to do with winning the series, which is all that really matters.

        • nedro

          As we saw on Tuesday, factors other than Mo’s prowess on the mound can come in to play. You think #600 comes that easily with Jorge behind the plate and Ichiro taking off for 2nd? I wouldn’t put money on it.

    • gc

      I’m so glad you’re not running the team.

    • A-Rod’s Wingman

      You guys are heartless assholes and I can’t believe that you can muster the emotions to be a real fan. It would be a nice thing for Jorge to catch Mo’s record breaking save. Jorge hit a wall harder than Princess Di this year, and it’s likely his last year in Pinstripes and in Baseball. He’s had a borderline hall of fame career and been one of the three best catchers in baseball throughout his career, he’s done a quite a bit for this team. Why not give him one last great memory to wash some of that bitter taste of 2011 out of his mouth?

      • Pat D

        The fact that you can make a tasteless joke in your plea for something nice to occur for Posada totally undermines your point.

        • A-Rod’s Wingman

          That was kind of the point. Even I think they’re being assholes about this, and I make jokes about dead people. The point is whoever catches one inning of baseball when one of the greatest ever is doing their thing is about as meaningless as it gets. Having Jorge catch when Mo goes for 602 has pretty much zero effect on whether or not they win tha game, win the division, or make the playoffs. Why not try to do something nice for a border line hall of famer that’s had a rough year?

          • Pat D

            Just not a big fan of death jokes, is all.

        • Rainbow Connection

          Just shut up. Stop trying to police humor.

          • Pat D

            Take your own advice, trolliest of trolls.

      • gc

        Hey, I think it would be great if Jorge got to catch that record breaking save, but I’d hardly call it “important” in the grand scheme of things. The same goes with the other things on Paul’s list, like Granderson pushing for the MVP?? (really???), winning the division or locking up home field advantage. All those things would be nice, sure, but none of them are crucial in comparison to the things outlined so well in Joe’s original article.

      • David, Jr.

        It also would be nice if Reggie Jackson batted cleanup one more time.

        It also would be nice if they win the World Series.

        • thurdonpaul

          theres not enough mustard in the world for jackson

    • jsbrendog

      none of this is important.

      • http://Twitter.com/Jmarlowescully Scully

        All things considered I agree nice and important aren’t the same thing. If it’s a 3 run lead and they bring Mo in for the save, i have no problem with Jorge catching it. I don’t think we as fans should be overly sympathetic to declining stars but I do think It would be a nice (not important in the grand scheme of things) thing to see happen.

  • http://bleedingyankeeblue.com Jesse

    It’s also semi important to lose this stupid six man rotation. I really hope Joe keeps Hughes in the rotation and I really hope he can crack the postseason rotation.

    • Paul Proteus

      Right now the rotation is as follows-

      CC
      Colon
      Nova

      4th spot is between Phil and Freddy. AJ won’t make the roster. They’ll get the rotation lined up that last week.

      • http://bleedingyankeeblue.com Jesse

        Boy, how times change. Last week either Axisa or Pawlikowski or even both, had Freddy locked into the number two spot.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

          I still have Freddy locked into the playoff rotation. People have short memories.

          • http://bleedingyankeeblue.com Jesse

            I have him locked in too. I hope Hughes makes it though, he’s always been a personal favorite.

      • Cris Pengiuci

        AJ won’t make the roster

        While I don’t think he adds value to the roster, I’m not convinced he won’t make it. I could see them taking him, simply because of who he is. Niether he nor his replacement (Ayala? Noesi? insert other reliever’s name here) will likely see much, if any, playing time during the ALDS. If they do, the Yankees are either waaaaay ahead or behind in that game and they’re just soaking up innings to allow others to rest.

        • http://bleedingyankeeblue.com Jesse

          It’s almost a lock (/Jesse’d) that he won’t make it on the ALDS roster. He didn’t last year, and last years pitching depth in the rotation and bullpen is deeper IMO this year than last year, especially in the bullpen.

      • MikeD

        Garcia is one of the four, probably still the number two.

        Hughes will be in the pen. I have no idea if AJ will be on the roster or in the pen, my guess the latter.

  • Frank

    I agree with Girardi on this one- you take it 1 day at a time in determining who to play until they hopefully clinch the division. So far, I think he’s done an excellent job resting players. The RS have not collapsed- their in a slump. They can easily sweep the Rays this weekend, the Yanks can lose 3 to the Jays and everyone Monday morning is gripping and wondering WTF happened. Saying the RS collapsed is way too premature.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

      Good point. That was the wrong word choice.

      • gc

        So it’s no “lock” that they lose 3 out of 4 to the Rays this weekend?? Say it ain’t so, Joe! Say it ain’t so!

    • http://fendersonandhampton.com Cuso

      Absolutely possible and true. But that would mean the Yanks are still several games clear of the Rays if they got swept.

      It’s the Angels they’d have to be ‘concerned’ about f that scenarion played out.

  • Javierkei Pavagawa

    So who is the number 2 starter going into the playoffs?

    I think it has to be Nova. He’s had exactly one bad start in the last month and a half. I trust him more than Freddy or Bartolo.

    Speaking of, watching his evolution has been a pleasure. He was billed as a 4-5 starter that you’d be lucky to get 5 or 6 innings out of on a nightly basis, and he has totally exceeded expectations. I think we still don’t know what the roof is on his upside.

    • Cris Pengiuci

      I don’t think anyone believes he’ll turn into a true #1 starter, but I agree he’s exceeded expectations and can develop inot a pitcher beyond what we all originally thought he would be. If he does well next year, some people may need ot stop the “the Yankees can’t develop pitchers!” rhetoric.

      • Cris Pengiuci

        *into (not inot … I really need a spell checker. and could really use some more time to devlop my thoughts before posting!)

      • Jake

        Yeah, aside from his gaudy W-L record, nothing in his peripherals suggests #1 or #2 starter potential. But it does seem he can be a very useful starter for the Yankees, especially while he is cheap.

    • hogsmog

      I think he can be another CMW, which is something I’d be more than happy with.

      • Cris Pengiuci

        That would be great. Do you feel CMW was a true #1? He added a lot of value, but don’t know if he’d be considered a staff ace. Yankee management didn’t seem to think he was.

      • Javierkei Pavagawa

        If he could regularly give us 200 innings with an ERA between 3.5 and 4 that would be awesome. Pencil in Hamels as the #2 and this rotation is set for next 5 years.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      Colon starts game two.

      • toad

        Wild prediction of the day:

        Colon will star in the post-season, and might even be MVP of one of the series.

  • Al H

    So, who do we pull for in the 4 game Sux vs Rays Series?

    • Cris Pengiuci

      I say we pull for a split or a Rays taking 3 of 4. Let them beat up on each other.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      Rays sweep obviously.

    • Mike K

      Rays sweep, and then hope the Yankees can win 2 of 3. Yanks magic number for both division and playoffs is 4 (should be easy to accomplish). But also Boston, LAA, and Tampa are all locked in the wild-card. The harder those teams need to work down the stretch, the more it benefits the Yankees.

    • thenamestsam

      I think the best outcomes from my perspective are:

      1: Rays Sweep
      2. Rays take 3 of 4
      3. Red Sox Sweep

      If the Rays don’t get at least 3 out of 4, they’re basically done. Making up 4 in only 10 games with none head to head is not going to happen, as much as we’d like it to and a Sox sweep would mean we could clinch a playoff spot asap.

  • Yank The Frank

    The playoffs are such a crap shoot on who is hot and who is not. I remember years when we had everything lined up perfectly and got bounced in the first round and other years we limped in and took it all.

  • Cory Wade’s emergence

    CC – Colon – Nova -Hughes.