Jul
18

The Comfort of a Big Lead

By

(AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

The Yankees won their 56th game in 90 tries last night, extending their lead in the division yet another game. They’re a full ten games (!) ahead of both the Rays and Orioles in the loss column, eleven games ahead of the Red Sox, and twelve ahead of the Blue Jays. Only one other division leader (the Rangers) have even a five-game lead in the loss column. The Yankees aren’t just ahead of the pack, they’ve started to lap the field.

It’s been more than two full seasons since New York had a double-digit lead in the AL East, since the garbage time games in late-September of 2009. They never led by more than eight games last season or more than six games the season before. This is still mid-July and we’re talking about a ten-game lead here. If the Yankees play just .500 ball the rest of the way their closest competitor will have to play .638 ball just to tie. That’s a 103-win pace over a full season. Even our best case preseason expectations didn’t call for a cushion this size, at least not this early in the season.

With that big lead comes some pretty sweet fringe benefits. Joe Girardi can lift CC Sabathia with 87 pitches in his first start off the DL even though it’s only a three-run game without thinking twice. He can rest his regulars a little more liberally — both full days off and half-days as the DH — without worrying about the hit on the offense and defense. Guys with nagging injuries can be given that extra day, key relievers don’t necessarily have to work three days in a row, all of the stuff that a tight race sometimes forces you to do can be avoided. It’s an advantage no other team has at the moment, the ability to just breath easy and not treat every game situation as life and death.

Now of course the division and a playoff spot are hardly in the bag. The Yankees still have 72 games left to play and a whole lot of those games — 42 of 72 to be exact — will be played against the division rivals. The Red Sox may be eleven games out, but the two teams still have a dozen head-to-head matchups left. Winning the AL East became extremely important thanks to the new playoff system and the race isn’t over yet. Far from it. That said, we should be very happy the Yankees are the ones being chased and not the ones who have to do the chasing over the next 10-12 weeks.

Categories : Musings

109 Comments»

  1. JimAbbottFan says:

    As great as the lead is, I would hope the team doesn’t start letting off the gas and/or shift into cruise control. Yes, it affords them a few more rest stops along the way to the postseason, but there’s still a lot of road left to travel. Luckily, the bumps in the road so far haven’t been as damaging as first expected, but it’s still a hazard you want to prepare for, just in case. For now, I’ll enjoy the sights as they hopefully keep the competition in the rear view during the summer stretch.

    Did I meet my ‘driving metaphor’ quota in that post?

    • Darren says:

      Great post (no snark at all)

    • Chambo says:

      I agree…throttle back to keep guys fresh, but don’t change approach…too many memories of Mets collapsing in Sept and Yanks being up 3-0 in 2004 ALCS against Sox…Not to mention huge lead Sox had on us in Bucky Dent’s ’78 year…

  2. CountryClub says:

    Looks like CC will be limited to around 100 pitches in his next start:

    “Larry (Rothschild) and I talked about 85 pitches – maybe a few more depending on where we were at in the game – and that’s what he gave us,” Girardi said. “We’ll bump it up the next time, and then there won’t be any limitations on him.”

    http://yankees.lhblogs.com/201.....-my-groin/

  3. Jim says:

    Remember a few years ago when everyone of us freaked out because Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies and not the Yankees?

    • Ro says:

      Actually I didn’t. I was freaking out more about the Yanks actually signing him. However, put into perspective it’s now hard to gauge that contract. From a Yankee point of view, we were looking at 6, 7 or frighteningly maybe an 8 year contract. That was the price for the Yanks. The Phillies got a reduced price (or reduced contract in terms of years). Would I have felt differently knowing that Lee could have been signed for 5 years only? Maybe, but I still think it was a blessing that the Phillies swooped in at the last minute.

    • CountryClub says:

      I didnt really go crazy about losing him either. Would have been happy to have him, but I thought he made a mistake (as far as winning goes) and I didnt expect the Yanks to all of a sudden suck because he went to Philly.

  4. Typical MIT Nerd says:

    Is it just me or is anyone else having trouble loving this team? With how good they are, there just isn’t a whole lot of fun in them. There’s something to be said for quiet professionalism, and clearly it works, but their best player these days – Cano – is a good symbol. The smile and play are easy but he’s not especially likeable.

    Besides that, I worry about these bats going cold in October and without Pettitte, that’s a short staff. Phil Hughes is league average (as is Nova). That’s fine for a long season but not for a #3 in October. They of course need a catcher.

    • Todd says:

      Dude, shut up and live in the moment. Do you live your whole life as negatively as the post you wrote?

    • CountryClub says:

      They’re a likeable team to me. I enjoy the professional vibe. I think it’s cool (and helpful) to have a few Swisher types. But overall, I prefer the Jeter, CC, Teix personality.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      I have no trouble. If you don’t enjoy professionally kicking everyone’s butt, why are you a Yankees fan? The Mets have a fun, upstart group across town.

      Bats go through hot and cold stretches… That is baseball.
      Pettitte is supposed to come back.

      Look at the Cardinals P from last season. Look at the Giants offense the season before. You don’t need to have the best, most well-rounded roster to win the WS… You just have to get or stay hot at the right time.

    • rek4gehrig says:

      Seriously?

    • jjyank says:

      I mean you’re entitled to your opinion, but this team is extremely likeable to me. Why isn’t Cano likeable? He clearly has a blast playing the game, he makes some sweet plays of defense and has a gorgeous swing. And the team in general has had plenty of exciting, late inning wins. I don’t understand your perspective at all.

      Man, just enjoy it, huh?

    • Stacey says:

      Nope, I have no trouble loving this team, at all.

    • Alkaline says:

      Dude. We’re ten games up in the division in July. All we have to do is get into playoffs. Right now it’s looking pretty good. If you’re that pessimistic about things, perhaps you should reevaluate your outlook on life. Being cautious about the team if fine. I am. I remember all too well a few years ago where the pitching rotation looked fantastic by the all star break and ended up falling to pieces. There’s a lot of baseball left.

      But, the most important thing I see about this team is the contribution from the role players. That’s what makes all the difference. Hughes, Nova, the bullpen, Voldemort, Chavez, etc.

      The name of the game is to get into playoffs. I think we’ve all seen that ANYTHING can happen in those short series. The team can’t be “built” for playoffs. It’s just about getting hot at the right time. See Cards in ’06 and last year. The Giants won with an offense people said couldn’t possibly produce in the playoffs.

      Jeter has had great playoffs and horrendous playoffs. It happens. To say this team isn’t “built” for the playoffs just shows volume about your perspectives when it’s such a crapshoot, to be blunt. Enough said.

      /endrant

    • Sweet Dick Willie says:

      Is it just me?

      Yep, appears to be.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      Once again, I have to question what your major was at MIT.

      • David says:

        I’m guessing Misanthropy, perhaps with a minor in Trolling.

      • Jim Is Bored says:

        Trolling

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          I actually know a dude who won’t shut up about his political science degree from MIT.

          • Jim Is Bored says:

            I’m not sure I’d be bragging about going to a ridiculously expensive school and graduating with a poly-sci degree.

            • jjyank says:

              Hey man, don’t hate on Poli Sci!

              • Jim Is Bored says:

                Nothing wrong with poli sci. Not sure what you can do with it besides teach or go to grad/law school, but to each their own.

                I guess I should have been clearer; I wouldn’t be bragging about going to a school known for its tech programs, unless I graduated with a tech degree.

                • jjyank says:

                  Or you can do what I am working towards and work in the government (not on Capitol Hill, the cool part). Plenty to do with Poli Sci. But I went to a school known for a good Poli Sci program.

                  • Jim Is Bored says:

                    Cool cool.

                    I just have a different experience with my friends who got that degree. Every degree can be useful or awful depending on who gets it and why they got it.

                    • FIn says:

                      Or you can go sell Medical equipment for one of the largest companies in the world for a shit load of money :}. All you need is your degree, it doesnt matter what its in. Maybe PE would hold you back, but other than that, companies just want the degree.

                • Ted Nelson says:

                  I am not a poli sci guy, but if that’s what you want to study… That’s what you should study. You can do a ton with it. You say “to each their own,” yet seem to want to impose your values on others.

                  • Brian S. says:

                    What exactly can you do with a Poly Sci degree?

                  • Jim Is Bored says:

                    Good God.

                    If I went to University of English, I would not brag about graduating with a Science degree.

                    If I went to University of Star Wars, I wouldn’t brag about graduating with a Star Trek Degree.

                    I don’t care what people graduate with. I care when they start bragging. Holy bag of marshmallows.

                    • Robinson Tilapia says:

                      If you went to the University of Star Wars, you have the right to brag about whatever you want.

                    • Jim Is Bored says:

                      Just don’t tell the Trekkies.

                    • Ted Nelson says:

                      Can’t tell on phone what this is in response to… If me, I agree on the bragging. That’s not the part of your comment I was responding to.

                    • Jim Is Bored says:

                      I know what you were responding to. You interpreted my statement figuratively, and I meant it literally, so I didn’t feel like I had to clarify more. I already responded to jjyank.

                    • RetroRob says:

                      If you went to the University of Star Wars, hopefully you left after year three. All following years have been horrific and useless.

                • Sable says:

                  If someone chooses to compare the value of universities, degrees, and disciplines, it helps if to know that the correct expression is, “to each HIS own,” not “THEIR own.”

              • Robinson Tilapia says:

                Not hating. It’s just not why you go to MIT.

    • Brian S. says:

      How is Cano not likable?

    • Eric Schultz says:

      Nope. #lovethisteam

    • Judge Smayles says:

      What is not likeable about Cano? He’s playing at a ridiculously high level in all aspects of the game, all reports say he works his tail off and the kicker is his smile.

      Just the other day, my son said…”did you see Cano pop a bubble as he rounded first? That’s aweseom!!”

      Yankee bias here, but professional sports need more guys like Cano who actually look like they are enjoying getting paid millions to play a game.

    • Yankess3323 says:

      YO must be a red sox fan to really say that. Please its all about what ifs and how about thats, but at the end of the day they are winning and killing their rivals. They are the best team in the league right now and rather than doubting them acknowledge their performance.

    • NYCSPORTZFAN says:

      THis is the dumbest post ever! The best season to watch since i’ve watched baseball was the 1998 season.. I want the yanks to win every game 10-0 if possible.. There very likable team, if ur a yankee fan..lol Its the freaking same team as 2009 basically..

    • Chop It Up says:

      From a personality standpoint, the team is somewhat stale. No pies after walkoffs, shit like that. I kinda miss guys like Damon and Giambi for that reason. But winning is always more fun than the antics of the players. All players for the most part are pre-packaged and boring anyway, even on Twitter.

  5. NYCSPORTZFAN says:

    I’m sick of hering about this lead and now we can rest guys and yada yada yada.. Were in July still.. I don’t care if the yanks are up 20games with 72 to go, they gotta continue to play every game like its there last and keep that winning feeling and confidence going right into the playoffs.. We don’t need to have any extended losing streaks right before the playoffs, and guys getting outta there normal routines becasue there getting days off that they normally woulden’t.. Just continue to win and win, and win some more…lol

    • spectra says:

      Totally disagree. That kind of pressure is bad in baseball. In a long season it’s extremely beneficial to have a relaxed confident team. Not over confident, but if you wanna what pressure can do take a stop a Yawkey way in the coming weeks.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      It’s a balance. Mike clearly states that the division is not won and there’s still a long ways to go. At the same time it allows for that marginal rest. Not using a key reliever 3 games in a row or 4 out of 5 if you don’t want to. One or two more days off for a vet. Resting vets has been the plan since the season started, so this is nothing new really. It doesn’t mean you take your foot off the gas, it means you don’t play every game like your last and take a more long-term view. You want to win every game and manage that way, without making long-term sacrifices. Which is really a pretty marginal change from just normal managing. Even if they were tied for first or five games out you don’t want to take too big of long-term risks to win one game in mid-July.

  6. Ro says:

    Obviously it doesn’t work like this, but I’d say 3, 4 or 5 loses were complete BS too. Meaning it wasn’t like they got beat, they beat themselves. The Yanks could be 15 games up on the Sox and others right now. The Mo blow save day 1, the 3 or 4 loses by Robertson and Wade where the Yanks were leading in the 8th and 9th by 2-3 runs and they served up a 3 run homer to the opposing team. 1 or 2 stupid games were the Yanks basically gave it away because of errors. The point I am making is that out of 34 total loses, I’d say 28 or 29 of them were the Yanks being out-matched.

    It’s a flawed logic, but I think the point I am making is that outside of a few really stupid moments, the Yanks have just been dominant in every sense of the game.

    More so, a large portion of these wins are truly earned having gone a stretch where the games were decided by a run or two.

    I just hope Cashman doesn’t mess with the teams mojo that much trying to improve areas where improvement may not be necessary. Although, I’ll admit, I’m mildly concerned that Jones or Ibanez could start breaking down a bit. I’m also a Freddy fan, but part of me wonders if he can really hold down the 5th spot in the rotation over the next month. Phelps keeps pitching strong in the minors, so perhaps that issue will just continue to work itself out needing another arm.

    As it stands now. The starting three for the playoffs would be CC, Kuroda, Pettitte, likely in that order. How confident are we in those three (CC aside) in a shortened series? Does adding Garza add more wins or widen the gap at this point? Probably not. Maybe he’ll be a +1 or 2 win player at best above what the Yanks are rolling out currently. Is Garza better than Kuroda or a healthy Pettitte for the playoffs? I’m not sure about that and considering the price (prospects), I’d rather go with what we have. Hamels? Oh yeah, he’d slot in perfectly as the #2 and that would be something to see come playoff time, but the cost will be prohibitive and likely not worth it. Greinke? No. I kind of feel like that’s a wild card and could go either way and again considering the cost? The point is, having a 10 game lead and more importantly 11 on perhaps the most threatening of them, the Red Sox is very important, because the Yanks don’t need to make an impulsive move for pitching. The only pitcher that matters is Hamels as he would be a game changer in the playoffs and I’m not advocating the Yanks trade for him. Just that trading for Garza, Grienke, Dempster or any other at the moment, would only take away from the Yanks, in terms of prospect cost, in my opinion.

    I’d rather see the Yanks try to swing something for Justin Upton.

    • stuckey says:

      Over the course of 162 games, every team has a handful of ‘if only’ games. I’m sure Yankees opponents have games they felt they gave away too.

      Point is, you just factor those into any and every season, for all teams.

      Interesting side note. THis is probably not that uncommon this year because the way the AL is playing, but by virtue of last night’s win, today’s game will be the Yankees first against a sub-.500 team in the last 36 games.

      • pete says:

        This.

        When i realized this it made their recent success even more incredible. If things had gone a little differently, they could have not played a sub-.500 team until Seattle.

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          Over the course of a 162 game season, any team will look like both the’61 Yankees and the 1899 Cleveland Spiders.

    • jjyank says:

      I don’t think you’ll need to worry about Cashman “messing with the team’s mojo”. His plan is usually to stand pat and make minor upgrades, unless a Cliff Lee or someone is on the block.

  7. LarryM.,Fl. says:

    This team is well constructed with professionals in starting and bench positions. The rotation has come around while the development of Nova and Hughes continues. I like the aspect of a solid team with a scattering of younger guys getting meaning full playing time. I would like Phelps getting some meaningful innings but that may come at the expense of Garcia who is pitching well of late. So keep him down on the far stretched out. Since he should be first call up for the rotation.

    Qualls scares me especially the hanging slider that he loves to throw. Catching position needs an upgrade but how does it get done.

    As far as the resting of players we are an older team and rest would be a positive to me. Jeter and Arod playing 5 days as opposed to 7 will not hurt. Nix is doing a very good job so third, second and short will not impair this team. Wise filling in more often to give the OF is fine.

    Girardi and Cashman are doing a fine job in their respective jobs.

  8. YankeeDave says:

    If a few months back, I said that Michael Pineda would be out for the season thus no return for giving up Montero), Rivera would be lost for the season in May, and the only players with any speed (Gardner/Nunez) would also be MIA, and I asked you to predict if the Yankees would be up 10 games or down 10 games on July 18th, how many would have said “up”?

    This has been an amazing season, is it time to start giving more credit to Girardi and Cashman? We would certainly be blaming them if we were down 10 games.

  9. johnny yanks says:

    Mike, doesn’t it make sense to give up on quails and take a flier on whealen or cedeno or a lesser degree oeriz (multiple quality starts) or delcarmen. Surely one of them can produce better than quails. We r killing dori and others because quails is getting destroyed

  10. noth that mike says:

    totally agree – Q has had plenty of opportunities to do something, and has been unsuccessful.

    I would have no issue running thru the retreads at AAA (or even the less stellar prospects) to see if they can catch lightening in a bottle for a few weeks/appearances, especially with CC back (giving length to the pen) and Joba on the way.

    absolutely no downside unless the Yasnks still need AAA fodder to soak up innings at that level

    • Steve (different one) says:

      I wouldn’t care one lick if Qualls was DFA’ed tomorrow, but to say he’s had plenty of chances is absurd. He’s pitched 6 times and 3 times times without allowin a run.

      We just need something to complain about. He’s keeping Joba’s spot warm then he’s history.

      • I am not the droids you're looking for... says:

        Well considering his role is that of a 1-2 inning pitcher, I don’t think allowing runs in 50% of your outings is very good.

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        New theory: Chad Qualls is ineffective because his penis got tired from screwing so many RAB commenter girlfriends.

      • A.D. says:

        Well Qualls didn’t come to the Yanks because he was pitching extremely well

        • CUYanks says:

          I have no problem with Qualls, as long as he isn’t pitching in extremely close games. Him pitching in the 1-run game the other day was a little disappointing.

  11. Murderers' Row Boat says:

    I’m happy we just took 2 outta 3 from the Angels. There just doesn’t seem like there is a team in the AL that has our number this year.

  12. Twains Yankee says:

    Reminds me of 1998

    • gc says:

      Not even close. That team after 90 games was 67-23 (.744). That’s a whole other universe away from what the current team is.

    • Paul VuvuZuvella says:

      During the recent run since Late May, it has felt a little bit like the ’98 Juggernaut, difference being that team kept the pace up for a whole season. Contributions from a lot of players is one common theme.

      • jjyank says:

        I get the juggernaut feeling. Hard not to feel that way when your team is approaching the record for most games with 3+ runs scored in a row.

      • not that mike says:

        the ’98 team had an attitude the whole year, like a chip on its shoulder from losing in ’97. There was that feeling of inevitable victory every time out, and the whole baseball/sports world knew it.

        In contrast, this team is really vanella and doesnt have the same chip as ’98….not that its good or bad, but its a different feeling, and i think thats why the Yanks aren’t getting the same props over the last 6-7 weeks for playing really good baseball.

        I also think in ’98, the superstar on the team that everyone outside of sports recognized (Jeter) was having a great year…this year, the present superstars ( Jeter/Mo/ Arod) are not grabbing headlines or the back pages….

        • jjyank says:

          The problem with the last part there is that you’re assuming that only old vets can be superstars. Cano is putting himself in the MVP conversation, CC is being CC. Are they not superstars?

          Not comparing the 1998 and 2012 teams, but this team still has superstars.

          • not that mike says:

            i qualified it with “outside sports”….everyone who is not a sports fan knows who Arod and Jeter are from Page 6 and the like …..Cano and CC not so much

            • Ted Nelson says:

              I don’t know how relevant that is to baseball, though.

              And while he’s not Jeter in popularity, Cano is on billboards all over the place and pretty easily recognized. Especially in the Latino community, which is huge in NY even if they’re not well represented in the MSM.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      We can certainly only hope you still feel that way in November.

  13. Eddard says:

    The fact of the matter is that the division IS over and we need to start thinking about October. Soriano should not pitch today or ever 3 days in a row. That goes for any reliever. Rest Logan, Soriano and Robertson as much as possible. We need them in October, not July. We need Gardner and Andy back. Phil currently has the lead for #4 starter. We need to figure out who that will be.

  14. Cuso says:

    I like the Yankees because #winning

  15. Judge Smayles says:

    One benefit of a big lead is not having to hang on every game like the Bosox are right now. Two days ago they win and everyone is all excited with crawford and ellsbury’s return and then BOOM…Lester craps the bed last night and it’s doomsday. The Sox are in a position where they have to win 2 of 3 each time out and that doesn’t guarantee anything. The Sox and Rays have a chance because of the amount of games against the Yanks.

    Yanks just need to coninue to win series and avoid any type of losing streak.

  16. Cuso says:

    Everything is awesome.

    I still wish we had Gardner, though. But it’s all still good.

  17. Eddard says:

    The Sox and Rays do not have a chance 11 games out. Even if we have 12 games left they’d have to go 9-3 just to cut that lead in half. The more likely scenario is that each team wins 6 or one team wins 7 and no significant gains are made. And you won’t see Sabathia and Swisher eating fried chicken and playing video games in the locker room. Division’s over, folks.

    • Cuso says:

      Oof. Sounds almost like you’re tempting fate, Michael Strahan.

    • Jim Is Bored says:

      As far as I’m concerned, CC can eat whatever he wants, whenever he wants.

      But that’s because I’m not an insecure negative idiot red sox fan.

    • Anthony says:

      I’m extremely confident in this team, but a lot can happen in 72 games.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      The Red Sox are hardly the only team to collapse. There’s half a season left almost, it wouldn’t even have to be a collapse. Two or three injuries, one or two bad second halves, and a run by the Sox/Rays.

      No one disagrees the Yankees chances are very good. Your ignorance and/or cockiness is annoying, though.

    • RetroRob says:

      I guess your new to baseball. That’s cool.

  18. Deep Thoughts says:

    Magic Number is 63 and counting, baby.

  19. YanksFan says:

    While I agree with the post and the comments, I think everyone is missing one other point. It may be minor but I think could be a huge advantage. While I want to see the East wrapped up, let’s not forget the league. Texas is only a game behind.

    Would you rather face the Chisox right now or the TB/LA winner after fighting for the WC positions to the wire and then playing the best of 1 series.

    • RetroRob says:

      Oh, I agree. Keep winning. This also gives Cashman some time to maybe work on a deal for something/somebody who can help the Yankees in the postseason.

      For as well as the Yankees have done, I can see the team getting stronger. It’s not as if anyone on the team is outperforming expecations. Cano is at the higher end of expectations, but still within range, and considering his and the rest of the team’s high RISP fail earlier this year, yes I can see them getting stronger.

  20. Tom says:

    The other real important part of the lead beyond resting players is the urgency (or lack thereof) on the trade market.

    I really hope they don’t bother with an OF unless it is a long term upgrade – either start playing Wise in LF more often or call up Dickerson to do it. (I really hope Juan Pierre is not a serious option). Platoon Wise/Dickerson with Jones (and maybe occasionally Nix) and let Ibanez primarily DH with an occasional start in LF( or RF to give Swish a day off)

    At this point other than a relief arm I hope they stand pat in terms of pursuing a rental. And even a relief arm is probably not a huge priority as if/when they make the playoffs you can have a 5th starter as an additional arm in the pen; I think depending on how Joba looks in his rehab leading up to the deadline maybe you don’t bother with a bullpen arm either

  21. FreeAgentSignee says:

    I agree. Go Yankees!

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