Oct
04

Thoughts following Game 162

By

(Al Bello/Getty)

I don’t think many of us sat here at the midpoint of the season and thought the race would go down to the wire, but the Yankees finally did manage to clinch the AL East title (and the best overall record in the AL) with last night’s blowout win over the Red Sox. Winning the division is so important now with the new playoff system, and securing home field advantage in the ALCS is just icing on the cake. I, for one, and stoked.

1. Three days is an eternity in baseball, which is why having to wait until Sunday to start the ALDS is quite annoying. You can’t help but worry about hitters losing their rhythm or pitchers losing their feel, stuff like that, though I always think we make more of the time off as outsiders than the players do. Three days off is basically the All-Star break or a rainy weekend with a scheduled off-day mixed in. I’m guessing the Yankees will have today completely off before working out at the Stadium tomorrow and flying to either Texas or Baltimore sometime early Saturday. Not really a big deal, and I’m sure the older players can use the rest after the division race went down to Game 162.

2. This really flew under the radar given Robinson Cano‘s scorching hot finish, but Curtis Granderson hit nine homers in the team’s last 23 games. He didn’t hit for average (.232) and did strike out a ton (195) this year, but he hit for enormous power and that’s what the Yankees need him to bring to the table. Now that everyone’s healthy and Ichiro Suzuki took off, Granderson is hitting lower in the order and is suddenly the best seven-hole hitter in baseball. It’s a great spot to sabotage some fastballs.

3. Freddy Garcia was the number three starter last postseason (he ended up starting Game Two because Game One was suspended due to rain) and this year he’s what, number seven on the rotation depth chart? CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Andy Pettitte is a better 1-2-3 than what the Yankees had in 2009, and Phil Hughes might be the best fourth starter in the postseason. Actually, Anibal Sanchez (or Max Scherzer depending on how the Tigers line up their rotation) is the best fourth starter, but the crop is grim after that and Hughes stacks up well against anyone. The other number four starters in the AL are Ryan Dempster (or Derek Holland), Joe Saunders, and I guess Dan Straily. I’ll take my chances with Phil against any of those guys.

4. That said, I think starting pitching is really overrated these days. Don’t get me wrong, it’s obviously important, but pitching is less than half the game (half is run creation, half is run prevention, and the latter is broken into pitching and defense) and the rotation is only one piece of the puzzle. Look back at the last I dunno, ten or twenty World Series winners and almost all of them were well-rounded teams. Good offense, good starters, good bullpen, all of that. Hell, good role players will often decide a series as well. That’s sort of where the game is right now, you can’t just ride three great starters to a championship, you’ve got to be able to do more than just pitch as well. Depth is paramount.

5. As phenomenal as Rafael Soriano has been this season, this postseason will have a very different feel for me knowing the security blanket isn’t sitting out there in the bullpen for those scary late innings. We’ll get to see how the other half has lived all these years, the half that didn’t get to enjoy Mariano Rivera nailing down pretty much every big game in the playoffs. That’s the one advantage the Yankees have indisputably enjoyed these last 15 years; no matter who they were playing, we all knew they had the better closer. Soriano’s great, but it won’t be the same.

Categories : Musings
  • Josh

    Yep..For the first time I can remember,I’ll be sitting there frightened as our closer comes out for the 9th.

    • gc

      I won’t. Why watch a game in fear? Besides, if Brad Lidge or Keith Foulke can close out games for a world series winner, I don’t see any reason why Soriano can’t.

      • Josh

        I know that Soriano can, the problem is that its not definite like it always was with Mo

        • gc

          …except when it wasn’t. And let’s face it, even though he’s the greatest of all time, he was NOT always automatic in the post-season. Otherwise, they’d have (at least) one more ring.

        • Steve

          Yeah, those 2001 and 2004 World Series Trophies look real good on the mantle

          • ArchStanton

            True, but his postseason ERA is .70 over 141 innings pitched. Simply incredible.

  • Kevin

    why would the yankees have to fly out to texas or baltimore? we have home field right?

    • Josh

      TV schedule screwed things up, we get last 3.

    • Josh

      TV schedule screwed things up, we get last 3.

    • Eddard reboot v.1.0

      Not this year, the #1 and #2 seeds start Games 1 and 2 in the ALDS on the road. 3,4,5 will be played at Yankee Stadium. It’s stupid but that’s Bud for you. I hope we’re going to Baltimore.

    • Pat D

      Because of the way they jammed the second wild card in at the last minute this year, they couldn’t alter the schedule or some such thing, so it’s a 2-3 format. Just the same as it was back in 1995 when the Yankees had the first two games at home and then went to Seattle for 3.

      • Kevin

        that is stupid. wow.

  • Eddard reboot v.1.0

    1. Robbie is hitting .600. Hopefully he can keep it going. The other players are mostly old or injured and need the rest so I think it’s a good thing. It also allows us to line up CC, Andy, Kuroda, Hughes, CC for the ALDS.

    2. And I might even move Grandy up to 6th, ahead of Teixera. Mark has only been back 3 games and Grandy is hitting HRs so put him behind Alex, Robbie and Swish.

    3. With Andy back it’s the best 1-4 in the American League. The biggest difference between last year and this year is Andy. Andy, Kuroda, Phil > Freddy, Nova, AJ.

    4. In the postseason it does matter. The starter having a bad game can take you out right away. The playoffs is all about starting pitching and clutch hitting.

    5. Soriano will be just fine. Where the Yankees will be exposed is middle relief if they have to use it. They might not have to use those relievers too much if CC, Andy and Kuroda can go 7.

    • OldYanksFan

      Andy will pitch 3rd, to break up the Lefties, and more importantly, to have him (a Lefty) pitch the first game back at YS.

      • Eddard reboot v.1.0

        I don’t think we need to split up the lefties. That’s overmanaging so I’m sure Girardi will do it. If your two best starters are lefties you throw them 1-2.

      • Darren

        In the NY Post today Girardi indicated that he was strongly considering starting Kuroda 3rd

        • vin

          That suprises me… I figured having the lefty pitch in YS3 would trump all. However, Kuroda was great at home this year, and could probably use a couple extra days rest.

      • Tom Q

        I’m probably showing my age here but, if it’s Texas, didn’t Andy always have trouble pitching in his home-state park, so Torre always saw to it he pitched at the Stadium rather than in Arlington?

        • vin

          He’s gotten hit around more in Texas than pretty much anywhere else. However, I don’t know how much of it is just the ballpark or the quality of the offenses AND the ballpark. Any stadium that fields Juan Gonzalez, Pudge, Palmeiro, Young, Kinsler, ARod, Cruz, Hamilton, etc will drag down a pitcher’s numbers there.

  • DERP

    Cano finished with the second highest fWAR in the AL and the second highest rWAR in all of baseball.

    • G

      Yet he’ll come in 4th in the MVP voting because of DAT TRIPLE CROWN, Trout getting snubbed to 2nd, and an inexplicable love for Hamilton’s overrated play. Sub 5 WAR season for him, not that anyone cares. People only look at UZR and such if it screws over a Yankee.

      In a perfect world, Trout would win. In a less perfect world where only post-season players win, Cano would win.

      • Adam Parker

        In a perfect world Trout wouldn’t have such a goudy WAR because WAR is very flawed right now, so no Miggy would win in a perfect world and hopefully in our world too.

  • Bartolo’s Colon

    not sure why they did the 2-3 format. why not start the 2/3 seeds on friday night and have the wild card/1 seed go sat/sun (in NY), tues/wed (in TX/BAL), friday (in NY) for the traditional (2/2/1) breakdown? just have the wild card game today. not only are you icing the division winners, but the 2/3 format is just dumb and gives the lower seeds an advantage that they shouldn’t have. particularly the tigers. was there a reason they did it the 2-3 way?

    • Bartolo’s Colon

      looks like this is on the tv schedule (from above)? that is just stupid. couldn’t mlb have flexed their muscles here? certainly can’t be an issue with tbs, no chance they are getting better ratings with something other than baseball.

    • Eddard reboot v.1.0

      Bud wanted to save a travel day and make it easier for tv as they can just stay at the WC locations for Games 1 and 2. It was a stupid decision. If the better team loses the first 2 games they may only have one playoff home game. Bud’s an idiot.

    • thenamestsam

      I think they were worried about what would happen if they had to play any additional games, either because of a tie for the division or a tie for the 2nd wildcard. They had to build a couple extra days in there, just in case.

    • OldYanksFan

      To save an extra travel day.

    • Jim Is Bored

      At least it’s only for one year.

  • DERP

    The WC game is a huge nightmare for the Orioles. They have to pitch Saunders, who might get killed against the righty heavy Rangers lineup, or Steve Johnson, who has under 40 innings in the majors and was about as heralded as Adam Warren when he was a minor leaguer.

    Sucks for them

    • Bartolo’s Colon

      but if they win, they will have all their best pitchers lined up for the yanks. at least if texas won, you would only see darvish once and no colby lewis or cj wilson anymore to shut the yanks down in october.

      • DERP

        I really am hoping that the Orioles get killed tomorrow. I don’t want Orioles fans to get a home playoff game.

        • Jim Is Bored

          Why? I can understand hating how lucky the team has been, but what is with the hatred of O’s fans? They’ve been miserable for 15 years, and we have no real rivalry with them since 97.

          I don’t get it.

          • G

            When I went to Camden, they were as bad as Sox fans… That’s why. One of my roommate’s is an Oriolea fan and he’s the kind of fan who roots for other players getting injured and fantasizes about the Rays blowing the series to screw the Yankees over.

      • http://www.facebook.com/dougchu Doug

        They’re not sending anyone out on short rest? I don’t see the wisdom in saving your bullets for a game that might never happen.

    • Jim Is Bored

      It’s going to be a bullpen heavy game for Baltimore, which is to their advantage. All they need is for the starter to go ~3-4 and keep them in the game.

  • MannyGeee

    all of this, and with a $25M powerless defense-first 3rd basemen…

    /stuart a

  • blake

    Hard not to be proud of this team right now.

  • Jose M. Vazquez

    I hope Soriano does his job well in the postseason but there is no one more soothing for your nerves than the immortal Mariano. There just has never been any pitcher in the annals of history who has done it even close to Mariano, and for so many years. Being an immortal,he is ageless as is Jeter. That is why I never count them as old men.

  • CountryClub

    hat tip to Jayson Stark on this:

    Game 1 of the ALCS starts the day after game 5 of the ALDS. So, if the yanks go 5 games in the first round, they’ll have to play 5 games in a row (3 alds and 2 alcs). That’s not good at all for the pen.

    Even more reason to root for the yanks to win in 3 or 4 games.

    • Jon

      Nice reference. Think about this, if Oakland beats Detroit and the Yanks series goes 5 games, Oakland could be sitting on the tarmac at the airport waiting for the Yankee game to end. If the Yanks lose, everyone gets to go home. If the Yanks win, the plane takes off, lands in NY in the wee hours of the morning, and the A’s have to play a game that night. That this is even a possibility is a disgrace.

      • CountryClub

        It’s be a pain in the ass for oakland. But I’d be fine with it if it meant they had to get into NY at 3am!!

    • Jim Is Bored

      This is why you don’t make last minute changes to the format when the regular season schedule’s already been decided.

      I still don’t know why the change couldn’t have waited a year, so they could have worked all this crap out.

      • jjyank

        It’s stupid as hell, but I know exactly why they didn’t wait a year: money.

  • OldYanksFan

    I agree with you to some extent that ‘Pitching Wins’ is over stated, unless:
    … like the 2001 DBacks, you have 2 absolute Dominant Pitchers
    … If you have ‘average’ pitching and the competition has excellent pitching.

    What I’m saying is that If Team ‘A’ has C+ Pitching and Team ‘B’ has B pitching, that gap can easily be closed by Team ‘A’s better offense.

    With our offense, we can give a bit on Pitching, again, unless we are facing a bunch of Pedro’s (which we are not, except for Verlander).

    The issue for us is that:
    CC, unlike the past, can not be relied on to be an Ace everytime he pitches…
    Hiroki has either been Dominant, or average at best. I would prefer if we could count on him to just be consisitantly good.
    Phil is probably the best #4, but again, he is inconsistant. He has turned in some very fine games, but because of his Homer prone tendancies and high pitch count, has also turned in stinkers while taxing the BP.

    Andy has been the only one who has been basically consistant. He is not an Ace, but is almost always above average.

    So the question is with 3 of our starters, which of their personas stand us. If CC can bring his Cae stuff and Phil can keep the ball in the park and not throw 20 pitches/inning, I think we have a good shot of going deep into the PS.

    Also, we can’t continue to have such gross RISP fail. It’s nice to have an offense that can put 12 men or more on base every game, but if you can’t drive them in, it doesn’t do much good. We absolutely MUST do better moving runners over and scoring with men on 3rd, less then 2 outs.

    • China Joe

      Last year’s Phillies had 3 dominant pitchers, and it didn’t work out too well for them.

      Also, Johnson and Schilling made it to the playoffs in 2002 and got knocked out in the Division Series.

    • MannyGeee

      in 2004, the Red Sox had ‘meh’ pitching, good hitting, but A++++++++ grit factor. so there’s that.

      • Steve (different one)

        Well, more like excellent pitching and great hitting….

  • http://theevilsquare.com handtius

    I was at the game last night and it was epic. I’ve never been to such a loud yankee game at the new stadium (haven’t made it to a post season game yet though). I managed to score some seats in section 109, best seats of my life and all those homeruns were right in my kitchen. It was amazing. Having a hard time talking today. spend the whole game making up for the quiet suits, but even managed to get some chants started down there. Epic.

    People have been bitching that yankees are this and that and lacking here and there, but look at their win total 95 game. That’s 95 games where 5 AL teams had 90+ wins. That’s really fucking good. Every team has their weak points, but this team has made it though all the downs to come out with the best record in baseball and 5 short of 100. Not fucking bad by measuring stick.

    • jjyank

      +1

      Not fucking bad at all.

    • Jim Is Bored

      #cashmanFailed

    • John

      pretty sure the Reds and Nationals have the best records in baseball. But at least the Yankees have the best record in the AL, thus giving us home field advantage up until the World Series. So awesome Melky helped the NL take the advantage in the World Series and all…

      • Steve (different one)

        True, but there are also two 100 loss teams in the NL…

  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    And don’t forget Gardy (the hacker-lol) swinging at a first pitch fb and pulling it hard for a base hit.

    This I really liked.

  • jjyank

    I’m feel great about the Yanks this morning. After everything they’ve gone through this season, I find it freaking amazing that they won the division and took the #1 seed. A tip of my cap to our boys in pinstripes.

  • Darren

    For the first time in a long, long time, winning the Al East really meant something. I’ve never done it in the past, but I could actually seeing wearing an AL East Champs t shirt or hat. Very proud of the team this year!!

  • Kosmo

    I think the new postseason format is a joke. NY the number 1 seed plays their 1st two PS games on the road.

    NY was 14-4 in their last 18 games talk about rising to the occasion.

    Detroit´s starting pitching is the only staff which I´d be remotely concerned about.

    • Bartolo’s Colon

      i disagree, oakland seems legit. i hope all these young kids and overworked bullpens are getting tired. parker dominated us this year, milone looked petty good as well

      • MannyGeee

        this. if you watched (or listened to, in my case) yesterdays game, you know these A’s are absolutemly firing on all cylinders. I want absolutely no part of them this off-season

      • Kosmo

        Oakland has 2 SP Milone and Parker and then who follows ? Straily ?
        Baltimore and Oakland are carbon copies of one another. Great bullpens.

  • gc

    #2 – Pretty cool that their 7th hitter in the line-up has the most home runs in baseball the last two years. Nice!

  • Yank The Frank

    I think we are in great shape going into the post season, with Andy back, ARod looking like he is swinging better and is rested and the same for Tex. Full speed ahead.

  • Bartolo’s Colon

    so what are the chances that verlander continues to suck in the playoffs? I hope it happens

  • stuckey

    “I don’t think many of us sat here at the midpoint of the season and thought the race would go down to the wire, but the Yankees finally did manage to clinch the AL East title (and the best overall record in the AL) with last night’s blowout win over the Red Sox.”

    I struggle with this pervasive narrative that the race going down to wire somehow represents an almost-failure of the Yankees. Yes, at snapshot times this season they were on a 100 win pace, and the Orioles weren’t going at a on-their-heels pace. But 6-months, 162 games wars of attrition rarely don’t have their highs and lows.

    The Yankees won 95 games, pretty much the sweetspot (95-96) of W-L predictions for teams you expect to be VERY good and some of the best in the league. The did this despite losing Mo, all the injuries, ordinary A-Rod, etc.

    Its the ORIOLES that are the surprise and deserve credit for reaching 93 wins.

    Yankees did everything you could want them to do in the regular season. They they happened to be AWESOME for 2/3rds of the season and not-so-much for a third is an irrelevant, overblown narrative.

    • http://www.decandido.net Keith R.A. DeCandido

      Yes. This.

    • MannyGeee

      totally. the Yankees were on pace to win 105, but did we REALLY expect them to win 105? Also, did we expect the Os to turn into the 27 Yankees in August? Hat tip to the Os for coming on super strong, not shame on the Yankees for letting it happen.

      The Rangers squandering a lead that large in September to the A’s however… yikes

      • Rocky Road Redemption

        Heh, I predicted 105, but I didn’t REALLY believe it.

    • CS Yankee

      Agreed.

      Plus I think it help galvanize them as a group. If they just cruised without pressure, you might lose that fighting mentality.

      This is the best of both worlds; rested and battle tested.

  • http://www.decandido.net Keith R.A. DeCandido

    “you can’t just ride three great starters to a championship”

    Says the guy writing a Yankees blog, forgetting that the team he writes about did this very thing only three years ago. *wry grin*

    (Yes, I know one of them was A.J., but he was good in the ’09 postseason…)

    Dominant starting pitching doesn’t guarantee victory, of course — witness the ’02 Yankees, the second-best team of the Joe Torre era who had an absolute killer starting five of Clemens, Wells, Pettitte, Mussina, and El Duque, and got run out of town on a rail by a hot Angels team — but if your starters are dominant it can negate the other team’s offense pretty thoroughly.

    The Yanks will also have their best defense in the field for the first time since April, as the outfield will be Swisher, Curtis, and Ichiro! with Gardner in reserve, and basically no chance of being subjected to Raul Ibanez shuffling around left field muttering “Brains….”

    • Jimmy McNulty

      Well it wasn’t just CC, AJ, Pettitte in 2009. Alex Rodriguez was a man possessed and other hitters contributed key hits.

  • Bartolo’s Colon

    i think something we also learned this past week is that the red sox did not lie down for the yanks or o’s, they are just a horrendously bad team. kudos to them for making things interesting on tuesday.

    • Yank The Frank

      Neither Boston nor Tampa nor Toronto packed it in at the end which is how it should be.

      • gc

        But Mike Francesa insisted that as soon as “Tamp-er” was eliminated, they would pack it in and have absolutely no incentive (or anything left in the tank) to battle the mighty Orioles. Does this mean that….Mike Francesa was….talking out of his ass?? Say it ain’t so!

    • MannyGeee

      they sucked out loud this year. it was pretty sweet.

    • Eddard reboot v.1.0

      And the Bobby V era is over in Boston. What a mistake. They ran a good manager out of town when they should have ran out some of the players. They finally wised up and ran Beckett out of town. Now they need to rebuild.

      • Jimmy McNulty

        They have plenty of cash available to rebuild. I’m surprised they’re dumping Bobby V. You’d think they’d keep their best player if they intended on dumping Valentine. They got rid of Beckett, Gonzalez, and Youkilis…that’s a huge chunk of their core. I guess they’re keeping Pedroia and Lester, but still…

        • CS Yankee

          I was hoping that they would have extended Bobby V. to something like 5/25.

        • toad

          You’re surprised? Hiring him was an obvious blunder from the start.

          It was the sort of naive owner mistake that Steinbrenner used to make when he signed over-the-hill stars for ridiculous salaries.

          • Rooting for U.S. Steel

            Hell, I just lost a beer to jjyank because I was thinking along the same lines as Jimmy McNulty. I thought after they dumped their core, Valentine would have a chance to rebuild the team according to his plan next year…

            but that was before the Red Sox tanked the rest of this season.

            So props to jj — and amigo, I need a way of getting in touch with you so we can set this up, given our geographic differences.

            Good win!

  • Barbara Booey

    “Don’t get me wrong, it’s obviously important, but pitching is less than half the game (half is run creation, half is run prevention, and the latter is broken into pitching and defense)”

    The above is among the dumber interpretations / statements I’ve read in a while. Sheer nonsense, clearly put into Axisa’s head by something he read elsewhere. If it’s an original thought, then that’s even more frightening.