A quick look at the playoff roster

The composition of the roster is about to change, and not just from 40 men down to 25. For most of the season the Yankees carried 12 pitchers and 13 position players. With all eight position players entrenched in the lineup, there was no need for a guy to come in and play a few days a week. Teixeira, Cano, Jeter, Rodriguez, Granderson, Swisher, and, when he’s healthy, Gardner, play pretty much every day, while Posada and Cervelli split time behind the plate. The Yanks can then deepen their bullpen, since they don’t require that extra position player — and don’t need to pinch hit for their pitcher.

In the postseason there is absolutely no need for that 12th pitcher. With rest days built in, teams can afford to go shorter with the bullpen and carry only their best arms. Additionally, the rotation pares down to four, maybe even three, pitchers, which opens up a spot right there. Realistically the Yanks could go with 10 pitchers, but chances are they’ll go with 11. That gives them 14 position players. So who gets the extra spot?

The easiest way to do this is to list who’s on the roster for sure.

IF: Posada, Cervelli, Teixeira, Cano, Jeter, Rodriguez

OF: Granderson, Gardner, Swisher

DH: Thames, Berkman

Starters: Sabathia, Pettitte, Hughes, Burnett

Relievers: Rivera, Robertson, Wood, Chamberlain, Logan

That leaves open five spots for the Yankees’ choosing. They’ll want a utility infielder in case of emergency, so that’s Pena or Nuñez. It seems like the Yanks have been favoring Nuñez, but Pena’s been around all season. I’d lean Pena now, but as we’ll see in a moment it will probably be both.

The bullpen will get at least one more arm, and probably two. Ivan Nova has a case for the playoff bullpen, probably a better one than Javier Vazquez. Right now I’m guessing they take both and carry 11 pitchers. Royce Ring has an outside shot because he’s a lefty, but I can’t really envision a scenario in which they bring along a guy who spent the entire season in AAA.

Chad Gaudin could also sneak into Vazquez’s spot, though that doesn’t sound like a great idea. Girardi has given Gaudin every chance this month, which could signal his desire to take him in October. The decision could rest on Vazquez’s start tonight. Unless he gets absolutely bombed I’d absolutely advocate Vazquez over Gaudin.

The final two spots, then, will go to position players. As we saw last year with Freddy Guzman, the Yankees like having that extra runner on the bench. On Sunday night against Boston Joe Girardi twice neglected using Greg Golson to pinch run. I thought he’d make the playoff roster for his speed, but now I’m not so sure. It could be him, it could be Pena or Nuñez. Either way, two of those three will make it. The final spot, despite the strikeout wave, almost certainly goes to Kearns.

This year the Yankees don’t have any tough decisions to make regarding the postseason roster. The only real decisions are the final bullpen spot and the pinch-running spot, and in all cases it’s picking among sub-optimal players. Thankfully, they probably won’t come into play much. Freddy Guzman, after all, made just two appearances in the 2009 postseason, while Gaudin made just one. The important players are already in place.

Sabathia stellar as Yanks clinch postseason berth

Our long national nightmare is finally over. After weeks of relatively few ups and plenty of downs, the Yankees have clinched a playoff spot and did so because of their ace CC Sabathia. He carried team on his broad shoulders and almost singlehandedly got them into October, but he had some help from an offense that scored runs in ways we’re not used to seeing. By no means is it a stretch to say that Tuesday’s game was the best the Yankees have played in three weeks.

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

Small Ball

The Bronx Bombers have been a left-on-base factory over the last several weeks, but they had no such trouble in this game. Not only did six of the seven men that reached third base come around to score, they all came around to score in ways that don’t do justice to the Bronx Bomber moniker.

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

The pressure was applied in the very first inning, when Derek Jeter led the game off with a bouncer back up the middle for a single. He moved to second on a wild pitch then over to third on a Mark Teixeira single, and Alex Rodriguez drove him home with a sacrifice fly. The second run scored in similar fashion: a Jeter walk, a wild pitch, a bunt to third, and another sac fly. The Yanks didn’t need any more than that, but they happily tacked on a few more on anyway.

Jeter, in the middle of it again, drove in their third run on a fielder’s choice in the fifth, and two more runs came around to score on an A-Rod bases loaded walk and a Robbie Cano sac fly in the seventh. The last run came on a Greg Golson ground out in the ninth, the final nail in the coffin. Six runs, all on what are generally considered small ball tactics and not a single base hit. It was their first game with three sac flies in almost exactly two years. Considering that 21 of their previous 24 runs had been scored on homeruns, it was a nice change of pace. The RISP FAIL was nowhere to be found, and hopefully that’s a trend that continues deep into October.

Why They Started Him

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

Regardless of where you stood on the debate about whether starting CC Sabathia was a good move, there’s no denying that the big man showed why giving him the ball is always the right move. It was evident right from the start, when he retired the first two Blue Jays on two pitches, and cruised right into the third inning before his lone hiccup: a first pitch solo homerun to semi-rookie Travis Snider. CC then retired the next eleven men he faced, and took the ball into the ninth inning on less than 100 pitches. Exactly half of the 30 men he faced were retired on three pitches or less. That’s efficiency, yo.

It was a big time game from a big time pitcher, the staff ace of the defending World Champs. There was definitely enough gas left in the tank for the complete game, but there’s no shame in handing the ball off to the greatest reliever of all-time with a postseason berth on the line. Sabathia gave the Yankees everything they could have asked for tonight, and now he gets to enjoy some extra rest as he prepares for Game One of the ALCS, no matter where that ends up being. Bravo CC, bravo.

Leftovers

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

Aside from the obvious, the big victory in the game is that the Yankees actually beat a young pitcher they’d never faced before. Kyle Drabek definitely had the stuff, but the Yanks pushed enough runs across to saddle him with his third loss in as many big league starts. Thankfully we’re done with that nonsense for the season.

Brett Gardner had a big hand in tonight’s game. He tripled and singled, scoring on Jeter’s ground out and slid in just under John Buck’s tag. He and Derek combined for four hits, a walk, and four runs scored. A-Rod and Tex combined for two hits and three walks, driving in three. Very nice job by the table setters and the meat of the order.

Huge night for the defense as well. A-Rod made some brilliants stabs and third and made the throws with the help of the artificial turf, Cano barehanded a slow roller, and Curtis Granderson ran down everything from gap-to-gap while Tex was scooping balls in the dirt like it was going out of style. Great effort by everyone.

Tampa beat the Orioles, so they remain half-a-game up in the AL East. Remember, it’s effectively a one-and-a-half game lead because they hold the tiebreaker. With four games left, the priority is resting players, getting healthy, and lining up the rotation. The division should be an afterthought at this point. This will be the Yanks’ 49th trip to the postseason, by far the most of all-time. Second? The Dodgers with 26. Mighty big gap there.

WPA Graph & Box Score

Nice and easy. Thanks CC. ESPN has the box, FanGraphs the nerd.

Up Next

These two clubs will wrap up their season series tomorrow night, when someone not named Andy Pettitte Javy Vazquez takes on Brett Cecil. Chances are he’ll be facing some guys that logged lots of at-bats at Triple-A Scranton this summer, and I’m perfectly fine with that.

CC to start ALDS Game 1

The Yankees don’t know where they’ll be playing or which team they’ll draw for the American League Division Series, but they do know who will start Game 1. As Joe Girardi just told reporters, Carsten Charles Sabathia will get the ball. Shocking, I know.

Pettitte: ‘I’m not pitching tomorrow’

You read the title, that’s what Andy Pettitte said during the postgame celebration. His regular start will be pushed back to some point this weekend, and presumably Javy Vazquez will take his place on a temporary basis. Part of this is extra rest for Andy, but the majority of it has to do with lining up the playoff rotation. It’s nice to have that luxury now.

Update: Yep, Javy’s pitching.

Yankees clinch postseason berth

Well that took a little longer than most of us would have liked, but the Yankees have officially clinched a playoff spot with tonight’s victory. The celebration is on YES, and we’ll have more in a bit.

Game 158: FTW

Say a prayer, Joe. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Nathan Denette)

It’s obvious that the fact that the Yankees have yet to clinch a playoff spot with five games remaining in the season is starting to wear on Joe Girardi and the front office. They’re pulling out all the stops to make sure that they go home with a win tonight, including starting CC Sabathia despite throwing his schedule off for the playoffs. All I know is that this better work, otherwise it might get ugly in Yankeeland. Far uglier than it already is.

Here’s the lineup…

Jeter, SS
Swisher, RF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Posada, C
Berkman, DH
Granderson, CF
Gardner, LF

And on the bump, it’s Cy Sabathia.

First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET, and this one can be seen on My9 locally or MLB Network nationally. Is it just me, or have the Yanks been on national television a whole lot lately? Meh, whatever. Try to enjoy the game.

Robbie Cano vs. sliders

The maturation of Robbie Cano into a legitimate MVP candidate has certainly been one of the most exciting parts of the 2010 season, and FanGraphs’ Albert Lyu took a look at why it’s happening. Despite being just one walk shy of tying his free pass total from 2008 and 2009 combined, Cano is actually swinging at more pitches both in and out of the strike zone this season, which caught me by surprise. He’s swinging and missing a bit more often, but the root of his success comes from his ability to hit the slider. By working deeper counts, Cano has gotten pitchers to go to their breaking stuff more often, and he’s simply murdering the soft stuff this season. Make sure you check it out, there are colorful graphs. And it’s interesting.