New York Yankees: 5 Biggest Concerns as Postseason Approaches
As the MLB season hits the home stretch, the Yankees find themselves in a familiar position: atop the ravenous American League East. Even after dealing with an assortment of injuries that most teams would never have recovered from, they still sit alone in first place in late August.
However, in the past decade they have shown that their position after Game 162 doesn’t immediately translate into postseason success. Since 2002, the Bombers have finished first in the division seven times, but only won the World Series once in 2009.
Each of those teams had flaws that were eventually exposed and led to their October exit. The 2012 Yankees are no different from their predecessors.
The club has the third-best record in the majors, but let’s not start handing out those gaudy rings just yet.
There are plenty of reasons this team could bow out early in the playoffs.
The Starting Rotation
When training camp began, the club was laughing at their “problem”: too much quality starting pitching and not enough slots to put them in.
However, it was just a house of cards and over time it all came down.
Newly acquired Michael Pineda’s season was over before it began. Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova haven’t been able to establish a positive 2012 identity, only a face of inconsistency. Even Andy Pettitte’s homecoming was short-lived, as his ankle was shattered in June and he is no guarantee to return to the team.
In fact, the only consistent starter has been Hiroki Kuroda. The same guy many trashed as a Cashman blunder has kept this team together when the seams were being pushed.
Don’t worry: No one has forgotten about C.C. Sabathia, but his increasing stops on the disabled list are becoming concerning.
Maybe the kids in Hughes and Nova can figure it out, and it’s feasible that Sabathia can kick the injury bug. But, if those things don’t happen, their “second” season could be over in a week.
Yes, we’ve all heard the home-run-happy critics before. With every dinger the Yanks hit, the scoffs grow even louder.
With 187 home runs on the season, the Bombers lead all of MLB, with the second-place Brewers and Reds a full 43 home runs behind. There’s nothing wrong with making the game as easy as one swing of the bat.
But the criticism lies on their utter reliance on the long ball. When the Yankees fail to record a round-tripper their record is abysmal.
When the playoffs start, they won’t be facing pitchers just called up from Triple-A or fifth starters. They’ll be digging in against opponents' aces on a daily basis.
Will they be able to replicate the regular-season homer show against studs in the postseason?
I know he isn’t what he used to be. I understand Jayson Nix has actually fit in well at third and been a solid player.
But this team still misses Alex Rodriguez.
Not for his team leadership, but for his mere presence in the lineup.
Through his 94 games this year, he is batting .274 with 44 RBI and 15 HR. It’s hard to fathom those numbers belong to A-Rod. But those are the numbers.
As disappointing as they are (for him), he can still show the flashes of brilliance from yesteryear. And even if he can’t show us the old A-Rod, his bat in the lineup is not lost on a starting pitcher's approach to the Yankees as a whole.
His return is scheduled for late August/early September, but let’s not pencil him in as a productive guarantee. His 37-year-old wrist was fractured and soon the rehab will begin.
Can he fully recover in time to bolster this sometimes-slumping lineup?
Throughout the year, the Yankee bullpen has experienced a ton of high and lows.
First, Joba Chamberlain went down in March after a freak injury threatened his career. Even freakier, closer Mariano Rivera ended his 2012 year in May after tearing his ACL shagging fly balls.
With chunks of big-inning arms missing, the bullpen went through a metamorphosis. Rafael Soriano took over the hallowed closer role with overall success. After a brief injury, David Robertson slipped into his cozy eighth-inning role without a hiccup.
But recently the once-resurgent pen has been sinking.
After returning ahead of schedule from his injury, Joba Chamberlain has been, well, awful. Reliever Cody Eppley has shown ineptitude as well. Oh, and don’t forget about Boone Logan. The lefty specialist’s ERA is slowly approaching four runs a game.
Not the kind of numbers you like to hear associated with your relievers.
Overall, it could be a minor slump they’re all mired in. We can only hope that "minor" doesn’t grow into “major.”
Runners in Scoring Position
A coinciding problem with the Bombers' addiction to home runs is their inability to get it done when it matters most.
As the season has gone on, they have improved their putrid batting average with runners in scoring position. On June 23, the average stood at a deplorable .217, but it has since improved to a more respectable .258.
Progress is progress, but that won’t cut it against the likes of Justin Verlander and other October aces. If the big arms are on their game, the four-baggers won’t be flying out of the park at the same clip.
That’s when getting those runners in becomes such a necessity.
The notion sounds simple, but as the Yankees have shown, it’s “easier said than done.”