It's a tough question that will need to be answered soon: Who is left off the New York Yankees 2012 playoff roster? Who makes the cut? Obviously with A-Rod and Pettite coming back, two players won't be with the team in October.
It's been an interesting season in New York because even though this team has dominated much of baseball, the playoff talk has now begun. The difference between cutting a player for the postseason and keeping him on the team could be the difference between a world championship and an early exit. Let's take a look at a few players who could be on the block.
David Phelps, RHP
David Phelps is an interesting case. The other day Joe Girardi talked about how valuable he is because he can give you innings just about anywhere. This year he's gotten starts with Andy Pettite and C.C. Sabathia on the DL. What I do like about him is his 3.3-1 strikeout to walk ratio. He also gives up less than a run per inning. I know I'm being stat-happy here, but I can't seem to gage Phelps' effectiveness. Is he a long man or a one inning guy or a spot starter? I think his performance in the next month will answer that question.
Cody Eppley, RHP
Yankee fans know him as the guy who nobody knew until he got to New York, as is the case with my next player. Eppley has been reliable out of the bullpen in the sixth and seventh innings this year. His 3.44 ERA is certainly high for a one inning, sometimes one batter guy. In addition, he doesn't strike batters out at all. I know experience is a big deal when it comes to the playoffs, and it'll be more now that Derek Lowe is in the bullpen. Eppley has done his job very quietly, and while he hasn't given fans much of a reason not to like him, he hasn't done the opposite either. Right now, with Texas, Detroit or LA sending up their 3-4-5 batters in the sixth inning of a two-run game, I'm not turning to Eppley.
Clay Rapada, LHP
Who? It still strikes me as weird whenever I see Rapada do his "Welcome to Yankee Stadium" liner on the scoreboard before games. Anyway, the big advantage that he has is evident before he even steps on the mound. Rapada is a lefty, and that's huge for playing the matchup game when the playoffs start. And we know Joe Girardi is the king of mixing and matching. He's one of two lefties in the bullpen, and my problem is that he hasn't really shown much in big game situations. Let me put it this way: do you remember a Clay Rapada outing this year that had the whole team saying "wow, we've got a guy who can shut 'em down when we need him to?" The answer, as with Eppley, is no. The playoffs are when those performances are most needed. That being said, they have done more right than wrong.
David Robertson, RHP
In my mind, there is no way Joe Girardi leaves Robertson off the roster. He gives you good stability in the eighth inning, and he's given up less than a run per inning. Not a huge strikeout guy, but the difference between him and the previous two is that he can get the crowd going. He can make a big pitch in a tight situation. I look past his six earned runs in 10.2 playoff innings because all of them were surrendered in the 2010 ALCS against the Rangers. As far as I'm concerned, David Robertson is cemented as the eighth inning guy on this team right now.
Joba Chamberlain, RHP
Here we go. I know some people will hate me for this, while others may not care. But the bottom line is, two major injuries in less than a year have a huge impact on a young pitcher. If Chamberlain never suffered a ankle injury, he may not even be on this list and Rapada or Eppley may never have played this year. It takes time for a guy like him to be able to be as effective as he was in that late inning role in 2009 and 2010. He's given up runs in all but two of his outings, and everyone keeps saying that, if he's given more time, he'll get better. That's true, but it's looking like it may take longer than two months for him to return to form.
Jayson Nix, INF
Moving to the position players, I like Nix and what he has brought to the table. He's been a quiet but reliable guy in the field mixed in with some timely hitting, which resulted in clutch hits. I just look at it this way: Once A-Rod comes back, everyone moves down a notch. That means Eric Chavez is the first backup. Then they have to decide on Casey McGehee or Nix. That is, unless they decide to cut one of them instead of two pitchers. I want to see who has the better month of September between McGehee and Nix before I decide.
Casey McGehee, INF
McGehee has gotten extra playing time lately and can stroke the ball pretty well. The fact of the matter is, he's a guy who swings early in the count a lot (only three walks) and doesn't get on base too often. Nix is the same way. I may want to cut both of these guys because you already have the low average players in Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez. They can back it up with the long ball. However, defense matters big time in October. Again, let's see what September holds.
So there you have it. I'll leave it to you to decide for yourself who should be left off of the Yankees playoff roster in 2012. Right now, the month of September looms large for these seven players.