New York Yankees starting pitcher Andy Pettitte.
As the New York Yankees continue through yet another wildly successful regular season campaign, fans have inevitably set their sights on October and all the possibilities that come with it.
Although the Bombers have consistently maintained one of the MLB's best records throughout 2012, injuries to key players such as Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte have created serious question marks about whether this team is built for a protracted postseason run.
A year ago, the Yankees won 97 games in the regular season, only to be bounced by the Detroit Tigers in the first round of the playoffs. The season was considered a failure because, let's face it, this is New York.
In the Big Apple, fans do not care about regular season success. In this city, championships are paramount and nothing else matters. The Yankees have the ability to make a World Series run this year, but to do so, several players will have to step up and make it happen.
Let's take a look at six specific players that the team needs to step up in order to transition the Bombers' regular season success into the playoffs.
New York Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez falls to the ground after getting hit by a pitch.
As Alex Rodriguez's career enters its latter stages, the former All-Star is undoubtedly falling victim to Father Time.
This season, A-Rod is hitting a measly .276 while slugging just .449.
While those numbers still qualify him as an above-average major league third basemen, they are unacceptable for a player who not only is making $29 million this season, but for a guy who is expected to hit in the middle of one of the league's most feared lineups.
Furthermore, A-Rod's most recent stint on the disabled list has allowed the Yankees to have a revelation of sorts. The team is better without him.
Since July 25th, Yankees third basemen Eric Chavez, Casey McGehee and Jayson Nix have combined to hit .370 with a .713 slugging percentage. While those numbers are most likely unsustainable, the Bombers have not skipped a beat without A-Rod.
However, as Alex Rodriguez prepares to come off the disabled list, his big-game experience will be invaluable to the Bombers' veteran squad. That being said, the team needs him to produce what he is capable of.
The Yankees cannot afford to plug him back into the middle of the lineup and have him struggle as he has for the duration of this season. Furthermore, the Yanks would rather not lose the stellar production that has come from third base since A-Rod's absence.
For the Bombers to make a deep playoff run, it will be imperative that Alex Rodriguez emerges from the disabled list as more then just a shell of his former self.
New York Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher.
Although Nick Swisher has at times been an All-Star caliber right fielder for the Yankees, his postseason statistics suggest that he crumbles when the spotlight is the hottest.
Swisher's normally potent bat seems to go dormant once October rolls around. With that, the power that he generates in the bottom half of the lineup makes it extremely difficult for the Yankees to generate consistent offense in the playoffs.
Let's compare his regular season career averages with his postseason career averages.
Regular Season: Batting Average: .255, On-Base Percentage: .360, Slugging: .468
Postseason: Batting Average: .169, On-Base Percentage: .295, Slugging: .323
With the exception of 2010, Nick Swisher has disappointed throughout his entire postseason career. Although the pitching is undoubtedly tougher in the playoffs, there are significant drop-offs in every major batting category the instant Swisher enters postseason competition..
Furthermore, the team can hardly spare to lose his .276 batting average and power bat in the postseason again. For the Yankees to generate offense in the playoffs, Nick Swisher is going to have to produce like he is capable of doing.
New York Yankees right fielder Raul Ibanez.
The loss of Brett Gardner could have potentially derailed the Yankees' season.
Although Gardner doesn't hit for a particularly high average nor does he hit many home runs, he does a masterful job of getting on base and wreaking havoc on the basepaths. He also plays a Gold Glove caliber left field for the Bombers.
However, the Yankees have absorbed the loss of Gardner quite effectively. The play of both Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones have allowed fans to more or less forget that Brett Gardener will miss the remainder of the season.
In 2012, Ibanez and Jones have combined for a .233 batting average while hitting 28 home runs.
Furthermore, neither have made any gaffes in the field that have inhibited the team's ability to win. The power that this platoon has produced is a major aspect of why the Yankees are in prime position to make the postseason this year.
Although Ichiro Suzuki has taken over left-field duties, Ibanez and Jones will still be relied upon as designated hitters and pinch hitters throughout the postseason.
We will more than likely see either of them come up in high-pressure situations. Needless to say, the Yankees cannot afford to have them go cold once the games really start to count come October.
New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte.
Andy Pettitte has been a cornerstone of the Yankees' postseason success for the better part of the last two decades.
In postseason play, Pettitte has a record of 19-10 while posting a 3.83 ERA.
While those numbers may not stand out as much as one would expect, the 40-year-old southpaw has consistently come up huge when the team has needed him the most.
However, Pettitte is currently on the disabled list with a serious ankle injury. Although he is slated to return in time for the postseason, the question is whether he will retain the sharpness that we have seen from him throughout 2012.
In a Yankees rotation that has several question marks at the back end, the team needs Pettitte to come back at least as a reliable third starter behind C.C. Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda.
The playoffs generally come down to which team pitches the best. While offense is still essential to winning, the teams with the best overall pitching staffs have historically seen the most success.
If Andy Pettitte comes back as the pitcher we all know him to be, then the Yankees stand a good chance of making a run through October.
The presence of Mariano Rivera has been an ever-constant threat of the lauded Yankees arsenal for the last 15 seasons.
However, Rivera is out for the remainder of 2012 with a torn ACL in his knee, which left some uncertainty in the back end of the Yankees bullpen.
Rafael Soriano has more than silenced his critics in Rivera's absence. The right-hander has 31 saves so far this season and has pitched masterfully to attain an ERA of 1.64.
In short, the Yankees are going to need Soriano to stay consistent and continue his dominance throughout the postseason. Even without Rivera, the bullpen is one of this team's biggest strengths.
The team will depend heavily on Rafael Soriano in high-pressure situations in October. If he answers the call, we should see continued success from the Bombers.