New York Yankees: Do the Yankees Have What It Takes to Win It All?
The Yankees are among the top offensive teams in baseball, and they have been all year long. The team has socked close to 200 home runs, far and away the top number in all of baseball. Still, questions remain as the month of September draws closer—Is the starting rotation strong enough to make a deep run into October? How dominant is the bullpen, and can the offense carry over the success of the regular season?
These are all very valid concerns for Yankee fans, and they highlight why baseball is such a fun sport to watch in October. A team that has played so dominantly in the regular season can fall apart and make room for the underdogs in the post-season.
So here's the question: Do the Yankees have enough parts on this team to win the World Series?
I'll examine each one and leave it to you to make a decision.
This is one of the more dominant offenses I've had the pleasure of seeing in person. Say all you want about the ballpark, the Yankees are the biggest offensive juggernaut in the game because of their ability to hit home runs.
The real problem is, that's about the only dominant thing they can do.
They brought in Ichiro Suzuki to try and make up for their inability to manufacture runs, and its helped a little bit. With runners in scoring position, the team is 15th in baseball with an average of .253. Take a look at the teams that made the post-season last year. The top two with runners in scoring position were the Cardinals (.268) and Rangers (.254).
The question I have is: Will the Yankees play in the playoffs like they have all season? Will they hit home runs left and right? If they do, it won't matter what they do with runners in scoring position late in ball games. However, many people don't think that's going to work in the postseason.
First, the pitching will get a lot harder because playoff rotations are usually only four players deep. Plus, the pitchers you will be facing are among the top throwers in the game.
Second, they may not get home field advantage. Right now, Texas has a better record. But I'm not worried about that. I'm worried about their ability to play small ball in close and late situations when the home run ball may not come as easy as it has.
Still, Derek Jeter is on this team and is playing the lights out. He's had a marvelous season, maybe the most consistent of anyone in this lineup. His 173 hits leads the majors, and his on base percentage is .364. In the playoffs, Jeter's gotta be the guy to start rallies. The team must center their attack around him and follow up with Swisher, Ichiro, and the sluggers.
Something that scares me about this offense is Curtis Granderson. All he does is hit home runs. Literally. He's struck out 155 times, and is batting barely over .200 in August.
They have what it takes if they can play small ball to a degree. I'm not asking for a lot, just a single here and there, or a bunt to move a runner over when needed.
Do I think they can do that? With Ichiro and Jeter in the mix, I do.
The Starting Rotation
For a few reasons, the most inconsistent element of this club is the starting rotation. First, the injuries. CC Sabathia is now healthy, but Ivan Nova is now sidelined with shoulder problems. Andy Pettitte suffered a horrible ankle injury back in June and has yet to return.
Then, there's the fact that if you asked me who would be guaranteed to win this team a ball game in the playoffs, I'm not so sure I'd have an answer. If Sabathia was healthy, I'd be quick to say he could throw seven plus innings if need be and get you the win.
However, there is little certainty after him. Hiroki Kuroda has been brilliant for stretches this season. He's only given up five or more earned runs four times in 26 starts. He's also thrown 100 pitches or more in 12 straight starts. Those numbers give Yankee fans immense confidence. But how much confidence is there in Kuroda to go out there and give you seven innings and 100 plus pitches in game five of a division series?
As I've said before, I just don't know. After Kuroda and Sabathia, the depth and stability of the rotation is uncertain at best. Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova have pitched like rookies at times this year, with little to no consistency. Hughes has won consecutive games twice all season, and has given up a home run in 20 of his 25 starts.
Nova's season has been a major struggle. Before going on the DL on August 24th, he had given up at least two earned runs in 8 straight starts dating back to July 15th. If I'm Joe Girardi, Nova is the easiest man to keep out of a four man playoff rotation. Him, and sweaty Freddy Garcia.
So do the Yankees have the starting rotation of a World Series winner? I don't think they do right now. However, we do still have a month left. If Sabathia and Kuroda can dominate the month of September and Andy Pettitte can come back at 100 percent health, the Yanks can enter October on a high note.
The Yankee bullpen has been such a good story this year and especially because of what happened to Mariano Rivera. Rafael Soriano has risen to the occasion has given the Yankees everything they could have hoped for in someone other than Rivera pitching the ninth inning. 33 saves and a 1.57 ERA doesn't lie, and I have full confidence in him to get the job done in the postseason.
The bridge to Soriano starts in the seventh inning with some combination of Boone Logan, Clay Rapada and Cody Eppley. You can add whichever names you'd like into that group. Derek Lowe and Joba Chamberlain come to mind.
The eighth inning is David Robertson's to lose. He's been fantastic all year long, averaging more than 12 strikeouts per nine innings.
The bullpen has an ERA of 3.31. That mark is 13th best in baseball, and I don't have an issue with it. Very few games this season have been blown by the bullpen.
Having a closer as dominant and as sure-handed as Soriano has been is high on my list of priorities when it comes to judging how formidable a team can be in the playoffs.
If the other parts of this team can pick it up, the bullpen doesn't need to be any better than it is right now.
The Yankee bench has shined this year in certain areas. I want to start by talking about Eric Chavez, and the job he's done in place of Alex Rodriguez. This is a guy who is batting .358 in the month of August.
To the fans who wanted the Yankees to go after an A-Rod caliber player when he went down, I say this: You are greedy. There are at least three other players in this lineup on any given night who can hit a home run. They don't need Chavez to be that kind of guy.
So when A-Rod comes back, I expect Chavez to still play a role because has a wealth of playoff experience. Remember, he was on all those A's teams who couldn't get past the Yankees in the playoffs back in the early 2000s.
I want to highlight two guys that have really provided an offensive spark for New York. Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez may be on the back end of their careers, but they've apparently drank from a fountain of youth at Yankee Stadium this season.
Ibanez does have some defensive issues, but he is fifth on this team in RBI with 51. However, he's only played in 104 games, 23 less than Robinson Cano who is just in front of him on the team RBI list.
Andruw Jones has only played in 74 games. The interesting thing about these two guys is that they won't be asked to do anything but hit the long ball and drive in runs. Additionally, they can provide big time pinch hit at bats with runners on base.
Then you have guys like Casey McGehee and Jayson Nix. Frankly, I could see one of these players being left off the post-season roster. Still, its always nice to have the guy who can play more than one position and provide good defense.
So does the bench give this team a good chance to take home a WS title? I think so, given its depth and ability to do a variety of things.
Joe Girardi will have some decisions to make on all fronts once the playoffs begin. Here are a few of them:
Does Ichiro move up in the lineup? The Yankees brought him here to manufacture, and create his own runs. The only place he would be moved to is the lead off spot, in which case Derek Jeter bats second. We've had this discussion before, but I think it needs to be looked at against right handed pitching.
Who's the third and fourth starter? It's pretty much established that Sabathia and Kuroda are 1-2 in the playoffs. Everyone says Pettitte is the automatic third man, but he's gotta be healthy. At the fourth position, it's a crap shoot between Hughes, Nova, and Garcia. People may want to throw David Phelps into the mix, but I'm not ready to. September will answer the question of who is the fourth playoff starter for the Yankees.
Will there be a go-to seventh inning guy? Truthfully, I think Girardi should play the matchup game in deciding who pitches the seventh inning. Logan, Eppley, and Rapada have been stellar this year. It's how he decides to put Lowe and Chamberlain into the mix that makes it interesting.