New York Yankees second basemen Robinson Cano.
After storming through their first-half schedule and attaining the best record in baseball, the latter portion of the New York Yankees 2012 campaign has been a grind, to say the least. Not only have the Bombers seen their lead in the AL East dwindle from 7 games to a measly 3, but injuries to several key contributors have inhibited the Yankees ability to win with consistency. That said, this team is still due for a deep playoff run.
Even through the injuries, a dormant offense, and uncertainty on the pitching staff, the Bombers are still leading the most competitive division in all of baseball and seem primed to rebound down the stretch. As the playoffs rapidly approach, the Yankees are shaping up to be a formidable opponent come October. They may or may not actually win the World Series, but this team is going to be a tough out for anybody they play.
Let's take a look at four specific reasons why the 2012 New York Yankees will be serious competitors for a title, and restore a sense of normalcy to "The House That Ruth Built."
The Yankees have been riddled with injuries throughout this entire season.
Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, Nick Swisher, Ivan Nova, David Robertson and Mark Teixeira are all either currently battling various injuries or have seen time on the disabled list at some point this season.
Not to mention the loss of Mariano Rivera, Brett Gardner and Michael Pineda for the vast majority of the year.
While examining just how much this team has had to overcome in 2012, it's almost a miracle that they are leading the toughest division in baseball.
However, barring any unforeseen setbacks, all of these players should be available for the playoffs (with the exception of Rivera, Gardner and Pineda). With that, Sabathia and Nova will have had the luxury of taking some time off to rest their arms. Furthermore, the 37-year-old Alex Rodriguez will be able to rest and get his legs under him as the team prepares for the playoffs.
In short, the Yankees will be a fresh, rejuvenated squad with the ability to beat anyone they play come October. It's debatable whether a healthy Yankees team would be the best in baseball, but it undoubtedly would be a lot better than the 23-21 record the Bombers have played to since the All-Star break.
This will be a new team come playoff time, and the rest of the league should be put on notice.
New York Yankees' Hiroki Kuroda and Russell Martin.
Even without two of their top three pitchers for an extended period of time this season, the Bombers have still managed to put together one of the American League's elite pitching staffs.
Despite Andy Pettitte's absence, CC Sabathia's multiple stints on the disabled list and Ivan Nova's inflamed pitching shoulder, the Yankees' starting rotation has posted the fourth-best ERA in the American League so far this year.
Furthermore, the team's four-man starting rotation in the playoffs will be able to match up with any squad they face. With CC Sabathia as the ace, followed Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte and either Ivan Nova or Freddy Garcia at the back end, opponents are going to have to earn their victories against the Yankees come October.
In relief, a combination of Phil Hughes, David Robertson and Rafael Soriano will most likely prove to be the most lethal bullpen in the playoffs.
In short, the Yankees' starters will only be relied upon for six quality innings before handing it over to the best bullpen in the game so far this season. Pitching normally determines a team's playoff success, and the New York Yankees are more than capable of out-pitching any team they face.
New York Yankees backup third basemen Eric Chavez.
Not only do the New York Yankees lead the league with 199 home runs, but their entire lineup possesses the ability to produce instant offense.
To that point, in 34 games with the Bombers, Ichiro Suzuki, the team's No. 9 hitter, is batting .287 with 14 RBI.
Furthermore, the bench has stepped up in a big way to offset the injuries that the team has incurred throughout the season.
Since Alex Rodriguez broke his wrist, Yankees third basemen have been hitting almost .370 while slugging .713. In the outfield, Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez have combined for 28 home runs while platooning left field and designated hitter duties.
Needless to say, there has been some unprecedented production from some unlikely candidates on this roster.
Overall, the Yankees have varying degrees of speed, power and versatile hitters scattered throughout the lineup. With that, these veteran hitters have the ability to work pitch counts and get to the opposition's bullpen early on.
This offense can attack in so many different ways that it may prove to be nearly impossible to hold in check for an entire five- or seven-game series.
New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.
Pitching and defense win games in the playoffs.
Obviously, home runs are great, and scoring runs is important. However, with the low-scoring playoff games that we have been accustomed to watching over the past decade, it has become more essential to prevent runs than to produce them.
The New York Yankees not only have the pitching staff to hold down elite offenses, but they have the second-lowest total errors in baseball.
With a fielding percentage of .988, the Bombers are not going to beat themselves in October. This team has speedy outfielders to go along with several Gold Glove-caliber infielders. Opponents are going to have to hit the ball hard off of some good pitchers in order to compete with the Yankees.
The New York Yankees have their problems, just like every other team. The roster is a bit on the older side, the offense tends to be a little home-run heavy and the bullpen lacks big-game experience.
However, this is a complete team. If everyone plays to their potential, the Yankees will be nearly unstoppable come playoff time.