Ichiro high-fives teammate Nick Swisher during a Sept. 24 win over the Minnesota Twins
If the New York Yankees are going to make yet another deep postseason run, some of their under-the-radar players are going to need to step up.
Names like C.C. Sabathia, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are some of the first that come to mind when discussing the Bronx Bombers. However, production from those guys is expected.
And World Series championships aren’t won without a team effort.
David Freese demonstrated that last season when he stepped up for the Cardinals in the postseason. With names like Albert Pujols and Matt Holiday leading the charge for St. Louis, it was Freese taking home the MVP at the conclusion of the Fall Classic.
So, with the season winding down, it is time to take a look at this year’s Yankee roster.
It is time to determine which lower-profile players are going to shine on the biggest stage and propel New York to its 28th World Series championship.
Here are a few names that could be critical to Yankee success in the playoffs:
Joba Chamberlain sets to release a pitch on Sept. 11 against the Boston Red Sox
Three years ago, Joba Chamberlain likely wouldn’t be considered an “under-the-radar” player for the Yankees.
But thanks to a multitude of injuries and setbacks, Chamberlain’s status has been reduced to that of a role player in recent times.
The hard-throwing right-hander played an important role in New York’s World Series run in 2009.
Now, he looks to do the same in 2012.
Coming out of the bullpen, Chamberlain allowed just two earned runs in 10 appearances during the 2009 postseason.
Though he no longer possesses the overpowering upper-90s fastball that made Joba the talk of the league during his first few seasons in the Bigs, Chamberlain still has the stuff to get it done at the highest level.
A matured pitcher, he has learned to mix and match his pitches more effectively in 2012. His lethal slider and sweeping curve combine to make Chamberlain one of the most deadly pitchers around when he can throw strikes consistently.
The 27-year-old righty hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last nine appearances for the Yankees, while averaging nearly a strikeout per inning during that time.
His strong resurgence has made Chamberlain a favorite to fill the sixth or seventh inning role for New York come playoff time, and his postseason experience should be beneficial when that time comes.
Russell Martin tries to tag Ryan Doumit in a Sept. 24 game against the Minnesota Twins
He might not provide the type of offensive production that made him a three-time All-Star, but Russell Martin will need to perform if the New York Yankees wish to make a deep playoff run in 2012.
The former Dodger came to New York two years ago, carrying with him a reputation as one of baseball’s best all-around catchers. But recent declines in batting average have removed Martin’s name from that discussion.
Still, Martin serves an important purpose for the Yankees. His defensive skills behind the plate and ability to manage the pitching staff have made him one of the more invaluable pieces on the roster.
A lack of offensive production has been noticeable, but timely hits have helped compensate for his low average. Martin’s walk-off home run against Oakland last week exemplified his clutch ability and gave the Yankees a much-needed win in extra innings.
New York will need their No. 1 catcher to continue his prime time performance if they are going to advance in the playoffs.
While a .300 batting average may be a bit unrealistic, Russell Martin can certainly earn his pay in more ways than one come postseason time.
Boone Logan sets to deliver towards home plate during a Sept. 16 game against the Tampa Bay Rays
An area of strength for the 2012 New York Yankees should ultimately prove vital for their chances at a 28th World Series title this October.
The bullpen, an asset that often goes overlooked, has helped support a shaky starting rotation in New York this season. And if the Yankees want to have any chance at returning to the Fall Classic, the relief pitching will need to continue its course.
At the center of New York’s bullpen are the two lefty specialists. Boone Logan and Clay Rapada have both been successful in subduing the southpaws thus far in 2012.
For Rapada, a .190 BA vs. left-handed batters should prove valuable in late game situations against some of baseball’s best hitters.
Guys like Josh Hamilton and Prince Fielder possess the power to send the Yankees packing in a short series. However, with two proven lefty specialists, New York should have the advantage entering any matchup in October.
Ichiro slides into second base during a Sept. 25 game against the Minnesota Twins
Ichiro Suzuki is another name some may not consider “under-the-radar”. But given his recent decline and current supporting cast, Ichiro no longer holds the reputation as the lineup’s toughest out.
The 2001 AL MVP has enjoyed a bit of a resurgence ever since he was traded to the Yankees on July 23. After hitting .261 with Seattle, Suzuki has raised his average more than 20 points while playing in New York.
Moreover, his power numbers have seen a slight increase after moving from the spacious Safeco Field to the homer-friendly Yankee Stadium.
Ichiro certainly isn’t the .320 hitter that his career averages indicated, however, there is no question that continued production atop New York’s lineup will pay huge dividends for the Yankees in the playoffs.