As we approach the 2012 MLB playoffs, many pundits are high on the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees. But when analyzing these front-runners more closely, there are several reasons to believe that they're bound for an early exit from the postseason.
Forget about Stephen Strasburg not being in their playoff rotation; the Nationals have bigger concerns.
While some point to Washington's 93-60 record, the best record in baseball, as the reason it will make a deep postseason run, other things must be mentioned.
For starters, Washington is 4-6 in its last 10 games and has struggled with consistency. Although it split a four-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers recently, Washington failed to be consistent at the plate.
In fact, the Nationals haven't produced six or more runs in consecutive games since September 7 and 8 against the Miami Marlins.
While the Nationals have been a feel-good story all year, inconsistency is what will doom them.
As the St. Louis Cardinals proved last year, a team clicking at the right time will go far in the playoffs. A team that is not will struggle just to get into the playoffs. The Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves can attest to that.
Entering the 2011 postseason with the best record in baseball, the Phillies had a 2-1 lead on the Cardinals in the divisional series. A 5-3 loss in Game 4 and 1-0 loss in Game 5 sent the Phillies and their star-studded pitching staff home.
Even without Strasburg, the Nationals have a good pitching staff with Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler and Edwin Jackson. While you can't compare them to the likes of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, each can be equally as dominant on any given night.
If you don't think the Nationals can lose 1-0 or 2-1, then you're missing some key stats. The Nationals have scored one run or less 12 times since the All-Star break. Simply put: It can happen.
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees are guaranteed to struggle in the playoffs as well. Whether it's in the one-game playoff or the divisional series, the Yankees aren't going much of anywhere this year.
The Yankees have struggled against possible American League playoff teams in the second half, going 11-17. Losses include a four-game sweep by the Oakland Athletics (July 19-22) and a three-game sweep by the Chicago White Sox (Aug. 20-22).
Let's not forget the Yankees have lately feasted on teams under .500.
New York has faced the Toronto Blue Jays (67-86) 12 times in the second half, going 9-3 with three games still to go. Then there is the six games with the Red Sox where the Yankees won four. And there's still three to go with them.
The pitching staff is decent with CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes. However, can you expect a team with Ivan Nova or Hiroki Kuroda as its No. 3 pitcher to succeed in the playoffs?
A few years ago you could. But with the offense not hitting like it used to, more has to be done on the mound.
Kuroda has given up three or more runs in six straight starts, and Nova is struggling with a 4.94 ERA.
The Yankees are a good team over the course of an entire regular season, just like the Braves were in the 1990s.
When it comes to playoff time, though, the Yankees simply don't stack up against other teams in the league.