The Yankees have seemingly been stuck in the mud as of late. Despite remaining one of the best teams in all of Major League Baseball, they have unarguably had a rough September.
Following tonight's loss to the Red Sox, the Yankees have compiled a 10-12 record this September. Hand in hand with that 10-12 record are year-worst performances in pitching and hitting.
The pitching staff has, obviously, compiled a 10-12 record along with a 4.56 ERA (the worst ERA for this team in any given month of the season) and the team's second worst monthly batting line, .260/.350/.392, of the entire season (second only to June's .245/.333/.401 line).
With a playoff spot all but assured, manager Joe Girardi has been pulling back on the reigns as of late to let his fatigued team get a rest.
So are these elderly Yankees doomed come the playoffs or can they turn it around? Here are five players they must count on in October in order for September to seem like a bad dream to Yankees fans.
I know what you're saying. Cano has been the MVP of this Yankees squad. Sure he has, but since the All-Star break Cano has been just a bit less stellar than Yankees fans have grown to expect from the second baseman.
After posting a blistering .336/.389/.556 line in the first half of the season, Cano has slowed to a .301/.372/.518 line over the second half of the season.
While that's still very good, Cano has to do more in the postseason if the Yankees hope to advance deep in the playoffs and win their 28th World Series Championship.
If Cano can hit like he did at the start of the year he will provide excellent protection for Alex Rodriguez, who has been on fire since returning from his injury in early September (.333/.469/.651 line including last night's two home run game).
But if Cano doesn't turn it back on to the MVP level he was hitting at prior to the All-Star break, opposing pitchers will easily be able to pitch around Rodriguez.
I'ts all about providing Alex Rodriguez with support at this point. He is hot, but if the hitters around him around performing up to task there is little he can do.
Mark Teixeira seemed to be having his usual second half resurgence, batting .325/.421/.732 over a 32 game stretch from July 3 to August 9, including 13 home runs and 36 RBI.
But then Teixeira went on paternity leave.
Since returning on August 12, Teixeira has been less than stellar, posting a line of .237/.350/.385.
I don't want to say baby William Charles Teixeira messed up his father's mojo, but the evidence is overwhelming.
Teixeira will have to get back to form if the Yankees have any hope of winning the World Series.
Along with Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano, Teixeira forms perhaps the greatest three through five hitters in any major league lineup...if all three are playing to their abilities.
As of now only Rodriguez is doing so, which is why both Teixeira and Cano make this list.
But what about pitching?
I'm getting to that.
Sabathia has been absolutely dealing recently...that is until his recent outing.
In 18 starts from June 20 to September 18 Sabathia was 13-3 with a 2.39 ERA. But in his last start against the Tampa Bay Rays, Sabathia got rocked. There was no other way to describe it. In what was the big lefty's worst start of the season, he was tagged for seven runs over 5.1 innings, surrendering 10 hits and three walks.
If the Yankees have any hope of advancing in the postseason they will need their ace to be more like the starter he was on September 13 when he limited those very same Rays to two hits and two walks over eight innings, striking out nine.
Sabathia was solid in the postseason last year, but before that he had been very shaky. If the Yankees don't get a repeat performance from their ace they will be golfing before the ALCS.
The only reason Andy Pettitte is at No. 2 while C.C. Sabathia is at No. 3 is because I am more certain of Sabathia's ability to rebound.
The Yankees are asking a lot from a 38-year-old pitcher.
The career playoff wins leader will have to be sharp coming off his injury if the Yankees hope to advance in the playoffs.
This is because the bottom of the Yankees rotation has been shaky at best. But if Sabathia and Pettitte can form a solid 1-2 punch, and the aforementioned hitters can round into shape, the Yankees should be able to compete against any team in the postseason.
After Pettitte's performance against the Red Sox tonight, the need for a strong second option in the rotation has never been more important.
Three and one-third innings of seven-run ball are not going to cut it.
Pettitte needs to round into shape in order to give Sabathia a rotation mate that can dominate a five-game series, let alone a seven-game series.
Can Pettitte be that pitcher one more time?
Could it have been anyone else?
Sentimentality aside, it appears that Joe Girardi is not going to remove Derek Jeter from the leadoff spot.
That makes Derek Jeter an essential cog in the Yankees offense whether he is prepared for it or not. Simply put, Jeter is going to have to do much better than the .267/.335/.372 line he has produced to this point.
You can't have your leadoff hitter getting on base only 33 percent of the time. That number has to be higher if you want to put your power hitters in a better position to produce runs.
There are no doubts Jeter has come up short this season.
He is a free agent next season. No team will pay him more than the Yankees, so it's up to him to show the Yankees why they should still pay him top dollar this postseason.
This Yankees offense is still the best in the majors despite subpar performances from many of their best hitters.
Come the postseason, if Jeter can put together another memorable October run, he may just be what this Yankees offense needs to propel the team to another World Series championship.
This Yankees team is nowhere near as stable as the one that marched to the franchise's 27th World Series Title, but they can still win it all.
They will need their best players to play up to the level they are capable of playing.
The bullpen has rounded into shape since midseason, the lineup has proved to be the best in all of baseball despite down years from the likes of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Jorge Posada, and the rotation, for its erratic performance, hasn't been nearly half as bad as the team's detractors would like to paint it as.
But all that is erased come the postseason. Unlike last season, it is not a question of just continuing to do what they've been doing. This postseason the Yankees must raise their level of play to match their competition.
There are no pushovers in the playoffs this year. New York's finest has to play as if they were just that—New York's finest.
And it all starts with the Captain.