5 Things That Have to Happen for the New York Yankees to Reach the World Series
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With the trade deadline come and gone, baseball fans across North America were dumbfounded to see a blank space under the New York Yankees' deadline acquisitions.
While many thought the Yankees, with question marks hovering over their DH situation and the stability of their starting rotation, would be one of the more active teams in this year's deadline free for all, GM Brian Cashman seemingly sat at his desk with his arms crossed while the Yankees trade rumours were washed away by the persistent efforts of other teams.
A deadline that could have seen the Bombers' rotation bolstered with the additions of Ubaldo Jimenez, Doug Fister, and/or Erik Bedard, and one of several qualified hitters to fill the DH spot, arrived and passed with New York's lineup remaining in the same questionable position they were in before trade discussions began.
Cashman obviously has confidence in the lineup he has but, with all due respect to him for keeping the farm system intact and not mortgaging it for an overpriced pitcher, things in the Bronx will have to change if he wants his team to be world champions in 2011.
Here are five things that will need to happen if the New York Yankees want to succeed in this year's postseason.
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New York's pitching isn't the dominant force that it was in 2009, when they last won the World Series.
Phil Hughes is struggling to get back to the form that earned him 18 wins last season, and AJ Burnett has been the spokesman of mediocrity for the duration of 2011.
However, certain things can be done to give the rotation the strength that it will desperately need come October.
Ivan Nova has turned out to be a reliable starter, and at that, a strong one. In his first 10 win season, Nova is proving to be the innings eater that the Yankees hoped he would be, averaging about six innings per start in 2011.
A six man rotation is being featured in the Bronx right now for the first time, as manager Joe Girardi works to distinguish his top five starters by the end of the season.
I would say what needs to happen for the Yankees to have success in the postseason is for AJ Burnett to start living up to the standards and expectations of his contract, but I'm not one for naivety, and am under the impression that this won't happen. So what I think is necessary, although it may not be what New York would like to do, is for Burnett to have a time out from the starting rotation.
he is currently the only starter in New York not named Phil Hughes to be pitching an ERA over 4.00 (it sits at a pedestrian 4.54), and aside from Bartolo Colon (who has a 3.33 ERA, and 6 losses), has only accumulated 8 wins, with an ugly 9 losses.
Phil Hughes will need some time to get back to regular form, and when/if he does that, I believe Ivan Nova has earned a spot in the rotation, leaving Burnett as the odd man out.
Hughes is capable of being the number two starter on this team, and at this point in time, a rotation without Burnett looks, and performs, exponentially better than one with him.
With Burnett given the boot, the rotation could look something like this:
Sure, it's not your typical World Series rotation, but the four of them, excluding Hughes (his 32 innings aren't a big enough sample to use in the rotation's statistical calculation), make for a 44-23 record, and 520 innings.
On paper, this rotation could certainly get the job done.
The success of this rotation, and the Yankees pitching as a whole (if Burnett is to be exiled), rests on the shoulders of Phil Hughes.
If Hughes can find his way back to his 2010 form, New York's rotation will be solidified, and they will have their best chance at making it through the postseason having not made any acquisitions during the trade deadline.
The Return of Alex Rodriguez
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The Yankees have managed fairly well in the absence of professional poker player, I mean third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
They have worked a 16-7 record since A-Rod left the lineup with a knee injury thanks to the strength of their backup infielders Eric Chavez (batting .323 in 25 games this season), and Eduardo Nunez.
Rodriguez was having an excellent season before his injury, when he was playing at a clip that looked like .295/.366/.485 with a .852 OPS, 13 home runs, 52 RBI, and 4 stolen bases.
Like it or not, Rodriguez is still a crucial element to the Yankees lineup when he's healthy and he'll need to continue to build on his production from the first half of the season when he returns if New York wants to have the success they're used to having in the postseason.
Nunez, and Chavez are more than adequate replacements for the time being, but neither of them possess the game changing ability that Rodriguez does with one swing of the bat.
Rodriguez also fills the cleanup spot in the order very nicely, allowing for the signature Yankees middle of the order consisting of Teixeira, Rodriguez, and Cano.
Having Rodriguez back in the lineup, performing to his potential, and filling this spot in the order not only benefits the team with his ability to create runs, but it opens up more opportunities for Cano and the guys farther down in the order to drive in runs.
With a healthy, productive Alex Rodriguez in the lineup, the Yankees solidify their batting order, and infield - A-Rod also has above average defensive skills at the hot corner; something lacked by both Nunez and Chavez - as well as their chances of postseason success.
Strong Performances from the Yankees' Strong Bats
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New York has benefited from Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira in 2011 like The Beatles benefited from John Lennon.
Only once in a blue moon can a team say they have the number two and three Home Run and RBI producers in the American League like the Yankees can this year.
The two all-stars have been virtually unstoppable at the plate this year and have accumulated for 59 home runs and 173 RBI.
If they can keep up this production, which all signs point to them doing, the Yankees will continue to score runs, and with solid pitching, win games.
New York is currently second in the league in runs scored, and first in home runs; a very good sign for the playoffs as they will need to maximize run creation against the best teams in the major leagues.
With Rodriguez coming back to the lineup, they should be able to hold on to their spot atop these leaderboards for the remainder of the season, and if they can carry it into the postseason, opposing pitchers will have a hard time keeping the scores low, and the Yankees will be able to see opposing bullpens earlier in games.
With a starting rotation that certainly will not be the best in the postseason, it is ever more important for the Yankee bats to compensate for this by giving pitchers a very small margin for error and little room to breathe, allowing for more scoreboards to tilt in the Yankees' favour.
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With the Yankees starting rotation being more vulnerable to opposing teams' bats than in previous years, New York's bullpen is going to need to have their best stuff ready every time they get called out to the hill.
Mariano Rivera has been a major obstruction to teams attempting to create runs in the ninth inning in 2011, as he always has and has an impressive 1.70 ERA with 29 saves for the Bombers this season.
As a setup man, David Robertson is having an excellent season, and boasts a 1.44 ERA, 68 K's in 43.2 innings, and a 3-0 record. The two of these pitchers have been locking down the late innings of games all season, and with the return of Rafael Soriano to the lineup, even more strength can be added to the Yankees' bullpen.
Soriano has recently been recalled from a rehab stint and has brought a new attitude with him. Once the guy who felt he was entitled to the setup spot in the Yankee bullpen, Soriano now recognizes the talent of David Robertson in the eighth inning and is willing to work the sixth and/or seventh innings to setup for him.
Since being recalled from the minors, Soriano hasn't had an earned run and has been returning to the form he had in 2010 as the aggressive closer for the Rays.
If he can continue to improve on his rocky start to 2011, the Yankees will only need their starters to go six innings, at which point they can bring in the virtually unhittable trio of Soriano, Robertson, and Rivera.
This late inning formula could make or break the Yankees' postseason and its shaping up to be quite a combination of arms to relieve New York's starters.
The other question mark in pen for New York was whether Boone Logan was reliable and consistent enough to be the only left handed reliever to battle the lefty platoons of opposing teams.
Although he has been roughed up a bit at some points this season, he has still posted a 3.00 ERA and 31 K's in 29.1 innings.
As long as Logan can keep up with the left handed hitters in the postseason, on some of the more talented batting orders in baseball, New York will be fine with him as their only left handed specialist in the pen.
Aside from the slight uncertainty of Logan, New York has seen impressive performances from relievers Cory Wade, and Luis Ayala this season, and if the success of the bullpen of late can transfer into the postseason, New York will certainly have one of the stronger pens in the playoffs.
The Long Awaited Call Up of Jesus Montero
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Brian Cashman has an opportunity to look like a genius for not trading Jesus Montero at the deadline.
According to the Trenton Times, Montero could receive his call up in "the very near future."
Montero is hitting .283/.342/.429 with 10 home runs with AAA Scranton in 2011 and although this is a small step down from his performance in 2010, many believe that he is bored at the AAA level and was bitter after not making the New York squad out of spring training this year.
A call up to Montero before the end of the season has potential to fill a number of holes in the Yankees' lineup.
As a talented bat who can hit for average and power, as well as get on base, Montero will be a great DH, whether he fills the position full time or part time with Jorge Posada who currently fills the spot (Posada is hitting .230 with 9 home runs in 2011).
Montero, a catcher, will also be able to share time as a backstop with current catcher Russell Martin, who is experiencing his own problems at the plate this year.
With Montero being used as a part time catcher as well as DH, he will actively add a strong, efficient bat to the two weakest positions in New York's lineup.
This being said, by giving Russell Martin some time off between starts, he also opens up an opportunity for Martin's bat to improve as he would play a less important role in the order as a part time player.
The corresponding roster move to Montero's call up will likely be the designation of Francisco Cervelli to the minors, as I can't see the Yankees demoting Posada any time soon.
Keeping Posada in the lineup also gives him a chance to mentor the 21-year-old catcher and make his transition to the big club a much easier process.
Even with Posada underachieving this season, he still maintains the ability to take the ball yard with any swing of the bat and his presence in the clubhouse is compensatory for his shortcomings at the plate.
If Montero was in fact bored at the AAA level, now could be his time to prove that he is a major leaguer and he'll have the biggest stage in baseball to do it. Adding a bat like his to the lineup has the potential to answer a lot of question marks on the team as well as increase offensive production. In combination with a solidified rotation and a strong bullpen, the Yankees with Montero could make a case to reach the World Series in 2011.