New York Yankees: 10 Bold Predictions for Their 2011 Postseason
Over the past 100 years or so, there have been literally hundreds of "dynamic duos" who have commanded the attention of the masses.
Jordan and Pippen.
Batman and Robin.
Peanut Butter and Jelly.
Montana and Rice.
The New York Yankees and playoff baseball.
In the past 17 years, only once have the Yankees failed to reach the playoffs, that coming in 2008, Joe Girardi's first season as manager.
This year, the Yankees have been able to let their regulars rest up and have their prospects get some valuable time in what amount to meaningless games for them in the last week of the regular season.
What does it all mean for their chances in the postseason?
After the jump, 10 bold predictions for what lies ahead for the Yankees.
AJ Burnett Will Make a Start
Let's get this out of the way early.
With Phil Hughes having issues related to a herniated disc in his back, AJ Burnett will be the Yankees fourth starter in the ALDS against the Detroit Tigers.
AJ Burnett will actually pitch halfway decent for four innings against the Tigers.
AJ Burnett will implode in the fifth inning against the Tigers and cost the Yankees a game.
That will be the last we see of AJ Burnett in 2011.
CC Sabathia Will Get Back on Track...
Since August 1, CC Sabathia has not pitched as a perennial contender for the Cy Young Award should, going 4-3 with a 4.09 ERA and 1.51 WHIP.
While CC has struggled down the stretch, failing to record win No. 20 on the season on repeated occasions, I for one expect to see him back to his early season form in the playoffs. However, I think asking him to repeat what he did in July, when he went 4-1 with a 0.92 ERA and 0.80 WHIP over 39 innings, is asking a bit much.
That being said, Sabathia will pitch better than his numbers over the last two months suggest that he has.
Unfortunately, CC hasn't always been "automatic" for the Yankees in the playoffs.
In 2009, Sabathia went 3-1 with a 1.99 ERA and 1.03 WHIP throughout the Yankees run to a World Series championship.
In 2010, Sabathia went 2-0 with a 5.63 ERA and 1.81 WHIP as the Yankees were eliminated in the ALCS by the Texas Rangers.
Generally speaking, CC either has it or he doesn't. I expect to see him somewhere in the middle come Friday.
...But Ivan Nova Will Be the Yankees Most Reliable Starter
Raise your hand if coming out of Spring Training you thought Ivan Nova would be the Yankees No. 2 starter in the second half of the season and in the playoffs.
That's what I thought.
Nova has been amazing this season, having not lost a start since the first day of June.
That's nearly three months of unbeaten baseball, albeit he only made two starts in July as he was relegated to the minors to make room for the return of Phil Hughes.
Ivan Nova does not have overpowering stuff, but the stuff he has is doing the trick, or at least it's tricking the batters in the American League.
Sure, Nova has never thrown a pitch in the postseason, but there is no reason to think that the Rookie of the Year contender will not continue his outstanding season in the playoffs.
Derek Jeter Will Continue His Rebirth
In May, I called out the Yankee Universe for getting Derek Jeter's case.
A few weeks later, I called out Yankee Universe again, this time for talking out of both sides of their mouths.
In July I wrote how Derek Jeter "got it", even if you didn't.
On all three occasions, I was lambasted for being a "homer", for "not being realistic" for "holding onto the past" and ignoring reality.
I'm still waiting to hear from those same fans now that what I told you was going to happen has, well, happened—Derek Jeter's days as an everyday player are far from over.
But enough bragging.
Derek Jeter is one of the most prolific postseason players in baseball history; call him a compiler if you must, but the fact remains that his name litters the leaderboards of nearly every relevant offensive category.
At the very least, Jeter will provide his usual clutch hitting and solid defense, though nobody should be surprised if the captain goes on a bit of a tear.
Jesus Montero Will Make You a Believer
At this point, most Yankee fans are believers in the 21-year-old über-prospect.
All he's done since being called up at the beginning of September is hit the cover off the ball, putting up a .352 average, .435 OBP and drive in 12 runs.
Jesus Montero will make it known to the rest of the league what the Yankees have been saying all along—that Montero belongs in the same discussion as Mike Trout of the Anaheim Angels and Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals as the most exciting offensive prospect in all of baseball.
Hip Hip Jorge!
Just about two weeks ago, I told you that Jorge Posada would be left off the Yankees postseason roster, with Joe Girardi instead taking Austin Romine as a backup catcher and leaving Jorge on the outside looking in.
I must admit that I was wrong.
Jorge will make the postseason roster.
But that's not the bold prediction.
No, the bold prediction is this—Jorge Posada will win at least one playoff game with a swing of his bat.
While Posada has had what most will agree is a disappointing season, in the past month Jorge has continually come up in big spots, none bigger than his two-run-single in the bottom of the eighth inning in the second game of a doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays on September 21, a hit that clinched the AL East pennant for the Yankees.
The chances of Jorge Posada returning to the Yankees in 2012 are slim-to-none—but Jorge still has some gas left in the tank for this postseason run.
Hip Hip Jorge!
The Yankees Will Win the American League Championship Series
Last season, the Texas Rangers avenged three ALCS losses to the New York Yankees by beating the defending World Champions in six games, sending Texas to their first World Series.
The two teams will meet again in the ALCS, with the Yankees having dispatched the Detroit Tigers and the Rangers having squeaked past the Tampa Bay Rays, the surprising AL Wild Card winner in the ALDS.
While questions surround the starting pitching on both teams, the Yankees experience and deeper, more talented roster will be enough to push the Yankees over the Rangers in six games.
Curtis Granderson Will Win the First of Two MVP Awards
Curtis Granderson should win the 2011 American League MVP Award.
Apologies to Jose Bautista, Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury and Robinson Cano, but for my money, there has not been a better every-day player in the American League then Curtis Granderson.
Without Curtis Granderson, the Yankees would probably have still made the playoffs.
Without Curtis Granderson, the Yankees would lose in the first round of the playoffs.
Granderson has supplied clutch hitting and outstanding defense at a position that demands the latter and considers the former to be a blessing.
The best CF in baseball, Granderson will pick up a second MVP Award—when he is named the ALCS MVP.
Mariano Rivera Will Make an Announcement...
...that he is coming back for another season.
Mariano Rivera, the greatest relief pitcher of all-time and one of the ten best pitchers to ever toe the rubber in Major League Baseball history, will announce that he is returning for his 18th season with the Yankees.
As a matter of fact, I'll go a step further.
Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter will leave the Yankees at the same time, going out the same way that they came in—together.
It's only fitting.
The Yankees Will Lose to the Philadelphia Phillies in Five Games
In a rematch of the 2009 World Series, the New York Yankees will take on the Philadelphia Phillies.
Unlike 2009, the Yankees will lose to the Phillies in five games.
With a starting four of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, the Yankees potent offense will struggle to get into a groove.
On the other hand, the Phillies will find the Yankees starting pitching much more hittable than it was two years ago, sending the Phillies on to their third World Series championship.