Derek Jeter's postseason importance is recognized, but will he be the most crucial Yankee in October?
After a thrilling finale to baseball's regular season, the playoffs are set. The Yankees begin their postseason push Friday against the Tigers. They have had some time to rest important players and set their rotation for their ALDS series, meaning everything is ready to roll.
As with every playoff team, certain players will need to step up for the Yankees to have a chance at winning it all.
Their regular season has defined players and their roles, but it is now time to carry those responsibilities into October.
Here are ten players whom the Yankees will lean on to perform in order for their World Series hopes to come true.
Sabathia led the Yankees to a World Series before, and he will have to do it again in 2011.
If the Yankees are going to win the World Series, it will start with C.C. Sabathia.
Assuming the Yankees make and win the title, Sabathia could have up to seven starts, over half of the necessary wins (11) it takes to win it all. He certainly did his part in 2009, but this season will be much more demanding.
It starts in Game 1 of the ALDS, as he will be matched up against presumable-Cy Young-winner Justin Verlander in Yankee Stadium.
This could potentially be his most important start in this postseason. If the Yankees fall in Game 1, it can allow Jim Leyland to eat his words about not starting Verlander in Game 4 no matter what.
Sabathia is already starting two games in the series, so an early win can seriously increase their chances of advancing in the playoffs.
Granderson could be the most important offensive player this postseason for the Yankees.
C.C. Sabathia has to pitch the Yankees to the World Series.
Curtis Granderson has to hit them there.
Of all the offensive players in New York, none will have more pressure and expectations than Granderson. After a tremendous regular season, this will be his first playoff appearance with a major spotlight on him. He will be the catalyst of the offense, moving leadoff hitter Derek Jeter around the bases and setting the table for the middle of the order.
He will easily be the biggest power hitter to bat from the two-hole in the lineup, meaning he can add a unique bat for the Yankees. He is not easily neutralized by a left-handed pitcher, either, a very valuable quality to have in the playoffs.
If Granderson excels, especially against front-of-the-rotation starters, the Yankees can not only win this October, but they can roll teams over. It will be very rare if he is the only productive player, but he can carry the offense to a title if he's hot.
Posada's postseason experience cannot be questioned, but his five rings may not buy him a pass in 2011.
Yankees' manager Joe Girardi recently announced that Jorge Posada will start as designated hitter this October, a role many people did not see coming. He has apparently proven that he deserves a spot in what could be his final postseason, but it is time to prove he is worthy of the position.
Other players may be better, but few have his playoff experience. He shares his five World Series rings with teammates Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, but he will need to perform in order to win his sixth.
There's no doubt he could be the most valuable DH on the Yankees, combining his good power with switch-hitting. His use as a switch-hitter has been suspect all season, however, as he has been virtually useless from the right side of the plate.
If he can contribute, however, the Yankees will have filled a void and solved a problem they've probably been dreading for some time now.
They will have a good DH in the playoffs, and will also have a happy Posada in what will most likely be his final days as a Yankee.
Robertson has been simply electric out of the bullpen in 2011.
Every playoff team has an X-factor, an ace in the hole, and the Yankees' is clearly David Robertson. In 2011, Robertson had his coming out party, finishing with a microscopic 1.08 ERA and a stunning 100 strikeouts in 66.2 innings.
He has taken the eighth inning as his own, setting up Mariano Rivera beautifully. But this postseason will be his biggest test.
Set-up men like Tom Gordon and Joba Chamberlain have failed in October for the Yankees, costing them dearly on big stages. Robertson is probably the most impressive yet, however, sporting decent location with fantastic stuff, and an ability to strike out any player at any time.
Robertson will have the biggest load on him of any pitcher, as he will be brought in during the most difficult of situations. If he can handle those spots, the Yankees will have a very good chance of winning this October.
Cano is the Yankees' best hitter, but will he be in October?
Robinson Cano had another ho-hum, excellent season in 2011, batting .302 with 28 home runs and 118 RBI. His postseasons have only been ho-hum, however, as he carries a .248 average into the 2011 postseason.
With that said, it's time for Cano to become the Yankees best playoff player and win his second ring, solidifying himself as a postseason veteran in pinstripes.
If he can stand out this October, he will elevate himself to an elite status, putting himself up as the next generation's Derek Jeter for the next decade. It will not only benefit him, but more importantly the team.
There is no pitch Cano can't hit or handle, making his bat potentially the most valuable on the team.
Will Burnett get a curtain call this October?
A.J. Burnett's final starts may have given him a spot in the postseason rotation for the Yankees. It's a good thing for him, but there's a lot of question of whether it's good for the team, as many people expect imminent doom for any game he starts in October.
Burnett will most likely never get the ball in a Game 5 or 7 in a series, but his middle-of-the-series starts could prove extremely important.
Burnett doesn't have to be legendary, but just give the team a chance to win the game. If he can make it to the sixth inning intact and not self-destruct, the Yankees have a good-enough bullpen to bring the team home.
Everyone knows his postseason resume, but 2011 gets no pass on his importance.
Derek Jeter's postseason statistics are startling: he is the all-time playoff leader in hits, extra-base hits and games played, and most importantly in his eyes, has five World Series rings.
This October, however, Jeter will have a role he has not played yet in his career.
For the first time, Jeter will be the lead-off hitter and have a slight question mark over his head while doing so. Yes, his second half of 2011 was excellent, bringing his average back up to .297, but this is always has been his time to shine.
Though the core of their lineup doesn't need help scoring runs, Jeter's assistance at the top of the order will make winning much easier. With him on base creating runs, it could make beating tough pitchers easier for the rest of the team.
Unlike most players, however, Jeter can achieve these expectations. He has reached them before, and unless you want to bet against him, he will be again.
How super will Nova be in 2011?
Ivan Nova has exploded onto the scene in 2011, finishing the regular season with a 16-4 record and 3.70 ERA. The 24-year-old rookie is being thrown right into the fire of October, setting up to pitch behind Sabathia in the rotation.
Though he's a rookie, there's no reason to believe he'll fail. His qualities and intangibles as a pitcher are very conducive to pitching in the postseason, like the ability to hold leads and get out of tough situations.
Nova is set up to send his career to the next level, similar to that of Andy Pettitte's in 1996, where he cemented his place as a big-game pitcher. If Nova can do the same, the Yankees are set up to win with him and Sabathia leading the way, getting the ball at least four games a series.
Gardner didn't have a great season, but his impacts in October could have great results.
Of all the players on the Yankees' postseason roster, Brett Gardner has the most unique qualities to help the team.
No other player has the explosive speed of Gardner, allowing him to create pure havoc on the bases. And in the playoffs, stolen bases can mean runs, which are much tougher to come by against elite pitching.
If is not the word for Gardner, however, but rather must. He must fill in the bottom of the lineup productively, turning him into a second leadoff hitter and Jeter into a two-hitter, something that would be even more productive if Gardner could perform.
Without his bat, and more importantly his feet, the Yankees will have a very limited offense, relying mainly on their bats and not A-B-C run production to score.
In the postseason, that can be a disaster, meaning Gardner has to do well.
Rivera is the best closer ever, with his postseason performances defining him in the past.
The Yankees' last four championships finished with Mariano Rivera on the mound. His postseason statistics are enough to put him in the Hall of Fame, even if you disregard that he's the all-time saves leader in the regular season as well.
His importance this season, even at the age of 41, can't be minimized. He must put his 0.71 postseason ERA to work, because the entire pitching staff is built on his ability to close games.
Other than Sabathia, every starter is expected to get six innings in the books and turn it over to the bullpen, whose only function is to get the ball and the lead to Rivera.
But if there's only player who can have assumptions of success, it's Rivera. There's no reason to expect anything less than greatness this October, and if he is great, the Yankees will claim their 28th championship .