10 Reasons the New York Yankees Won't Make It Past the AL Division Series

Elliott Pohnl@@ElliottPohnl_BRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 28, 2010

10 Reasons the New York Yankees Won't Make It Past the AL Division Series

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 26:  Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees walks off the mound after giving up the tying run in the ninth-inning against the Boston Red Sox on September 26, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankee
    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    The New York Yankees are sputtering down the stretch and could find themselves as the American League Wild Card team once the playoffs get underway.

    A.J. Burnett struggled yet again as the Yankees suffered a 7-5 loss to the Blue Jays in Toronto Monday night.

    New York's magic number to clinch a playoff spot is still stuck at one following their fifth loss in six games.

    Make no mistake, the reigning World Champions have big problems as the postseason rapidly approaches.

    Here's a look at 10 reasons why the Yankees won't make it out of the ALDS.

No. 10: Tampa Bay Is In Better Shape Down The Stretch

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    ST PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: Pitcher Matt Garza #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays delivers a pitch against the Seattle Mariners at Tropicana Field on September 25, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)
    Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

    The few fans who actually came out to support their hometown team in Tampa Monday night witnessed a rare loss with the Rays closing in on the AL East crown.

    The Orioles blanked the Rays, 4-0, and helped keep hope alive for the Yankees, but Monday's loss could just be postponing the inevitable.

    Tampa has won four of six games to pull in front of the Yanks, and has its starting rotation in good shape heading into October.

    An AL East championship seems very likely for the scrappy Rays.

No. 9: Watch Out For Texas

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    BALTIMORE - AUGUST 22:  Vladimir Guerrero #27 of the Texas Rangers celebrates with Josh Hamilton #32 and Julio Borbon #29 after hitting a home run in the fifth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on August 22, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    The Rangers are young, inexperienced and clearly overachieved in winning the AL West relatively easily this season.

    That doesn't mean they aren't good enough to beat the Yankees.

    Texas dropped four of six to New York in the regular season, but poses a huge challenge to New York, especially if MVP candidate Josh Hamilton is able to return and be effective in the postseason.

    The Rangers' running game could also be a huge factor against the Yankees, with Elvis Andrus and a host of others capable of swiping bags.

    That could be the difference in a close game.

No. 8: Struggles Down The Stretch

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 21:  Mark Teixeira #25 of the New York Yankees runs on a two run double hit by Robinson Cano in the seventh inning against the Tampa Bay Rays on September 21, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  The Yankees
    Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    While Tampa Bay hasn't exactly lit up baseball in September, New York has been slightly worse.

    The Yankees are 10-14 in September and have been plagued with horrific starting pitching throughout the month.

    The big bats have cooled off a bit as well, with Robinson Cano posting his lowest OBP and slugging percentages of the season in September, and Mark Teixeira batting just .227 in the last month.

    Even Mariano Rivera has struggled, blowing three saves while posting a high ERA.

    In the end, it all comes down to the starting pitching...

No. 7: Javier Vasquez Likely Headed For Long-Relief Role

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 23:  Javier Vazquez #31 of the New York Yankees walks off the mound after giving up two runs in the seventh-inning against the Tampa Bay Rays on September 23, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mi
    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Javy Vasquez has always been known as a painfully inconsistent starting pitcher who has never really fulfilled his full potential.

    This season, he has sandwiched awful months around decent success in both June and July.

    From start to finish, Vasquez had been nothing short of awful for the Yankees as a starter.

    His struggles have sent him to the bullpen, where he could be dropped down to a long-relief role after a brutal 7.23 ERA in September.

    Given the health concerns of Andy Pettitte, the Yanks could have really used Vasquez in the postseason this year.

    He simply can't be counted on to perform at this point.

No. 6: Andy Pettitte's Age and Health

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 24:  Andy Pettitte #46 of the New York Yankees kicks the mound during a game against the Boston Red Sox on September 24, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
    Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    It doesn't take much to derail the health of 38-year-old, veteran starting pitcher Andy Pettitte.

    A groin injury brought his surprising success to a halt in late July.

    Since coming off the DL, Pettitte has been ineffective, allowing seven earned runs in eight and one-third innings in two starts.

    Despite his struggles, the crafty lefty appears to have the inside track to be the Yankees' third starter heading into the postseason.

    The Yankees' starting rotation is that bad.

No. 5: A.J. Burnett Just Keeps Getting Worse

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 22: Francisco Cervelli #29 of the New York Yankees talks with team mate A.J Burnett #34 in the third inning against the Tampa Bay Rays during their game on September 22, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (
    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    Unlike Andy Pettitte, A.J. Burnett has no known health issues that could be limiting his performance.

    And what an awful performance Burnett has had this season.

    At 10-15 with an ERA well over five, he is likely to become the first Yankee starter to post an ERA over five while losing at least 15 games.

    His command has been off all season, and he has been absolutely hammered on numerous occasions.

    Once one of the best strikeout pitchers in baseball, Burnett has pitched to contact this year and allowed 198 hits in 182 innings.

    His role on the Yankees postseason roster remains unclear, but he isn't likely to smell the starting rotation.

    The quest to find a reliable third starter might never end.

No. 4: Phil Hughes Isn't a Reliable No. 2 Starter

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 21:  Phil Hughes #65 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays on September 21, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
    Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    Since the Yankees don't have a clear No. 3 starter, the performance of No. 2 Phil Hughes takes on an even greater importance.

    The All-Star righty has been awful in the second half of the season, with an ERA just under five.

    At this point, Hughes has the credentials and experience of a No. 3 starter on a playoff team.

No. 3: Mariano Rivera Is Struggling

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 26:  Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees delivers a pitch in the ninth-inning against the Boston Red Sox on September 26, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees won 4-3.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/
    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    After his blown save against the Red Sox Sunday night brought September's total to three, questions are swirling around Rivera.

    The 40-year-old has allowed more hits than innings pitched this month and has posted a 5.06 ERA.

    In an effort to reverse his fortunes, he has spent extra time working with pitching coach Dave Eiland.

    Having battled nagging back and knee issues all season, Rivera could be running out of steam.

    Without one of the greatest postseason performers ever in top form, the Yankees appear to be in trouble.

No. 2: The Blueprint Just Isn't There

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 26: Manager Joe Girardi #28 of the New York Yankees looks on during warm-ups prior to their game against the Boston Red Sox on September 26, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Ima
    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    The struggles of the Yankees starting pitching make it unlikely that the blueprint 2.0 will go exactly as planned for Joe Girardi.

    Last October, CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and A.J. Burnett were ready to go and started a combined 15 games in the postseason.

    More importantly, they gave the Yankees a relative sense of comfort throughout the playoffs.

    This year, that same comfort level won't be there as the quest for continuity isn't likely to come to an end.

No. 1: Can't Count On Offense to Win In The Postseason

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 23:  CC Sabathia #52, Derek Jeter #2, Mark Teixeira #25 and Alex Rodriquez #13 of the New York Yankees looks on against the Tampa Bay Rays on September 23, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike
    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Without having dependable starting pitching outside of CC Sabathia, the Yankees will need to get huge production from their bats to survive the ALDS.

    As history has proven, great pitching usually defeats great offense in the postseason.

    The Yankees will need Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira to reverse their paltry late-season fortunes and help carry the team to the ALCS.

    Joe Girardi has his work cut out for him.