Thursday, September 30, 2010

Taking A Look At What Could Lie Ahead For The Yankees

Just got back from Toronto about 5 minutes ago. It's about 2:30am and I'm going to have to get up with my kids in about 3 hours. I'm super-tired but I had to blog. Got some stuff I wanted to drop sooner rather than later. First things first, Toronto was fun. Went to 2 of the 3 games. Unfortunately they were the 2 games the Yankees lost. Guess I had that kind of luck this trip. Did get some good autographs though. That made the trip worth it. While there I got into some spirited debate with some fellow Yankee fans about the end of the season and preferences for the postseason. Here's my take:

Tomorrow's Rays' game is pretty huge. The way I see it is if the Rays win the Yankees are the wild card team. A Rays' win puts the Yankees 1 game back with 3 to play. The Rays hold the tie-breaker so if they finish the season tied that means the Yanks are the WC. So the Yanks would have to gain 2 games on the Rays over the final 3 days. The only way they can do that is if the Rays lose at least 2 of their last 3 games, which is highly unlikely since they're playing the 65-93 Kansas City Royals. The only chance the Yankees have of winning the division is if the Rays lose tomorrow, err, I mean later today as it's 2:30am. I don't see TB losing 2 of final 3. Possible, but really doubtful. Now here's where the debate comes in.

What playoff scenario do you prefer? Winning the AL East and hosting the Texas Rangers in the ALDS and having home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, or, being the wild card and going to Minnesota in the ALDS and not having HFA at all throughout the playoffs? The way I'm currently looking at it, I'd take the wild card. Follow me on this.

If the Yankees win the East that means they play the Rangers and that means they'd face Cliff Lee, possibly twice, both times likely in Yankee Stadium, where LHPs fare quite well. If Texas were smart, they'd throw CJ Wilson, another LHP, in game 2. They may have a winning record against them but the Yankees struggle against LHPs. Don't quote me on this but I thought I heard it somewhere recently and I'm too lazy to look it up, but I think the Yankees have lost 8-9 straight against LHPs. Again, not 100% on the stat but regardless they haven't done well recently against LHPs. I think facing Lee and Wilson in Yankee Stadium could be a death sentence. The Yankees would have to counter with Sabathia & Pettitte. Beating Texas wouldn't be out of the question. I think it might be a tall order, especially when you consider how the Yankees have been playing.

Now if the Yankees end up the WC they'll head to Minnesota where they'll face LHP Francisco Liriano in game 1 and not sure who they'd face in game 2. I'd guess Carl Pavano. If I'm Ron Gardenhire I'd have them face LHP Brian Duensing in game 3 in Yankee Stadium. CC would obviously go in game 1 for the Yankees. If I'm Joe Girardi I throw Phil Hughes in game 2. Hughes has fared better on the road this year. His ERA is 3.52 on the road vs. 4.66 at home. He's allowed 5 HRs on the road versus 20 at home. The Yankees are better off if Hughes pitches on the road. Target Field also seems to be a pitcher's park. I think it'll work in the Yankees favor to have Hughes start there in game 2, as opposed to game 3 in Texas, which is a hitter's park. A 1-2 of CC and Hughes would allow you to break up the LHPs by starting Andy Pettitte in game 3 at Yankee Stadium. If the Yankees happen to find themselves down 2-1 after 3 they'd probably bring back CC on short rest. Again, Yankee Stadium is a park where LHPs typically do better. Pettitte & CC back-to-back in Yankee Stadium works for me, especially when Cliff Lee isn't in the opposing dugout. It would also neutralize Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau (assuming he's cleared to play-guessing won't be). And let's face it, come playoff time, the Yankees own the Twins. They may in fact own them altogether. They did after all take 4 of 6 against them this year, winning 2 of 3 both at Yankee Stadium and at Target Field.

I don't know. Maybe I haven't thought this through all the way. As I typed it all out I began to question my preference to face the Twins a little bit. My gut is telling me "wild card." My head is starting to say "home field advantage." HFA is really important, especially to a team that's 52-29 at home. But Cliff Lee in a short series, likely pitching twice in Yankee Stadium? That scares me. It scares me a lot.


Peace, love and Pinstripes,