The New York Yankees could once again be a first-round match-up for the Detroit Tigers, and it is my assumption that our local casual fans of the game understand some basic principals surrounding the team that dons the pinstripes.
For one, it doesn’t take Bill James to realize the Yankees are a good hitting team.
And also, it should be fairly obvious that this year’s version of the Bronx Bombers are a tad thin in the starting pitching department. My own personal Yankee insider Nick Shlain, good friend and former partner at detroitbaseballpage.com, suggested to me today that New York’s rotation come playoff time could very well be C.C., Ivan Nova and Bartolo Colon in round one.
One could make the leap, that if Sabathia failed to get the job done in a game one, the Yankees could find themselves on thin ice. Ivan Nova has been very impressive this year, but he has yet to have his post-season cherry popped. And Colon, who is in the twilight of his career, has found himself in a rough patch this past month. Since August 23rd, Colon is 0-2 with a 4.88 ERA, and opponents are hitting him at a .282/.295/.460 clip.
This leaves us wondering, how will the Yankees be able to hand the ball off to Soriano and Rivera with a lead? Yes, the Yankees offense is daunting, but they won’t be facing cupcake starting pitching come playoff time.
Well, here’s the thing…
The Yankees bullpen is way deeper than some of us have been led to believe.
For example, in a game early Wednesday afternoon against the Rays, a game Tampa desperately needed to stay afloat in the Wild Card race, the Yankees shut down the Rays with only the use of their bullpen. Phil Hughes was a late scratch, and the Yankees responded by piecing together a bullpen day that featured five to six guys most of America is unfamiliar with to defeat James Shields and the Rays 4-2.
Here’s a short pop-quiz: Do you know which bullpen in the AL is tops in wins above replacement? Yes, it is in fact the New York Yankees.
We of course are all familiar with Mariano Rivera . He’s that one guy who just became the all-time leader in saves. Most of us have probably heard of David Robertson, the guy with the ridiculous 13.5 K/9 rate. Raphael Soriano was probably on the verge of getting run out of town the first couple months of the season, but in the second half the guy has been pretty much lights out.
Who you might not be familiar with are guys like Hector Noesi, the gentleman who took the ball in the first inning earlier today and flashed brilliant stuff. The one glitch in his afternoon came via a Desmond Jennings two-run homer, which was actually more of an incredible at-bat by the Rays rookie instead of a poor pitch from Noesi.
Then you got Cory Wade, a dynamic 28-year-old right-hander who has tossed 35 innings this year and carries an ERA just over two. And you have the Cuban Raul Valdes, who seems to have a knack for stranding runners on the base paths.
So yes, it is true. The Yankees have a glaring defect in the starting pitching department to worry about come the post-season, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be the death of them. The Yankees will have plenty of arms to go to if Nova and Colon struggle out of the gate.