Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Can The Yankees Do It?

The Yankees have won 13 of their last 19 games, and find themselves 4.5 games in back of a Wild Card berth into the postseason. A lot has been written about their chances of completing a comeback and getting to the playoffs, including something from me. But I'd like to give you some more precise reasons why I think they can get it done.

"I can't wait to hear this."

The Yankees have been hitting very well lately, and over the past 14 days they have the highest team batting fWAR in the American League. During that time they were led by Alfonso Soriano and his 6 HR, 19 RBI, and batting line of .333/.387/.684. Along with Soriano's production, Robinson Cano has hit .418/.448/.618. Curtis Granderson has come back strong as well, and is getting on base over 41% of the time since he returned to the team on August 2nd. Furthermore, Austin Romine has started hitting the ball well. Romine's triple-slash in August (37 plate appearances) is .310/.417/.448. Alex Rodriguez is doing his part too, having hit .284/.369/.473 since coming back.

Let's move to pitching, where Andy Pettitte has started to look like the Andy of old. In his last 3 starts, totalling 19.2 innings, Pettitte's given up just one earned run, and held opposing batters to a line of .221/.284/.309. I've talked a lot of trash on Ivan Nova, but I can't deny him props for what he's done since July 5th. In that time he has thrown at least 6.1 innings, which having an ERA of 2.34, and opposing hitters have batted .238/.309/.316. If Hiroki Kuroda can continue to pitch to a sub-3.00 ERA, and Sabathia can figure out just what in the hell is going on, then Yankee pitching can be a force.

"I got this, boys."

Last season, the Texas Rangers had a 5.5 game lead on the Oakland As, but the Athletics ended up winning that division. That same season, the Chicago White Sox had a 2 game lead on Detroit, yet they not only lost the AL Central to the Tigers, they completely missed the postseason.

In 2011, and Yankees fans are surely happy that I'm bringing this tidbit up, the Boston Red Sox had the best record in the American League. But the boys from Beantown played horrible down the stretch and missed the playoffs.

Back in the glorious year of 2009, before the Yankees defeated the Phillies for their 27th World Series title, the Tigers led the Minnesota Twins by 4.5 games in the AL Central. However, Detroit played so bad that they not only lost the division title, but missed the postseason.

Looking at who the Yankees are chasing for a Wild Card spot, we start with the Baltimore Orioles. So far this month, the Os have lost a series against the Mariners, Diamondbacks (three-game sweep), and Rays. They will start a three-game series against the Yankees on Friday, before going to New York to face them four more times. Baltimore also has 8 games left against the Red Sox, and four against the Rays.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians have played .500 ball in August, including a stretch of six straight losses to the Tigers and Angels. Their pitching has done well over the last month, but is it good enough to overcome an offense ranked last in the AL in terms of batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage? I'm not so sure, and Indians fans are surely biting their fingernails right now.

"We suck again!"

Then there's the Oakland Athletics, who are actually under .500 in August, having gone 11-12. Their offense has been mediocre during that time, while their pitching has been one of the worst in the league. The good news for them is that 20 of their last 31 games are against teams below .500, but the other 11 games against the Tigers, Rays, and Rangers. While Oakland fans surely feel better about their chances than Cleveland fans, they definitely should not start making plans to watch their favorite team in the postseason yet.

Finally there’s the Tampa Bay Rays, who currently have the best record among non-division leading teams in the American League. Over the past month both the Rays’ pitching and the Rays’ hitting have been “okay”. However, their hitting has been among the best in the league over the course of the season, while their pitching has been pretty good too. So the Yankees chances to get above them in the standings will be much tougher. We’ll just have to hope that they falter in their 14 games against the Athletics, Red Sox, Rangers and Orioles. While at the same time hoping the Yankees can get it done against Tampa Bay in their remaining three-game series.

I know it’s hard to imagine the Yankees making the postseason this year, after they played under .500 for an 81-game stretch between May and July (40-41). But you can’t look at those facts and count the Bombers out. I’m not saying the chances are good that we see the Yankees play another game after September 29th, but there’s no way I’m counting them out just yet.

"Let's do this!"

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)