Take Two

Clearly the stakes are very different for the Yankees and the Red Sox. The Sox need to sweep to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Yankees need to avoid being swept. But, if the Yankees can win two-of-three, they will clinch a playoff spot.

You never know what is going to happen in baseball, but chances are the division is gone. Most prediction sites put the Yankees division chances at 33% or lower. With the Rays having a soft schedule and the Yankees facing a tough one, it may behoove New York to rest people down the stretch. But, we aren’t at that point yet. Get the playoff spot wrapped up, watch what Tampa does and then calibrate accordingly. That should be the order of business this weekend.

More after the game.

Conflicting Information

YES gave conflicting information about the Yankees-Rays playoff tiebreakers last night. During the rain delay the played an interview Kim Jones did with Joe Maddon where she told him that the Rays would hold the tiebreaker if they won one of their remaining two games against the Yankees. During the game, Michael Kay said the tiebreaker could come down to divisional records. Based on this, I think Kay is right.

The Yankees have to win today to even the season series. That would bring in the second tiebreaker, divisional record. The Yankees are 35-27 in the AL East, the Rays are 40-28. The thing is, Tampa only has three games remaining against the AL East, while the Yankees have all of their games remaining against the AL East. So, if the Yankees, including a win today, finish 6-4, they will have a 41-31 record in the division. That would mean that Tampa would have to win two-of-three against Baltimore next week to take the tiebreaker. (assuming of course both teams end up with the same record)

Are you confused yet? Well, let’s kick it up a notch! If the two teams are tied after applying the divisional tiebreaker they would go to the second-half tiebreaker. Which, I believe the Rays would win because they finished the first half behind the Yankees and therefore would have to have a better second half record to tie the Yankees. Just don’t quote me.

A Big Myth

As the Yankees inch closer to a playoff spot, I keep reading how this year’s “condensed” playoff schedule will require them to have four starters available. Let’s take a look at the schedule and analyze it.

Start with the ALDS, which shapes up like this (both ALDS’s are the same schedule-wise this year) And for fun, let’s put some names in for possible starters

Game 1 October 6th- Sabathia
Game 2 October 7th- Pettitte
Day off
Game 3- October 9th- Hughes
Game 4- October 10th- Sabathia on three-days rest
Day off
Game 5- October 12th- Pettitte on full rest

So the Yankees could get through the ALDS with three pitchers if they let Sabathia make one start on three-days rest.

On to the ALCS

Game 1- October 15th- Sabathia on full rest
Game 2- October 16th-Pettitte on three-days rest if Game 5 was played or Hughes
Day off
Game 3- October 18th- Hughes or Pettitte on full rest
Game 4- October 19th- Sabathia on three-days rest
Game 5- October 20th- Game 2 starter on three-days rest
Day off
Game 6- October 22nd- Game 3 starter on three-days rest
Game 7- October 23rd- Sabathia on three-days rest

This is essentially a replay of the 2009 World Series. Sabathia started Game 1. Pitched Game 4 on three-days rest and would have pitched Game 7 under the same conditions if it had been played. Burnett pitched Game 2 and Game 5 on three-days rest and Pettitte pitched Game 3 and Game 6 on three-days rest. Basically, we have seen this before.

Which brings us to the World Series
Game 1- October 27- Sabathia on three-days rest or Pettitte fully rested
Game 2- October 28- Sabathia fully rested or Pettitte fully rested
Day off
Game 3- October 30- Hughes fully rested
Game 4- October 31- Game 1 starter on three-days rest
Game 5- November 1- Game 2 starter on three-days rest
Day off
Game 6- November 3rd- Game 3 starter on three-days rest
Game 7-November 4th- Game 4 starter on three days rest

As mentioned above, this is what they did in the Series last year.

Now, I am not suggesting this approach- yet. I still think the Yankees need to see how everyone is pitching over the final 12 games. If AJ pitches well tonight, that would encourage me to consider giving him the ball in the playoffs. Also, I think the results of the ALDS will define the Yankees’ pitching plans. If they swept that series, I could see them employing a three-man rotation in the next two rounds. If they had to go five games, they would probably ease off and go to four guys. The point is, the schedule is still setup to allow them to pitch only three starters throughout October, if they want to.

Who Can it Be Now

Imagine my surprise yesterday, while stopped at a red light on Rt 9 eastbound in Brookline, when who should I see but the General Manager of the Boston Red Sox.  He was driving a very spiffy 5 or 7 Series BMW.

Once I concluded it was actually Epstein (no doubt it was him, my brain just took a few seconds to actually believe it was him), I quickly fumbled for my notebook entitled "What went wrong for the Red Sox in 2010."  Being that Epstein was behind me, I had to figure out a way to get next to him, you know, to share my thoughts on the season.  I was certain he’d be interested.

We both took a left on Brookline Ave, a double lane road that is a straight shot past the hospitals, right to Fenway.  I gave him the left lane while I took the right, when all of a sudden, he hooked a left at Aspinwall Ave and left me going straight on Brookline.  I’m mean, seriously, he mustn’t have seen me.  I only had gems of wisdom to offer and I’m sure I looked level headed and calm.  No chance he saw my police ankle bracelet.

Well, just like my conversation with Theo that never started, the 2010 season never got going.  With Coolstandings.com giving the Red Sox a 0.4% chance of making the playoffs, I don’t feel too bad throwing in the towel at this point.

Yes, they made a nice mid-season run, but poor play, injuries and a lack of anything dynamic doomed this team from the start.  They’ll still win close to 90 games, but that just isn’t enough in the AL East.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll discuss the projected additions and subtractions by the Red Sox in hopes of building a better squad for 2011.  What will the free agent market look like and will the Red Sox actually partake in free agency given the recent mixed back of free agent signings (Lackey and Beltre).

When will the Red Sox develop a power hitter (still waiting current Red Sox ownership) and might we see an outfield of Ryan Kalish, Jacoby Ellsbury and JD Drew next year?  Let’s just let this season slip quietly away and start to get ready for 2011.

We’re Under Attack

Over the last few weeks, this blog has received an average of 150 spam comments a day. Moderating this volume lead to some legitimate comments being junked. I believe I restored all the legitimate comments today and I apologize for the inconvenience.

We are looking at some new ways of handling this spam assault and we should be rolling out some new measures in the next couple of weeks. If you want to make sure your comment gets approved, you can always register for a Type Pad ID. It’s fast, it’s free and it gets you easy access to almost any blog running the Moveable Type Platform.

If you are having trouble or have concerns, please feel free to email me at peter@yankeesredsox.com

As always, thanks for your support.

Strange Thinking

Let’s move beyond the positive for a minute and ask a couple of questions about tonight’s game. Start with this- considering Ivan Nova’s track record to date, why didn’t the Yankees have anyone warming up in the sixth inning? Next question is why did Girardi let Nova dig the hole he did in the sixth before replacing him? And finally, considering the fact that the Yankees used Robertson, Wood for more than an inning and Rivera tonight, what was Gaudin doing in that game in the sixth? Why didn’t Girardi go to Robertson and then figure it out from there/

It all worked out in the end and with the Red Sox loss, the Yankees have an 8-game lead with 12 to play. The only thing working agains them is the fact that six of their remaining games are against the Red Sox. But, they control their own destiny, now they just have to figure out what they are going to make of that.

Not Bad

The Yankees almost pulled off a perfect ceremony for George Steinbrenner tonight.  It was surprisingly understated and they made the very smart move of inviting Joe Torre and Don Mattingly back to Yankee Stadium to start rebuilding the relationship between Torre and the team.

But, they had to get a bit hyperbolic on the plaque.  Crediting Steinbrenner with making the Yankees the most famous sports team in the world is a slap in the face to all the history that came before him.  George "led" the Yankees to seven titles, they won 20 before he showed up.  What George really did was restore the Yankees to glory and he did it twice.  First when he originally bought the team and then in the mid-90’s when he started listening to guys like Bob Watson and Gene Michael. 

Now we’ve got a pretty big ballgame going on.  The Yankees really need to take 3-of-4 if they want any chance of winning the division.  The rookie gets the ball tonight, back after the game.  

Exhale

The Yankees needed that one.  They needed to feel good about themselves again and they desperately needed a win.  A-Rod got them that with two swings of the bat and the Yankees’ weekend took a dramatic turn for the better.

Let’s start with Boston and Tampa both losing.  The Yankees now have a 1/2-game lead on Tampa and a 7-game lead on Boston.  The Tampa lead is insignificant at this point, but with the Rays and Yankees set to play four-straight next week, the Yankees need to keep a healthy lead on Boston.  

Add in the fact that AJ Burnett pitched well and the Yankees have a lot of reasons to smile today.  Now they need to use this a springboard towards a winning streak. 

Buckle Up

Slog is the word that comes to my mind when I think of the remaining 16 games facing the Yankees. Three in Baltimore, four at home against Tampa, three more at home against Boston, three in Toronto and three in Boston. See any easy games on that docket?

Tampa closes with 10 games against three bad teams. Minnesota is now right there record-wise with the Yankees and Tampa. And, to make matters worse, the Red Sox are now “only” six games behind the Yankees. That means if they can pull off two sweeps of New York (not saying it’s likely, but possible) they would be dead even with the Yankees.

Basically, the Yankees need to kick it into gear again. Joe Girardi and Dave Eiland justified their pitching choices Monday Night by saying that “sometimes you need to lose the battle to win the war.” I hate the metaphor, but the Yankees are in danger of losing “the war” They went 1-5 in their tour through Texas and Tampa partly because the other team had last licks. That would make securing home field advantage an important consideration in my mind.

Obviously, you have to make sure that you don’t take stupid risks with players. But, Girardi needs to step back and take a look at his decision making. He was ok using Kerry Wood on three-of-four nights, but not Robertson or Joba because Wood has “been around”. That’s a pretty shocking statement considering Wood’s injury history and the cynic in me wonders if what he really meant was that Wood is a free agent next season and Robertson and Joba will be Yankees in 2011. Either way, it’s time for Joe to realize that the next 16 games will be a fight to the finish and act accordingly.

Disaster Averted

What just happened? Did we just see the Yankees blow a 6-0 lead, fall behind 7-6, tie the game up, go ahead 8-7 and then win on a boneheaded baserunning play by Carl Crawford? Can we all start breathing again now?

The bottom line is the Yankees got a win they desperately needed. After taking that lead, losing this game would have been a crushing blow. Instead, they won, they are back in first (not really since they are tied in the loss column) and they have a chance to walk out of Tampa with a series win.

That’s enough for now. Let’s all just enjoy this and save the analysis for tomorrow.