The Yankees had a three choices headed into today’s doubleheader.
- Play to win right off the bat. Put all your best players in Game 1 and your best starter (Severino) and hope you win the game. If you don’t regroup and go from there.
- Play to win the nightcap. Save your best players and starter for Game 2 and let the chips fall where the may in Game 1.
- Play it halfway in both games. Put some starters in the first, some in the second and spread out the bullpen.
Some will accuse me of Monday Morning QB’ing here, but my conviction is that Girardi chose the wrong strategy by not picking 1 or 2. Think about it this way. The Yankees had those choices to make, but they also knew that if they didn’t succeed today, they had a chance to succeed tomorrow. However, failure today meant you had to succeed tomorrow.
Under that scenario, why wouldn’t you pick a game today to go all-out for a win, while realizing you had tomorrow to fall back on? You could pick either game, the point is you picked one of them and used your best lineup, your best pitchers and went from there. If you lost, you had tomorrow to regroup and try again.
Keep in mind the other factor in all of this, the Yankees didn’t play Friday. They were rested coming into today and they could get two days of rest by winning a game today. Instead, they half-assed it on both ends and now they have to try to win a game tomorrow.
The Yankees are in the wild card game. Now the two questions are where will it be played and who will be their opponent?
The Yankees have full control over the first question. Win one of their three remaining games and the game is in Yankee Stadium. They might not even need to do that as one loss by Houston produces the same result. To that end, I disagree with Joe Girardi’s idea to put all his bench players in the game tonight (if there is a game tonight) I would rather win tonight, and take the rest of the weekend off than rest tonight and then possibly have to crank it up later this weekend.
The opponent may take a little while. Minnesota and Anaheim both trail Houston by one game. Of the three,
Anaheim may have the easiest schedule as they are playing Texas who clinched the AL West last night and can’t change the fact that they will open the ALDS on the road. (Thanks to BL for pointing out that last night’s celebration was simply about clinching a playoff spot, the magic number is 1 for the division.) Houston is in Arizona, a team eliminated a long time ago, but with some dangerous young players. Minnesota hosts Kansas City, winners of the AL Central, but locked in a tie with Toronto for the best record in the AL. If all three teams end in a tie, a massive two-day tiebreaker would commence. That’s what you root for as a Yankees’ fan.
I’ll have more as the weekend develops. One cool thing baseball is doing on Sunday is starting all the games within a ten-minute window of each other. Everything launches around 3:05pm, so we could have some exciting and simultaneous finishes in the race for the final playoff spot.
The last two night’s have been bad, but last night’s start by Michael Pineda is a real problem because it once again exposes the complete schizophrenia of Pineda’s starts.
Pineda has made 26 starts this year. He is 12-9. Consider these numbers.
In his 12 wins, he has an ERA of 1.96
In his 9 losses, he has an ERA of 8.27
In his 5 no-decisions he has an ERA of 3.60
So based on his 2015 season so far, there is about a 1/3 chance that he will be absolutely destroyed on the mound like he was last night.
Now, here is the problem for the Yankees. If Pineda is getting the ball in a potential Game 1 of the ALDS, last night was his last start of the regular season. If you are Joe Girardi, do you really want to do that? I wouldn’t, and the means you probably start Pineda on Sunday. That in turn means you need a different guy to start that Game 1. Who is that? Ugh.
Of course, the Yankees still have some work to do before any of that matters. They still need to clinch a wild card spot and win a wild card game. That is going to be made harder by the weather this upcoming week and weekend here in NY and Baltimore. In short, it is going to be wet. Possibly incredibly wet. I heard a weatherman say this morning that the sun will come out again next week.
It looks like tonight’s game should be playable. Tomorrow’s may be in trouble, and this weekend in Baltimore could be a total washout. You have to play all 162, so we could be in for a long, long, weekend of rain delays, game time changes, and doubleheaders. Just what you want as you try to clinch a playoff spot.
Chad Jennings of LoHud, pointed out that the Yankees can clinch tonight with a win and losses by Anaheim, Texas, and Minnesota. Didn’t I just tell you that Three was the magic number?
It still is, but the scenario outlined above works because Texas plays Anaheim four times this weekend. So, if the Yankees win, they are at 87 wins. Anaheim could still get to 87, but doing that would require sweeping Texas. And Texas, with a loss tonight and that result, could only get to 86 wins. Meanwhile, Houston which is off tonight, can still get to 88 wins, but in the scenario above they would win the AL West while Texas stayed home. And in the scenario listed above, the Yankees would host the wild card game thanks to a 4-2 record over Anaheim. Confused now?
In other news, Masahiro Tanaka is pitching Wednesday which gives him five days off before a potential Wild Card game.
It’s pretty simple for how the playoffs will work for the Yankees. Toronto’s magic number is three to clinch the AL East and the Yankees’s magic number to clinch a wild card appearance, and a home game, is three as well.
So we know what needs to be done, now comes the matter of doing it, and there is one big decision the Yankees need to make shortly. When are they going to start Tanaka this week? The latest they can start him is Thursday if they want to have him on regular rest for the Wild Card Game. I suspect they will aim a bit earlier. Starting him Wednesday puts him in line to pitch on extra rest in the Wild Card Game while starting him Tuesday gives them the option of using him next Sunday if that game has turned into a must-win.
While the Yankees count down the days until a playoff clincher, I have one request. Can everyone ditch the ridiculous scuba googles that have become ubiquitous in MLB clubhouses? Champagne really doesn’t hurt that much!
And if you didn’t get the title, I clearly miss Schoolhouse Rock. I wish they still had something like it for my kids.
Give the Blue Jays all the credit in the world, they owned the Yankees this season. They went 13-6 against them, and they currently own a 3-1/2 game lead over them with 11 to play. Barring a miracle, the Yankees are not winning the AL East. That’s ok. Last year demonstrated that the current playoff format still allows a wild card team to advance to the World Series. What the Yankees have to do now is think about how to get to the playoffs and how to win once they get there.
Step one is clinching the wild card. The magic number for that is 7. Any combination of Yankee wins and Minnesota losses that add up to 7 gets them into the wild card game. Since Houston has played two more games than the Yankees, that combination of wins and losses by New York and Houston, will clinch home field advantage in the wild card game.
Step two is putting Tanaka in line to pitch the wild card game. That won’t be hard, it is just a matter of determining how much rest they want him to have before that start, and how many starts they want him to make prior to it. Assuming regular rest, never a good bet with Tanaka, he would need to start Saturday to get on track to make two starts before the wild card game.
Step three is figuring out who is going to start game one of the ALDS since Tanaka won’t be on full rest until game 3. I think it has to be Pineda. He is currently not on track for that as he is scheduled to pitch the last game of the season. But assuming that is meaningless, he could easily be skipped. That’s a decision the Yankees can hold off on for now.
11 games to go.
You could argue that the worst and best things George Steinbrenner ever did as owner of the Yankees involved Yogi Berra. There was the absurd firing of him as manager just sixteen games into the 1985 season. And there was the rarest of Steinbrenner actions, an apology, that brought Yogi back to the Yankee fold in 1999.
And thank goodness for that, because Yogi was a unique gem in the pantheon of Yankee stars. He was certainly a great player. Over 2,000 hits, basically catching every day, ten World Series rings, 15-straight All-Star games, and the Hall of Fame. It is a shame the Yankees didn’t think enough of Bill Dickey in 1947 to give Yogi a different number than 8. Because of that mistake, Yogi is the only Yankee who shares a retired number.
And then there were the Yogisms. Everyone has a personal favorite and while “It’s ain’t over ’till it’s over” may be the most famous, my favorite is “Nobody goes there anymore because it is too crowded”.
But unlike some other Yankee legends, Berra was as good off the field as he was on it. He served his country at D-Day. He was married almost 65 years and was genuinely loved by all he encountered.
In the next few days the Yankees will undoubtedly have a tribute to Yogi as they should, but I hope they make sure that they wait until some key people can make it to the Stadium. Ron Guidry, Yogi’s spring training chauffeur, has to be there. Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada have to be there too. And, it would be great to see Diana Munson as well.
And it should be a celebration of a life well lived. Because in the end, Yogi lived to be 90 and died universally loved. That’s as good as it gets.
UPDATE Very cool tweet by MLB’s Lindsay Berra, granddaughter of Yogi. Sorry so many people didn’t seem to get it.
David Price has been everything the Blue Jays could have hoped for and more. In ten starts, he has gone 8-1 with a 1.95 ERA. Against the Yankees he has gone 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA. He isn’t the only reason the Blue Jays look like the AL East champs, but he is a big one and as an impending free agent, he is going to cash in big time.
Compare him to Johnny Cueto, another ace traded mid-season this year. Cueto has gone 2-6 with a 5.12 ERA since joining the Royals. There is a legitimate argument to keep him off the postseason roster.
Here’s the amazing thing, there are probably five pitchers who are ace-caliber talents headed to the free agent market this fall. Besides the two above, Jordan Zimmerman, Zach Greinke, and Jeff Samardzija are free agents. Based on 2015, Greinke and Price will sign massive deals. Zimmerman should do very well, and Cueto and Samardzjia may have cost themselves millions.
And don’t forget all the bats. Heyward, Gordon, Cespedes, Upton, Davis…. We could easily see over 10 $100-million deals signed this winter and probably at least two $200-million ones. What a great time to be a baseball player.
The Yankees did a good job this weekend. They rebounded from a bad Friday and took two-of-three from one of the best teams in baseball. There are lots of things to feel good about, but the schedule simply doesn’t permit it. If the Yankees want to win the AL East, they have to sweep Toronto.
That wasn’t going to be easy, but it has gotten harder. With Tanaka hurt, the trio of Warren-Severino-Nova will start for the Yankees against the trio of Price-Estrada-Stroman- advantage Toronto. And, I think it would be hard to argue that the Yankees come close to the firepower that the Blue Jays’ lineup possesses.
Those are the facts, but it is also a fact that right now the Yankees have a chance to seize a huge opportunity. It won’t be easy, but winning never is.
The news is that Masahiro Tanaka will skip his next start due to a hamstring strain suffered while RUNNING THE BASES on Friday night. It’s a huge blow, and the Yankees just have to hope that he can get back on the mound at some point in the next two weeks.
As you can tell, I am not at all happy about the way Tanaka got hurt, and I imagine that Yankee ownership is even less so. The idea of using guys you pay $20-plus million a year to do something you aren’t paying them for seems insane to me. Add in the fact that interleague is now almost a nightly occurrence and I think we will see the end of pitchers hitting in the next collective bargaining agreement.
I get it NL fans, that’s the way baseball is supposed to be played. Even if you are right, and I am not conceding you are, the risk of injury is too great. We saw Adam Wainwright, one of the best pitchers in baseball, tear his ACL while running the bases. The salaries have gotten to the point where it simply doesn’t make sense to keep doing this.
MLB has essentially gotten rid of all of the things that made the AL and NL distinct, from separate league offices to separate umpires. Only one thing remains, and I just don’t see it surviving.