STAMFORD, CT – I went out to run some errands on Saturday – some real and some invented – to give me time to have a beer and catch a few innings of the New York Yankees game when my twin toddlers finally went down for a nap. But much to my dismay, my local watering hole was crowded with loudmouths, and my attempt to score some much-needed serenity was thrown out at the plate. One yapping Mets fan really got my goat, blurting out simpleton critiques of my beloved team with the unabashed certainty of a lovechild of Stephen A. Smith and Joan of Arc. Let’s call him Red-Face Johnny.
Johnny got my attention when he brought up the famous Carlos Beltran caught-looking at the Adam Wainwright Game 7 curve in 2006. “It was a good take,” said Johnny. “There was nothing he could have done.” Come again? It was a great pitch, to be sure, but it was an 0-2 count. You gotta go into protect-mode there. How could he get frozen like my dog Chief when I catch him trying to steal a stick of butter off the counter? In no universe can that be described as a good take. It ended his team’s season, for fork’s sake. Did someone slip a crazy pill into my drink again?
For my own sanity, I feel the need to refute the rest of his dubious claims today. Not because I care about him or his opinions, but because I’m tired of people watching an inning here and there, browsing the back page of The Post and then thinking they have an understanding of the intricacies of a team. So without further further further ado, let’s take a look at some of Johnny’s cursory observations.
The Yankees aren’t going anywhere unless Judge gets right
Sure Johnny, it would be helpful if Judge could break out of his slump and return to form. The guy has only six extra base hits in August with one HR and five RBI in 63 ABs. That’s not Aaron Judge. On the bright side, his exit velo has remained at the top of the league, suggesting his issues can be fixed.
But anyone watching the Yankees on the reg can see that they’ve won a lot of games with him out of the lineup and with this singles-hitting version of Judge in the lineup. This team does not depend on any one hitter and they should have some serious thunder coming off the DL ahead of the playoffs.
This is what they do, they beat up on the bad teams and then struggle with the playoff teams
Let me see if I follow, Red-Face. It’s harder to beat good teams than bad ones? That’s profound, I’d better write that down. In his defense, the Yankees were coming off a 19-5 shellwhoopkicking at the hands of the Indians and looked like they might blow a lead on Saturday. The Yanks won the game, but the Indians ended up earning the split with the 8-4 victory on Sunday.
But again, if you’ve actually been watching this team, you know that neither loss is a cause for concern. Sure, Chad Green was roughed up opening the game on Thursday, but the Yankees pretty much threw the white flag after that. They were toward the end of a long stretch without a day off and have a comfy lead in the AL East. Several unfortunate events would have to occur for Jonathan Loaisiga, Chance Adams, Nestor Cortes Jr. or Mike Ford, Thursday’s pitchers after Green, to get any kind of important sniff of October baseball.
In Sunday’s loss, C.C. Sabathia was coming back from an injury layoff. The big man is not likely to have a huge role in the playoffs and a little rust is no big deal. And with several of their big gun relievers working both Friday and Saturday, the Yankees chose to follow C.C. with Cortes Jr. and Luis Cessa. That’s not happening in the playoffs. The Yankees played the Indians like they’re a team that’s 40 games over .500. Because they are. The Yankees won the two games they played to win.
The bullpen is supposed to be good, but they don’t have the starting pitching
Johnny might be onto something with this one. It’s undeniably true that the Yankees’ starters have not been great. Maybe not as bad as people think, but it’s surely the weakness of the team. The starters’ ERA is 17th, which is not ideal, but just a few spots behind division-leader Atlanta and surrounded by several teams vying for a Wild Card.
If the Yankees can get healthy-ish for the playoffs, it’s not a stretch to think they will be able to overcome their mediocre starting pitching with a dominant pen and the highest-scoring offense in the league.
The Astros and Red Sox of the last two years were the opposite. The went into the playoffs with weak bullpens, but got creative using back-end starters in relief (and a temporarily bionic Nathan Eovaldi in the case of the Red Sox) to overcome their pen deficiencies.
I expect the Yankees to get creative in the way they try to get to the fifth or sixth in hopes of turning it over to the pen. How much do they really need from their starters anyway?
Why not go with a micro-starter approach? Let’s say in Game 1 they open with Green for an inning, then use starters Paxton and Severino for 2 each, then some combo of Betances, Kahnle, Ottavino, Britton, and Chapman for the final four. Good luck with that, other teams.
In Game 2 they could start Tanaka and have Happ and CC at the ready if he struggles. With the days off between every game, they could use two starters in short stints in every other game. Get it to the 6th will be their mantra.
The Yankees’ starting pitching is the not going to go deep into games in the playoffs. But if they can get through the first few innings, they have a good chance to get to the World Series.
Come back tomorrow from Angry Ward, whose mantra is get me to noon so I can start drinking. Follow us on Twitter at @BenWhit8, @MeetTheMatts, @Matt_McCarthy00, Instagram @MeetTheMatts and like our Facebook page, Meet The Matts.