As I prepare to become the stereotypical homer sportswriter, I’m going to even reveal that (regardless of my rooting preference) I firmly believe the Yankees will celebrate for the twenty-eighth time this season.
Sure the Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles are hot, but they’re just kids running on fuel that won’t be strong enough to propel them to the next level.
And of course the Tigers are always dangerous no matter how badly they’ve played this year. However, if the middle lineup fails them and they can’t produce enough runs for Verlander, they have no hope. And they don’t.
The NL has some interesting teams, but they’ll end up burning themselves out with all series going five and seven games. The AL will take the title back this year.
Which leads me into five reasons why it will belong to the New York Yankees.
1. Robinson Cano: This fall, the Yankees will become Robinson Cano’s team. This is not to say that Derek Jeter is no longer the face or the leader of this franchise, but in Cano’s last 34 PA he’s hitting .613 with an incredible 1.683 OPS. Granted he’s done this against the likes of the Toronto Blue Jays and the Boston Red Sox, but when a hitter is locked in it doesn’t matter who is throwing the ball.
In 2012, he has the following OBP against the teams New York could eventually face:
With the way Cano is hitting the ball right now (.452 ISO, .691 wOBA), having him in the middle of the lineup could help with that nagging RISP problem the Yanks have had not only this season, but in the past few post-season series. If the Bombers end up soaked with champagne at the end of October, Robinson Cano will be the number one reason why.
2. Last Gasp Players: The Yanks have several players who are at the end of their career and this team may be their best (and last) shot at the World Series. Two of whom have never won (let alone played in) a World Series, Ichiro Suzuki and Hiroki Kuroda, could play pivotal roles in the Yankees 28th title.
Ichiro has played above expectations and I can see him taking it one step further this month. He’s still a strong defensive player and (along with appearances from Brett Gardner) gives the Yanks extra speed on the bases.
Kuroda has been touch and go all season. He’s had games where he’s been flat-out dominant mixed in with others that reinforced many naysayers (including myself) claims that he can’t handle pitching in the AL East. Now is the time for him to achieve a level of consistency he demonstrated from mid-July through the end of August. While we should expect Sabathia and Pettitte to pull their own weight, Kuroda having a strong October will be exactly what the Yankees need.
3. Home Field Advantage: With the exception of the World Series, the Yankees will enjoy the spoils of having home field advantage throughout the American League Playoff Series. New York, buy the slimmest of margins, has the best home record in the American League (and all of baseball for that matter). Their road record isn’t much worse either.
With that in mind, here are the W-L records at Yankee Stadium for each of their potential opponents (with the overall record in parenthesis):
Texas- 1-3 (3-4)
Baltimore- 6-3 (9-9)
Oakland- 1-2 (5-5)
Detroit- 1-2 (4-6)
Obviously all those numbers go out the window come playoff time, so the 2012 season results only give us an idea as to how a team could play in Yankee Stadium. However, the Bombers have shown they can consistently win at home and that gives them a decided advantage this post-season.
4. Numbers Don’t Lie: The Yankees ranked number two in runs scored this season behind the Texas Rangers. No one else came close (almost 30 more than number three Milwaukee). This is an interesting feat considering they’ve been so bad with runners in scoring position.
Could you imagine if they weren’t?
Mark it down that New York won’t have the RISP failures anywhere close to what we saw this season, and that will help put them head and shoulders above the rest of the competition.
The Yankees are also first (in a decent margin) in wOBA, ISO, way ahead in home runs, and one thousandth of a point behind the Saint Louis Cardinals in OBP.
5. Wildcats Kinship: Probably the silliest reason I can think that the Yankees will raise the World Series trophy for the twenty-eighth time is the fact that the Kentucky Wildcats won the 2012 NCAA tournament.
For those that don’t already know, here is and interesting tidbit of sports trivia. Every season the Wildcats have won the NCAA title, the Yankees have won the World Series later that year.
This phenomenon occurred in ’47, ’49, ’51, ’58, ’78, ’96, ’98, and (predictably) 2012.
Crazy. Just like the entire 2012 baseball season.