Maybe it’s the practical side, maybe I’m just a pessimist but I don’t think the Yankees will be able to win the World Series this year. Every team in the postseason has flaws and on the eve of a possible one game playoff for the division and subsequently a spot in the Divisional Round, I think this is more prudent. The pessimist in me is telling me so. Here are issues that will hinder the Yankees from winning the World Series, no this isn’t a reverse jinx, it’s just the five flaws that could keep the Yankees from winning. (Not ranked in order)
1. Playoff Format: The new playoff format is equally great as it is bad. It’s good for baseball that another team is in the postseason but the way they structure the matchups is silly. For those who don’t know, there is a one game playoff for the two wild card teams. The winner then plays the team with the best record of the division winners. The two (of the four) remaining teams with the worst records host the first two games of the five game series. How this is fair? I have no earthly idea. The playoff format was set up to favor the team with the better record while being as even as possible to the other. Easier said, each team should win their home games thus should win the series (why they get four games in a 7 game series). However, the team that finished the regular season with a better record is now put in a hole to start the series. I understand the thought of wanting a team to clinch at home but at what cost is it worth it? Anyway, what this means for the Yankees is, assuming they win game 162 (they did); they will travel to either Texas or Baltimore for two games. Why they aren’t hosting the first two games is beyond me, but giving a team a home field advantage for two games is pretty favorable – which is why the Yankees will struggle.
2. Matchup Problems: Certain opponents have been the bane of the Yankees for a while in the playoffs. In the early 2000s, the Los Angeles Angels were the team that kept the Yankees from advancing. Now the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers have replaced the Angels as public enemy number one. The Rangers or Tigers have bested the Yankees each time they’ve met in the postseason dating back to 2006. Granted it’s only three matchups but the Yankees cannot beat either team in the postseason it seems. You could also look at this as a coincidence due to the small sample size, but I look at it as each of those teams had a better pitching staff than the Yankees did and the jury is out this year, but I still think these are the teams that pose the Yankees the most problems. In order to get to the World Series I think each series will go through either the Rangers or the Tigers, if not both which does not bode well even though the Yankees have dominated the season series against each team.
3. Pitching Depth: Pitching depth has always been the problem in the postseason. This year the Yankees navigated injuries, ineffectiveness, and general wear and tear to get to the postseason with a healthy starting rotation. The problem now lies in how effective everyone will be after C.C. Sabathia’s start. We know that Andy Pettitte is a gamer and has the most wins in postseason of all time, but he is 40 and has thrown a few good starts since returning from the DL (3 earned runs in 16.2 IP). Hiroki Kuroda has never been in a situation like this and Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova are gigantic question marks. So, this really doesn’t instill any type of confidence moving forward when facing teams with potent lineups. Hiroki Kuroda has been terrific this year and seems like the best bet moving forward as he finished the year with a 7 inning outing while giving up two earned runs. Look for games two or three in the ALDS and/or ALCS to be the defining moments for the Yankee staff.
4. Lineup Woes: Certain players on this roster have vanished come postseason in previous years (Cano, Swisher, A-Rod, etc.). This is clearly not because those certain players are not “clutch” it’s more of a minute sample size. Some players get hot and cold at different times and right now some of the members of the lineup are very cold. Alex Rodriguez had not had an extra base hit in 67 at bats until tonight. Mark Teixeira was an atrocious 0-6 with 9 runners left on base two days ago. Nick Swisher is 6 for his last 41 at bats in the postseason. There is a silver lining; Robinson Cano is absolutely on fire right now and has the ability to take over games. But if he struggles, so will the Yankees. There is a lot of pressure on that lineup to perform and put up runs to cover up for any mistakes the staff can and will make. Speaking of pressure…
5. Pressure: No team in sports faces this kind of expectation and pressure. Sure the team relieved themselves of this pressure in 2009 but everyone knows that any season that doesn’t end in a World Series victory is a failure. Finishing with the best record in the American League won’t ease any critics either. “The Yankees are the best team and because of that they should win the World Series.” I wish everything were so cut and dry. Everything the team does is under the microscope and the playoffs aren’t going to help matters. The Yankees however can breathe a little easier now that they don’t have to worry about a couple of one game series to get into the Divisional Round but that would have been tremendous pressure had they lost game 161.
Let the postseason begin and I hope I’m wrong about this.