With their convincing win today, the Yankees have won the division and clinched home field advantage for the duration of the American League portion of the playoffs. The world series will be hosted by the National League Championship Series winners since the NL won the All-Star game. Most importantly, this win and the Orioles’ loss means the Yankees are not a Wild Card team and do not have to compete in the one game playoff implemented by Bud Selig this offseason.
For the Yankees, this means they are the favorites to make it to the World Series in 2012. Many would argue that Detroit has better pitching, and the A’s have youth on their side. Regardless of that, the Yankees have all the pieces for a championship team. Their pitching staff is better than the 2009 team that won it all. Sabathia and Pettitte are still here and are as effective as ever. Replacing A.J. Burnett is Hiroki Kuroda, a definite upgrade. The one difference is that they won’t be able to run with a three man rotation, which was a big part of their success in 2009. That said, the 4th starter has a minimal role in the playoffs and this year we are blessed with a guy who managed to win 16 games for the team. That would be Phil Hughes.
After the excellent starting pitching, the Yankees have a stellar bullpen, even after the freak Mariano injury. Rafael Soriano and David Robertson are solid anchors. Boone Logan and Clay Rapada have really gotten the job done as lefty specialists. Ivan Nova and Derek Lowe will be available as effective long men should there be any implosions. Cody Eppley, Joba Chamberlain, and David Phelps will be ready to go as complements to Logan and Rapada in the sixth and seventh innings if needed. Their bullpen will not be a weakness.
Then there’s the lineup, which is finally fully healthy. Derek Jeter has had a renaissance season and seems to be in the right place as the playoffs begin. A-Rod and Teixeira are healthy, and their presence in the lineup alone is just as important as their ability to go deep at any time. Granderson and Cano both set career highs in homeruns. Swisher has been on fire and Ichiro’s move to New York has lit a fire under his ass. Russell Martin‘s bat has finally come around, for the first time since the beginning of last season. He appears primed for a big postseason. The whole team is on fire right now, and they even have the best pinch runner in the entire playoffs in Brett Gardner. We’re talking about a team who set the New York Yankees franchise record for homeruns this season. They led the league in OPS and homeruns, and were second in runs scored.
This is not a team I’d want to face if I was an opposing fan. There’s also not a team in the playoffs (except maybe the Nationals) I’d feel more confident rooting for. Yet again, the Yankees have made this fan a happy camper.