Monday, October 11, 2010

Advantages And Disadvantages Aren't Always What They Seem

For the last few weeks of the regular season, a lot of the talk about the Yankees was about going "all out" for the division versus "resting" and getting the Wild Card. They didn't have the luxury they did in 2009 of having a comfortable lead, allowing them to win the division and rest guys. I think Girardi did a pretty good job of managing this situation by striking a balance of the two, but the Yankees ended up getting caught in a middle ground. They didn't rest their guys but still didn't win the division. This was the one situation I wanted to see them avoid, but like I said Girardi's management made it a lot better than it could have been. It wasn't like they were starting Sabathia on short rest at the end of the season or pitching Rivera four days in a row. However, they did play a lot of guys like Jeter, Rodriguez, Teixeira, and Swisher, amongst others, more than I'm sure they would have wanted to under ideal circumstances. As Girardi has pointed out after the fact, that is evidence that they were going for it.

They didn't get it - thus missing out on homefield advantage - and didn't get to rest their players at the same time. This was viewed as a double negative. And with good reason. Neither of these things are good things.

Then the Yankees came out in the ALDS and turned this whole thing on its head They swept the Twins (showing no concern about the lack of homefield advantage), and now have the time off (six days) that they desired to rest their players while their potential ALCS opponents grind out a five game series. Of course they won't have homefield advantage in the ALCS, but they will now be rested. So they are no longer in that middle ground, and it will no longer be a double negative, there is only the homefield concern. The perceived disadvantages weren't what they seemed.

So now the same should be said about this perceived advantage. Sure, there will be chatter about the Yankees getting rusty. But this is a veteran team that knows how to handle situations like this, and they had five days off between the ALDS and ALCS last year. Most of the talk will probably focus on that point as well as the fact that, again, this rest is a good thing for a club with some older regulars, some banged up regulars, and some regulars that are both of those things.

But using the same logic, this advantage might be no advantage at all. Just as the disadvantage in the ALDS was no disadvantage at all. So it's on the Yankees to be that veteran club, to stay sharp, and be ready to come out and play the same dominating, electric, and relentless brand of baseball Friday night against the Rays or Rangers that they played against the Twins.

On that point, Game 3 was an outstanding performance from the Yankees. Phil Hughes was lights out, turning in one of the best starting performances from a Yankees' pitcher in the last 10 years. It was the first time since Mike Mussina's Game 3 against Oakland in the 2001 ALDS that a Yankees' starter when 7 innings or more and allowed no runs. I was at the game, and he was just awesome. From the first batter there was a tenacity about him that the Twins were not going to touch him in this game. It seemed like he was strike 1/strike 2 to almost every batter, and he just attacked. Going back to this post's title, Pettitte and Hughes' performance is just another example of how quickly advantages/disadvantages can change. Everyone was talking about how it was C.C. and hope for the best, and then Pettitte and Hughes both out-pitched him in this series. It can change again just as quickly, but obviously you expect C.C. to be better (he wasn't bad, but he wasn't C.C.), and if Pettitte and Hughes can be anywhere near their ALDS performances that bodes well for the Yankees moving forward this October. Bodes well is an understatement. It would be huge, changes the Yankees look completely.

Offensively the Yankees continue to get contributions up and down the lineup. They are far more dangerous this way, working teams 1-9, than when they are relying certain guys to carry the load. Of course when they are at their most dangerous when they are playing this way and then get big performances from any number of their key bats. Granderson and Teixeira had pretty big series, but for the most part the Yankees haven't gotten that yet. You have to like the chances of somebody stepping up and providing a showtime performance, if not multiple people, so if they can continue to get these balanced contributions they should continue to score runs. Especially if they continue to do the little things well. They are still not executing the way you'd like with runners on 3rd and less than 2 out, but they are doing most other things well, moving runners, getting leadoff runners on 2nd in, getting big hits with RISP, etc. As Bandi pointed out in the comments last week, they are finding ways to score runs. This means they aren't just relying on homers. When they find other ways to score runs, and then hit 1-2 homers (which happened in every game), those homers can put them over the top as opposed to providing a majority of the runs. It makes the homers more impactful.

Last but not least the bullpen continues to perform. 7 innings, 1 run in the ALDS is getting the job done. No two ways about that. One of the big strengths of the 2009 World Series run was that they scored on their oppositions bullpen far more than the opposition scored on their bullpen. That was the case in this series as well. It's a huge advantage, and hopefully they can keep it going.

One last note to wrap up this series. I have a lot of respect for Ron Gardenhire. I always have despite not knowing a lot about him. He gets his team to win year after year, and he carries himself well. Just seemed like a good baseball man to me. But I had no idea just how classy he was until I watched the Game 3 postgame on DVR after i got home from the game. This is a guy who has been eliminated by the Yankees in the ALDS in 4 of the last 8 years, going 2-12 in those series. he has to be incredibly frustrated. Yet he sits at that podium after the game, answering questions I'm sure he doesn't want to be asked, and offers one honest, high-class answer after the next. This included genuine, more than just your standard "give them a lot of credit", compliments to Joe Girardi, his staff, the Yankees players, and the entire organization for the way they prepare and conduct themselves. That's not an easy thing to do given the circumstances, and I have a lot of respect for him for doing it.


Ross Kaplan said...

Looks like we've come full circle since when about 3 weeks ago I stated my preference for the Yankees to rest their key guys and sacrifice the division to play the Twins. By the way I was right so Pat can suck it!

Now I am in a similar dilemma of who to root for or against tonight depending on which team is the more favorable match up for the Yankees. I think I'm going to have to root for a Rays victory tonight.

This is the team their most familiar with obviously, but I also believe they aren't quite as fearsome as Texas' 1-2, starters and its middle of the order. Yankees just can't hit Cliff Lee, it's as simple as that, they also struggle against lefties like CJ Wilson. That's not to say I don;t respect Price's abilities, I just think the Yanks have a better chance to do some damage against him then they do against Lee, plus after Price the Rays rotation isn't all that great. Shields is having a horrible season, Davis is a rookie and they've had past success against Garza.

Then the lineup match up is no contest. The Rays have been no hit or almost no hit several times in the past 2 years, after Longoria there aren't too many other Rays who are always a threat to hit a home run. Texas has Kinsler, Hamilton, and Cruz in the heart of their line up. No contest there.

Either way this worked out perfectly for the Yankees because no matter who wins, neither Price nor Lee can start till Game 3 of the LCS and can only pitch once before Game 7.

So once again to conclude, I was right about the benefits of facing the Twins and the insignificance of home field advantage. Kaplan: 1, Featherstain: 0

Anonymous said...

Ladies and gentleman, you have just read the quintessential Ross Kaplan post, from the logical fallacies to the inflammatory remarks, to the grammatical errors to the fact that it's clear he didn't read Pat's whole post.

It's good to have Ross Kaplan back.