Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How Can the Yankees Make the Playoffs?

There has been a lot of negativity floating around the Yankees this off-season. The A-Rod Soap Opera; injuries to Teixeira and Granderson; Brian Cashman reaching out to 84-year-old Chipper Jones via Joel Sherman's Twitter account; and the Steinbrenners continuing to worry about money.

I could keep going, but I won't. I prefer to look at baseball season with a "12-dollar-beer-half-full" point of view. Springtime means a clean slate for every team. It's kind of refreshing for the Yanks to be seen as underdogs at the start of the season. They no longer have the league's highest payroll, so we don't have to hear about that anymore, either.

With a positive outlook in mind, let's take a look at how the Bombers can eclipse 90 wins and fight their way into the playoffs.

Five Keys to the Season
1. Healthy Starting Pitching
This is obviously a key for every team but especially for the Yankees, who will definitely not be scoring as many runs this season. Robinson Cano is the only guy in their Opening Day lineup that hit over 20 homers last year, so they need their pitching to stay solid. Sometimes it seems as if Sabathia and Pettitte are being held togther by Scotch Tape at this point, so an injury-free April would ease the tension for a lot of fans. Hiroki Kuroda submitted a nice start the other day in spring training (4 innings, 0 runs, 6 strikeouts), and it's not far-fetched to believe he'll duplicate his strong 2012 performance. That leaves fans to worry about Phragile Phil Hughes and either Ivan Nova or Golden Domer David Phelps. (Like FranT, Phelps went to Notre Dame.) Also, any kind of decent return by Michael Pineda would be a terrific bonus.

Hopefully, we won't be seeing too many early exits from Phragile Phil this season.
2. Robbie Cano for MVP 
Cano has been in the thick of a few MVP races at various points in recent years, finishing in the top six of the voting each of the past three seasons. But he's always had older, more decorated everyday players to share much of the attention with. Now, it's pretty much just him and Jeter. If Cano can carry this team for much of the season, he's got a real shot at taking home MVP honors. The prediction here is that Cano will rake during this contract year and keep the Yanks in playoff contention at least until October. He'll also get a fat new contract and never again have to worry about the costs of taking Melky Cabrera clubbing.

3. Winter Signings
Despite the Yankees' always-huge payroll, Brian Cashman has also excelled at finding bargains in the offseason. Think Freddy Garcia/Bartolo Colon two years ago, or Raul Ibanez/Eric Chavez last year. Let's hope at least two of the following signings work out: Travis Hafner, Matt Diaz, Juan Rivera, Dan Johnson, and (as much as I hate to rely on him) Kevin Youkilis. This year more than ever, that type of player will be needed to plug gaps left by injuries and the departures of Nick Swisher and Russell Martin.

4. Make Your Own Luck
One of the great things about baseball's long season is that the law of averages usually separates the good teams from the mediocre teams. Every year, there's a Pittsburgh or Kansas City hanging around the playoff race until about August. Then, suddenly the baseball gods realize that you shouldn't make the postseason if your starting pitchers have an ERA of 5.68 or your leadoff man has an OBP of .323. Sometimes, though, a team that seems to have no business being in the race sneaks in. Take the Orioles last year. The O's had a record of 29-9 in one-run games. Obviously, that's not all luck, but some fortuitous breaks went Baltimore's way and they made the playoffs.

Similarly, the Yankees probably need to have a winning record in close games to have a shot at making it out of the tough AL East. I'm not saying that they need to play .763 ball in one-run games like the Orioles did, but they can't blow a bunch of tight contests. Luckily for them, the best way to make your own luck is to have a good bullpen to hold late leads. And the Yankees figure to have a pretty strong 'pen, with David Robertson, Boone Logan, Phelps/Nova, and whatever Joba Chamberlain has left. Most importantly, let's hope the Great Mariano has enough beautiful cutters left in his 43-year-old arm.

5. No More Steroid Scandals
I said I was going to try to be positive here, but let's just hope this steroid stuff doesn't resurface.
That Tweet surfaced about a week ago and made a lot of Yankee fans poop their pinstriped pants. It was written by the same guy that Tweeted about Melky's steroid suspension a month before it actually happened. Let's just hope the Yankees can avoid serious controversies this season, excluding the inevitable A-Rod freakishness.

A-Rod leading his proteges to Dr. Anthony Galea? Let's hope not.

If some or all of the things discussed above fall into place, the Yanks should be alright. Their bullpen should still be strong, their lineup should be close to full strength by June, and their rotation should be solid even if they sustain one major injury. Should, should, should...That expensive Yankee Stadium beer is indeed half-full.


  1. Phil Hughes and David phelps can't make it out of he fifth inning. The only good thing about the Yankees this season are cashmans broken ankle and Jobas stache.

  2. Hafner if healthy can hit 30 HR's in yankee stadium easy...should get plenty of AB's at least in the first 2 months to show what hes got!