BY CHAYIM TAUBER
Injuries, slumps, and gradual loss of the 10 game lead once held in the American League East have made this season one of the more challenging ones the Yankees have endured in recent years. Still, despite all the turmoil and adversity as well as the shocking success of the Baltimore Orioles, the Yankees are in great shape to make a deep run into baseball’s postseason.
The Yankees have a veteran lineup that has postseason experience at every position. They have proven postseason stalwarts in Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia in the starting rotation, have a bullpen full of options, have a regular lineup that is finally healthy (for the most part), and most importantly, aren’t merely the power-centric Bronx-bombers they were throughout the season.
Chris Dickerson (a strong candidate to make the postseason roster), Eduardo Nunez, and the finally healed Brett Gardner join Ichiro Suzuki to give the Yankees a surprising amount of speed in a lineup heralded primarily as home-run-or-bust. The Yankees wins down the stretch imbued speed into their power lineup to provide the Yankees a far more balanced attack and make their offense a multi-faceted one.
Their one-dimensionality was one of the biggest reasons cited for their early exit at the hands of the Detroit Tigers last season and is one of the biggest changes the Yankees lineup has endured since last season. Sure, they still led the Major League’s in homers by nearly 30 blasts and granted, their most timely hits of the season were home runs of the bats Russel Martin and Raul Ibanez, but finally the Yankees can do more than just hit the longball.
The real key to the Yankees postseason run will of course, come down to the pitching. Ivan Nova has been so abhorrent this season that he has in all likelihood, pitched himself out of the postseason rotation, leaving the yoke of postseason success on the shoulders of Sabathia, Pettitte, Phil Hughes, and Hiroki Kuroda. Pettitte is a proven commodity in the postseason but the pitching Sabathia and Kuroda in particular are the determining factors in how far the Yankees can go.
If Kuroda pitches like he did in August, he is a bona fide ace and a dominant force for the Yankees on the mound. Sabathia needs to pitch like the ace he was brought to New York to be. He has not had quite the kind of marquee season fans have come to expect, but not bad either. If CC Sabathia can pitch like the pitcher he’s supposed to be, the Yankees are in great shape.
The bullpen is the last piece to the Yankees 2012 puzzle. Girardi has overtaxed his bullpen to an extent that’s nearly criminal; a sad necessity this season. Boone Logan is tied for the most appearances in baseball, Rafael Soriano has trotted out to the mound with an obviously fatigued arm and looked flat because of it for most of September, and Joba Chamberlain is maddeningly inconsistent.
The Yankees formula for success this postseason is an easy one: get good pitching from the starter. Get good relief. And let the bat’s that have carried the Yankees all season and to 27 championships bring number 28 home. They’ve got as good a shot as anyone.