Well folks, another 162 game regular season for Major League Baseball has concluded and now that the dust has cleared we have the playoff picture set and ready to go. It certainly has been an exciting season that has seen a 22 year playoff drought end with Toronto and an Astros team who went from worst to one of the best. I myself am excited to get the playoffs underway and catch some thrilling post season baseball.
The first game of the 2015 post season will involve a revived New York Yankees squad and a completely revamped Houston Astros team. Both were pretty abysmal at best the last few years, heck the Astros went from three straight 100 loss seasons and a 92 loss season to 86 wins and a playoff berth. I don’t care if you are a fan of either team or a fan of the American League at all; this is the most intriguing early post season match up.
Despite how intriguing this matchup is, there is some predictability in it. The predictability resides more with the New York Yankees and their pitching. What once at the beginning of the season looked like a strength as slowly turned into a determent that will ultimately doom the Yankees and send them home. I guess you could say there is a prediction coming here in which the Yankees will lose this game and be bounced out early. That just may be the case.
If baseball history has taught us anything it is that great teams have great offenses but champions have great pitching. Don’t even try to argue with me on this one, it won’t work. If that wasn’t the case then there are many things that would have gone differently. The Royals would have won the World Series last year, Toronto would have been in the playoffs for 22 straight years, and heck if pitching didn’t win championships then Atlanta would be in the playoffs right now for crying out loud. It’s proven that the teams that win the World Series have great pitching to go along with great offense.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, baseball history is against them this year. Don’t get me wrong, New York’s offense has been very good this season. In fact, it’s probably the only reason why they are in the playoffs at all. As a team their batting average has consistently remained above average like the Yankees of old. They are a team that knows how to put runners into scoring position early and capitalize on every situation as noted by their .422 slugging percentage (4th in the MLB) and their .170 Isolated Power Average (3rd in the MLB). They have the offense to win a championship for sure, but they sure don’t have the pitching.
Now when we take a look at the pitching statistics for the Bronx Bombers, it would be silly to simply look at their rankings now and compare them although they are coming into the playoffs with the second worst team ERA of all the playoff bound teams. No, the better way to accurately describe the Yankees sub-par pitching performance would be to take a look at the past three month of play. Not once in the past three months has the Yankee pitching staff recorded an ERA below the league average. It has climbed from 3.70 in July to an abysmal 4.09 in September. The sad part about it is that the ERA numbers are actually pretty generous compared to their actual performance.
The Yankees FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) has shown just how cruddy their pitching performance throughout the year has been. Not too often do you have a playoff team that has a worse FIP through the final three months than 50-60 win teams. The Yankees have posted a 3.92, 4.03, and 4.34 FIP through July, August, and September respectively. If that isn’t collapsing into the playoffs I don’t know what is. Sure their “skill-interactive ERA” (SIERA) may be better, but all you stat gurus can hold on because even that doesn’t take into account the extreme inconsistency of the Yankees pitching staff. Even worse, it shows just how down trotted the Yankee defense is. New York did post a -11.5 Defensive Runs Above Average which was cruddy enough to put them in the bottom ten and the worst defensive team to make the playoffs.
To add insult to injury, the Yankees are facing one of the most potent offenses in the game today, in fact a slightly better offense than the Yankees have. The Astros are second overall in home runs and the Yankees pitching staff give up the most home runs off of fastballs per game. The inconsistency of the Yankee pitching staff can be easily seen by each and every starter. Take New York’s “stud” Michael Pineda for example, in his last three starts he went 11.5 innings giving up two runs through two starts only to make up for it by giving up 6 runs in one inning of work for his third start. The starter for the game against the Astros hasn’t done much better this year; in fact Tanaka has been just as inconsistent.
If it weren’t for the fact that the Yankees have similar offensive numbers (besides home runs) and the Astros atrocious road record I’d call this game over already. Even if the Yankees manage to pull this game out of nowhere, they certainly won’t get passed the Divisional round with their pitching.
It’s a big step up for the Yankees to even make the playoffs after last year but it’s time to bring every Yankee fan back down to earth and face the facts. They are good, and in the future they will be great, but for now the Yankees will remain just a wild card team doomed by their pitching