What We Can Learn From Yankees’ Demise
If the Mets had any news, I wouldn’t be posting about the Yankees for a second straight day. But as this is as much a baseball blog as it is a Mets blog, the overwhelming story of the day in New York is the Yankees loss last night to the Tigers. (Funny, isn’t it? The news is not that the Tigers won, but that the Yankees lost.)
First off, no, I’m not overjoyed by the Yankees’ elimination from the postseason. Knowing there will be an AL team other than the Yankees in the World Series means I’m more likely to watch some of the Fall Classic, but I don’t revel in other people’s misery. However, I would like to take a cursory look at why the Yankees failed in the ALCS, and turn it into discussion.
How could a team full of All-Stars, backed up by All-Stars, not make it to the World Series? Fairly simple: the Yankees were built for the 162-game season, but not necessarily for a short series / the postseason. Their strategy was blunt force: they pitched just well enough to stay in the ballgame, and they waited for the sluggers to beat the opposition’s pitching senseless with homeruns. Such a strategy works well over the long haul, because MLB’s talent pool of pitching is watered-down. Even good starting pitchers are out of the game by the sixth inning, leaving the very worst pitchers to battle it out in the seventh and eighth. When you have one homerun threat after another coming to the plate, you stand a good chance of beating up on the lesser-skilled pitchers to win ballgames — with the long ball in particular.
The Yankees didn’t come up with timely hits in the postseason, but that was no surprise — they hit .256 with RISP during the regular season. Of their 245 homeruns in regular-season play, 140 were solo shots. They lived and died by the homerun, and it’s easier to hit homeruns against lesser pitchers. In the postseason, we rarely see lesser pitchers taking the mound.
The other part of the Yankees’ formula was to find a way to hold down the opposition through seven innings; the 8th and 9th would be handled by the lights-out David Robertson and Rafael Soriano. So, the starters had to pitch just well enough through five or six innings, keep the score close, and then Joe Girardi would mix and match a fairly competent if unspectacular corps of middle relievers through the seventh. From there, let the sluggers take over the ballgame. Their #1 starter C.C. Sabathia is more of a workhorse than a shutdown “ace,” and the rest of their rotation was good, but not great. Third starter Phil Hughes was wildly inconsistent, and their fourth and fifth starters had ERAs over 5.00.
Obviously, the plan worked well through the first 162; the Yankees won 95 games. Obviously, it didn’t work so well in the posteason.
In contrast, the Mets had a lineup full of singles hitters, a similar starting rotation, and much lesser bullpen. Interestingly, the Mets were worse with RISP — .246 — so a lack of power does not necessarily equal “timely hitting.” Yes, the Mets scored an unusually large amount of runs with two outs, but I’ve yet to figure out what that signifies, if anything; perhaps all it means is that they failed miserably with none or one out.
We assume the Mets will beef up their punchless offense with some homerun hitters, but will it matter? The Yankees hit far more homers than anyone, but in the end their strength was their weakness. Building a strategy of seven-inning games is a good goal start with, and one the Mets tried in the past. Most recently, Omar Minaya attempted it in 2009 with disastrous results when J.J. Putz blew out his elbow. Still, the idea was good. Unfortunately, the Mets can’t seem to find one relief pitcher to shut down one inning, much less two.
However, the Mets do seem to have starting rotation pieces that can carry a club to a winning season — so there’s a start. All they need now is to find two lights-out relievers and an entire offense.
What is your thought? Can the Mets learn anything from the Yankees’ strategy, either good or bad? Voice your opinion in the comments.