Thursday, October 01, 2009

9-1 > 0-8? The AL East Champs again

In June, following the Yanks' humiliating three-game sweep in Fenway, I said the team lacked character. Since then, I've either been proven wrong (which I hope) or the RedSawx are just terrible (which I don't believe).

Through the first half of the year, the Yanks were 51-37. That's pretty good.

They were 10-8 against the NL East, which is uninspiring.

They were 39-17 against everyone but Bahstin and the LA Angels of Knott's Berry Farm, which is very good.

They were 2-12 against the Sawx (0-8) and Angels (2-4), and that sucked.

Since the All-Star break, the '09 Yankees have played even better than the '98 Yankees did: 51-20 (compared to 53-28) and have blasted their two bitterest rivals by winning 12 of 14 against the Sax (9-1) and Angels (3-1). How?

First, the Yankees learned to pitch at the Stadium. The "bandbox in the Bronx" has been a haven for the team (57-24) and after a shaky 6-7 start in the new home, the Yanks have won 51 of 68 games there -- that's 75%.

Second, the Yankees figured out the Rays by winning 8 of 9 games against the other AL East contender since early June.

Third, the Yanks flummoxed the Sawx at the Stadium. In the seven post All-Star break games between the teams at the Stadium, the Sawx have scored 15 runs and nine in the last 60 innings. The Yanks are 7-0 and FINALLY beat Jon Lester. When the Yanks won a Friday night game 2-0 in 15 innings, it was the first time all season they'd held the redsux to less than four runs.
Fourth, warm weather means warm CC. Sabathia established himself as an ace with his effort in a loss to the Sawx in June and his attitude against the Chisax in an August game where the Yanks were trying to stave off a four-game sweep. After coughing up an early lead, Sabathia shouted "that's it, that's all they get." The Yanks won that game and all 10 CC starts since then (each a quality start, 8 wins, only once allowing even 3 ER, only once going less than 7 IP).

Fifth, the Yanks have one of the best long relievers in baseball, Alfredo Aceves, to get the team through the sixth and seventh innings before the season's best game-ending duo since perhaps the '96 Yankees take the mound -- Hughes (5-1, 1.24, opponents OPS of .430 as a reliever) and Rivera (yawn, 44 saves, 46 chances--that's three bonks in the past two years).

Yeah, the Yanks have a question mark as their No. 4 starter . . . and the 2006 Cardinals won game 1 of the World Series with Anthony Reyes (5-8, 5.06).

Sure, they're older than most teams . . . and the Rays flopped in July.

And AJ Burnett is a question mark: from iffy in April/May to Cy Young caliber in June and July to inconsistent in August, to sharp in late September . . . but he has almost the same quality start percentage as CC, and is a power/strikeout pitcher -- the type that is crucial to postseason success.

So congrats to the Yanks, who have once again assumed their proper spot atop the AL East. Joe Girardi should be AL Manager of the Year. CC Sabathia should be 3rd in the Cy Young ballot. Jeter and Teixiera should be Nos. 2 and 3 in the AL MVP ballot. And hopefully the team will win 11 games between October 5 and December 31, 2009. That's what I'm wanting.

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