The MLB postseason begins Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN with the Minnesota Twins taking on the New York Yankees in the American League Wild Card Game. I'll be doing a dossier of every team that's in the playoffs. No matter what, this should be an epic October.
Team: New York Yankees
Finished the regular season as: 2017 American League Wild Card team
Last postseason appearance: 2015 AL Wild Card Game (lost to Houston)
Last World Series appearance: 2009
Last World Series title: 2009
Top 10 players, 2017 season
- Aaron Judge (.284/.422/.627, 52 HR, 114 RBI, 127 BB, 8.2 fWAR)
- Luis Severino (14-6, 2.98 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 230 SO, 5.7 fWAR)
- Gary Sanchez (.278/.345/.531, 33 HR, 90 RBI, 126 OPS+, 4.4 fWAR)
- Didi Gregorious (.287/.318/.478, 25 HR, 87 RBI, 3.9 fWAR)
- Brett Gardner (.264/.350/.428, 21 HR, 63 RBI, 23 SB, 3.8 fWAR)
- Aaron Hicks (.266/.372/.475, 15 HR, 52 RBI, 10 SB, 3.3 fWAR)
- Masahiro Tanaka (13-12, 4.74 ERA, 1.239 WHIP, 194 SO, 2.7 fWAR)
- Jordan Montgomery (9-7, 3.88 ERA, 1.230 WHIP, 144 SO, 2.7 fWAR)
- Chad Green (1.83 ERA, 0.739 WHIP, 103 SO in 69 IP, 2.4 fWAR)
- Chase Headley (.273/.352/.406, 12 HR, 61 RBI, 1.9 fWAR)
Quality of clinching celebration: surprisingly substantial: There was probably a time in Yankees history in which the team would have been maybe a little disappointed after clinching a spot in the postseason but falling just short of a division title. The world is a happier place now. The Yankees had a grand party after punching their October ticket in Toronto on Sept. 23, and good for them for doing so.
Season recap: It has been the year of Aaron Judge, but Luis Severino has been nearly as impressive a breakthrough. You know that wave of young talent the Yankees have coming? Most of it's not even here yet, and they still won 91 games. This is just the beginning.
Probable playoff lineup (note that manager Joe Girardi has deployed so many lineups this season, that this is merely my best guess as to how he may play things on Tuesday; I'm going to load up on as many lefties as possible and DH Judge):
LF Brett Gardner
DH Aaron Judge
C Gary Sanchez
SS Didi Gregroius
2B Starlin Castro
1B Greg Bird
3B Chase Headley
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
RF Aaron Hicks
Todd Frazier, Clint Frazier, Austin Romine and even Matt Holliday should figure into this as well, particularly against lefties, if they get past the AL Wild Card Game.
Probable playoff rotation:
AL Wild Card Game: Luis Severino
If they advance ...
ALDS Game 1: Sonny Gray
ALDS Game 2: Masahiro Tanaka
ALDS Game 3: Luis Severino
ALDS Game 4 (if necessary): CC Sabathia
- Those young hitters. After a midseason dip, Judge rebounded for a terrific end to the season, and Sanchez has nearly matched him in the second half. Even Bird is coming around. Twins starter Ervin Santana is a wily veteran opponent in the AL Wild Card Game. He will need to be at his absolute best.
- Bullpen. Our own Brian Kenny advocated, with some reason, that the Yankees should save Severino and make Tuesday a bullpen game, with Chad Green starting and the rest of the pen filling in around him. Girardi would never do that, but it speaks to the depth of this bullpen that you can ever consider it.
AL k/9 relievers:- Peter Gammons (@pgammo) October 2, 2017
2. betances 15.18, 3. kahnle 13.79, 5. green 13.43, 8. Robertson 12.92, 10. Chapman 12.24
- Mystique and aura! Curt Schilling's famous descriptions of the old Yankee Stadium might not have the same oomph in the new Yankee Stadium, but this is still the Yankees in the postseason. That's always going to have its own power.
- Inexperience. Tuesday is the first postseason game for just about everyone involved, with the exception of players such as Sabathia, Holliday and Ellsbury, who know of postseason success. The Yankees have their history, but most of this group is just starting out.
- Defense. Despite some speed, two-thirds of the Yankees outfield is on the older side with Gardner and Ellsbury. And, while Judge is no slouch in right (if he ends up there instead of DH) it's worth wondering about the trio's overall range. Sanchez has had some well-documented missteps behind the plate, but Girardi will stick with him there.
- Scoring versatility. Judge has had an all-timer of a year, but everything tenses up in October, not just nerves at the plate but the quality of pitchers on the mound. The Yankees have a lot of hitters who can hit mistakes a long way, but postseason pitchers don't make that many mistakes. Does New York have ways to score runs other than the homer?
Best-case scenario: The Yanks defeat the Twins in the Wild Card Game (again) and then the Indians are attacked by midges in the ALDS. They get the Red Sox in the ALCS, fall behind 3-0 and then win the next four to advance to the World Series, where they break the Dodgers' hearts like it's the 1970s.
Worst-case scenario: Big Erv's magic vexes them on Tuesday, and everybody goes home hungrier for 2018.
Ramifications of a World Series title: What rebuilding process?
Status: It does feel maybe a year or two early for this version of the Yanks, particularly for the rotation. You can imagine the Indians' arms shutting them down if they can get through the AL Wild Card Game. But you can also imagine Judge and Sanchez carrying them all month. No matter what: Prepare yourself for regular Yankees Octobers. Again.
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