You are what your record says you are.
Well, the NY Yankees finished the 2017 regular season with 91 wins and 71 losses, and that record says …the Yankees are a good baseball team.
Now we will find out just how good.
91 wins was good enough for the 1st Wild Card spot. It took the division-winning Boston Red Sox 161 games to clinch the division over the Yanks, finishing 93-69, 2 games better.
The postseason match-ups are set in the A.L. The Yankees will host the Minnesota Twins (85-77) in the Wild Card game, and the WC winner will face the Central Division winning Cleveland Indians with the best record in the A.L. (102-60). Boston will face the Houston Astros (101-61) in the other ALDS series.
So, the season comes down to one game for the Yankees. If the Yanks lose, they go home. Just as they did 2 years ago when the Astros and Dallas Keuchel shutout the Yanks at Yankee Stadium. But NY is heavily favored in this game and expectations are high, as opposed to the 2015 Yankees who limped into the playoffs losers of 6 of their last 7. This years team is going into the post-season as one of the hottest teams in the league. In a recent column “Home Cookin’ “, I pointed out that the Yankees would play 17 of their last 20 games in NY (including 3 games at Citifield) and I thought the Yanks would go 13-7 or better. They finished the season 14-6.
The year-end 2017 team stats were extremely impressive. Consider this … the Yankees finished 2nd out of 30 teams in MLB in Runs Scored (858), 1st in Home Runs (241) , 3rd in On Base % (.339) , 3rd in OPS (.785). Just as impressive was Yankee Pitching ranking 5th in MLB in team ERA (3.72), with the 2nd best B.A. against (.228). In fact when you look at +/- Run Differential, Cleveland was 1st with +254, the Yankees had the 2nd best differential in MLB with a +198 Runs. Better than LA (102 wins)Dodgers +190 Runs & Houston (101 wins) Astros +196 Runs.
Luis Severino will take the ball for the Yankees, finishing the season with the 3rd best ERA (2.98) in the A.L. behind only Corey Kluber and Chris Sale. The offense is finally healthy and firing on all cylinders. Led by MVP candidate Aaron Judge who set an all-time MLB record as a Rookie by hitting 52 Home Runs. The line-up is deep and balanced, with the likes of Gardner, Sanchez, Gregorius, Castro, Bird, Headley & the suddenly rejuvenated Ellsbury. In fact Joe Girardi’s biggest challenge will be who NOT to put in the line-up. Holliday & Hicks will probably be on the bench to start the WC game.
The bullpen, with Chapman, Robertson, Green, Betances, Kahnle & Warren is deep and overpowering.
Put it all together and you can understand why the Yankees are heavily favored. But hey, this is baseball and we all know anything can happen in a one game, do-or-die situation. I can easily make a case for the Twins making this a competitive game.. Ervin Santana had a very solid season ranking 5th in the AL in ERA (3.28). The Twins hitters struggled early in the season ranking 19th in the league up until August 5th, but since that date they ranked 1st in runs scored while compiling a 33-21 record.
Here is another scenario the Yankees must beware of.. Luis Severino must harness his adrenaline and not try to over-throw the baseball. He needs to mix in his change-up and not rely exclusively on his FB & Slider. This is key !!
Some say the Yankees must win the WC game or the season is a failure. I don’t share that feeling. There were way too many positives for the season to be considered a failure. Luis Severino went from being 0-8 with a 8.50 ERA as a starter last year to a Cy Young candidate this year with a 14-6 record, 2.98 ERA. Aaron Judge last year as an August call-up had a .179 B.A. striking out 42 times in 84 AB’s. This year not only will he be the ROY but has a legit shot at winning AL MVP honors. His stat line was .284 BA, .422 On Base%, 52 Home Runs, 127 BB, 128 Runs Scored. When you recall that Severino had to win a spot in the rotation during spring training, and Judge had to do the same for Right-field, this season has been nothing short of amazing. In my opinion, Severino & Judge are the teams Co-MVP’s and hopefully can continue their success in this Wild Card game. It is important for them to realize they have plenty of support, and don’t need to over-do anything. Trust their teammates. Take the same approach they took during the regular season. It’s one game. It’s baseball. Anything can happen.
But I do expect the Yankees to win tonight …
just for the RECORD.
GO NYY !!!!!