Monday, October 12, 2009

Post-mortem on the Yankees sweep of the Twins

After the euphoria of sweeping the Twins on their way to their first American League Championship Series since 2004, the Yankees do have to reassess their team going into the next round of the baseball playoffs. Their starting pitching was strong, bullpen performed well with some notable exceptions and they had timely, clutch hitting. But the Yankees do have some things to worry about heading into their matchup with the Angels.

As usual, the Yankees old-guard of Derek Jeter (sorry Derek, know you don't like the nickname, but it works), Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte performed reliably well in the first round of the American League Division Series. Jeter hit .400, including his clutch 2-run home run to break the Twins in Game 1. Mo closed out yesterday's win and pitched relatively well in the three games despite giving up a few hits. Andy matched John Smoltz for the most playoff wins at 15. And Jorge emerged from a disappointing, and probably motivating, benching to drive in the winning run in Game 3.

Alex Rodriguez surpassed even my expectations with an incomparable performance in the ALDS. Every time the Yankees needed a big hit, there was ARod. Driving in Jeter twice with 2-out clutch hits in Game 1, tying Game 2 in the 9th with a 2-run blast and knocking in the tying run with another mammoth shot in Game 3, permanently deflating any hopes of momentum for the Twins.

But like I said, the Yankees do have some things to worry about, namely the lack of hitting by anyone not named ARod, Jeter or Posada. The biggest concerns for me were Johnny Damon and Nick Swisher, who both had one futile at-bat after another against the Twins. Damon was struggling at the end of the regular season and it looks like he has not been able to get his groove back. Joe Girardi seems to have a lot of confidence in both of them, but at some point he has to think about shifting the batting order or benching one or both of them because the Yankees will need all the offense they can get against a tough Angels pitching staff.

Girardi made some strange decisions with his bullpen this series. Taking Andy Pettitte out after he threw only 81 pitches in a typically strong postseason performance in favor of the struggling Joba Chamberlain was perplexing to say the least. Taking Yankee bulldog Alfredo Aceves out after one inning in a tie game didn't make any sense. Trusting Damaso Marte in a tight game after his struggles this year was bizarre. Girardi was quite lucky that none of these moves blew up in his face. I don't think he'll be that lucky against the Angels, particularly with Mike Scioscia managing the other team.
Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for this photo.

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