The postseason is supposed to be about pitching, pitching, and more pitching, so why are the Yankees facing sudden death? In the first four games of the 2012 ALDS, the team’s staff has posted a sterling ERA of 1.93, which ranks as the 13th lowest rate compiled in the team’s 72 postseason series. Not surprisingly, the Yankees were triumphant in all 12 of the series featuring a lower team ERA, including seven sweeps and three seven-game series that only went five games. Apparently, pitching does win in October, at least up until now.
Note: All series were won by the Yankees. Red bars indicate sweeps.
The reason the Yankees are facing a winner-take-all game five is because their offense has been as bad as the pitchers have been good. With a paltry 3.25 runs per game, the team has scored the 13th lowest series average in franchise history. Looked at on a per plate appearance basis, the team’s rate of 0.08 runs/PA ranks even lower on the list, besting only six other postseason series, five of which ended in defeat for the Yankees.
Note: Red bars indicate series victories. Blue bars indicate series losses.
Recently, pitching, not offense, has felled the Yankees in the postseason, which makes this year’s ALDS hard to figure. Although the team’s offense hasn’t been nearly as prolific as the past, the degree to which the bats have gone cold is still a little surprising. Maybe the Yankees should have been more attuned to upgrading the offense during the winter, but with the kind of pitching they’ve received over the first four games of the 2012 postseason, the current lineup should still have been plenty good enough for a series sweep.
For most of his tenure, filling out the lineup card has been the easiest part of Joe Girardi’s job. However, a combination of injuries and limited players have forced him to be much more creative this season, an experience he’ll have to draw upon today as he tries to cobble together a lineup full of struggling hitters with waning confidence and bruised egos. Unfortunately, because the offensive malaise has been so pervasive (Ichiro Suzuki, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson all have OPS rates below .450), there are no easy answers. Girardi can’t bench all of his struggling hitters, nor can he bat them all eighth, so if the offense is going to come to life, it will have to come from the players themselves, not the way they are arranged by the manager.
It seems unfair to give the Yankee pitchers credit, while denying the same to the Orioles’ staff. Undoubtedly, Baltimore’s gritty rotation and well managed bullpen have been willing accomplices in the Bronx Bombers’ offensive nose dive, but the names on paper don’t match the result. After all, the Yankees’ lineup isn’t facing Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax, nor has it been asked to score an extraordinary number of runs each game. Who knows, maybe the likes of Joe Saunders, Miguel Gonzalez, and Wei-Yin Chen really are better than the Yankee hitters, but would that be any consolation? If the vaunted Yankees’ offense can’t handle the current Orioles’ staff, the team’s inability to score in the ALDS might be symptomatic of a more pervasive problem cresting before the 2013 season.
Normally, the Yankees could take great solace in knowing that CC Sabathia will be on the mound in a must-win situation. However, the big lefty won’t be bringing his bat, so Girardi will have to hope his hitters finally show up with theirs. The pitchers have carried the team to a fifth game. Now, it’s up to the offense to finish the job.