Without unexpected prominence from the New York Yankees’ starting staff, playoff baseball in the Bronx would not be remotely possible.
Can you believe it?
Behind seven wins in a row, eight wins in their last 10 games, and 24 wins over their last 37 games (since August 1), the New York Yankees sit just three games out of first-place in the AL East and a mere half-game out of a playoff spot.
Simply put, the Bronx Bombers, behind a poised, determined, and effective mix of youth and veteran presences, have shocked the baseball world. Their current brand of baseball is contagious.
At this rate, with a remaining schedule consisting of seven meetings with the Red Sox, four meetings with the Blue Jays, and three meetings with the Orioles, New York is destined to be a playoff team; an unexpected feat considering the mid-season organizational shift.
If that is going to be the case, and the Yanks either earn a play-in game or partake in a five-game ALDS, the starting pitching will continue to be a substantial x-factor. A five-man staff consisting of numerous question marks has been and will be an indication of where this team ends up.
Without formidable pitching efforts, the Yankees would not have grasped relevancy. Without continued success from the staff, 2016 will be a matter of too little, too late.
Sure, the team’s absurdly unified nature will likely aid them in their quest for a playoff berth. However, can a continuation of this pitching excellence be feasibly expected?
Over the last month, the Yankees’ starting pitching collectively possesses a 3.96 ERA, which, compared to their 2016 mark of 4.59, is extremely worthy. Throughout that span, they rank sixth in the league in ERA and K/9 (8.76).
Let’s just say the results have translated sufficiently. Over that span, the club has gone 19-9, trimming four games off both the divisional and wild card deficits.
Thanks to the stellar outputs of unsung heroes such as Luis Cessa, CC Sabathia, and, more recently, Michael Pineda, the Yankees — with a significantly more dynamic offense — have received more than enough. Add Masahiro Tanaka into the mix, who defines the word “ace,” and you have a winning formula.
Does there come a time, though, when the overachieving comes into question? Is it truly sustainable?
Well, let’s face pure reality here. The Yankees lack what every postseason team should have: a quality number two starter. Moreover, they lack what every postseason needs to be a World Series contender: a go-to number three.
Behind Tanaka, New York has sheer uncertainty. Nowhere is there an arm that instills fear in an opposition.
Yes, they have gotten by over an immensely potent stretch. That is all fine and well, but it is simply far-fetched moving forward.
CC Sabathia has been a nice story. Additionally, his veteran leadership and big game experience are vital factors on a team mostly filled with eager youth. The 36-year-old has turned in some brilliant starts in crucial games thus far, but still stands as a relative liability. In other words, there would be doubts giving him the ball with the season on the line — no questions asked.
Michael Pineda has turned the page. In fact, the big right-hander has lowered his ERA by 31 points since the start of July. Generally a steady presence since a brutal start to the campaign, the 27-year-old has the ability to turn in a sparkler at any given time. With that said, his knack for imploding does not serve him or the team, for that matter, well in meaningful games.
Luis Cessa has come up huge, providing the organization a sneak peek into the future. However, does his name scream “number two”?
You can look up and down the 40-man roster several times. A trustworthy arm to back up Tanaka will not be found, let alone a steady number three.
Can the makeshift staff continue at full potential until October 2, providing a slate of postseason games which, back in July, did not seem like a plausible reality? Of course. After earning that coveted series, though, can a four-man ALDS staff of Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, and Luis Cessa, be heavily relied upon? Come on, now. If the answer is yes, please reevaluate.
Fans cannot run away from reality. Starting pitching has been a weakness of the 2016 New York Yankees since day one and will continue to be until it is addressed — which will have to come at a date later than November 2 (the latest possible finish to the MLB season).
And, yes, reaching the playoffs is an astounding achievement for this Yankee team, especially considering the surge which would propel them into the position. But, after solidifying a series, or perhaps just a Wild Card game, the focus must turn to title number 28 — the ultimate focus since New York’s last title back in 2009.
This team, unfortunately, cannot obtain that goal. Why? Being short sided in an area which is the name of the game in October: pitching.
The run has truly been exciting to watch. Witnessing an impactful rotation for the first time this year has been exhilarating. As a die-hard, you should breathe optimism.
Is the success sustainable? Regrettably, it is not.
Momentum only takes you as far as your next day’s starting pitcher. As soon as that avenue is cut off, momentum becomes defunct.