And exhale

Needing one more victory to clinch a playoff spot, the Yankees turned to ace CC Sabathia to finally restore some order to the proceedings (since Friday, August 6, the Yankees have gone 26-24 over their last 50 games with a 4.25 team ERA. In the 107 games prior they posted a 3.82 team ERA) and Sabathia responded in kind, hurling one of his best outings of the year. Sabathia tossed 8 1/3 innings of three-hit, one-run ball, giving him his 21st victory of the season and helping the Yankees beat the Blue Jays 6-1 to clinch at the very least the American League Wild Card postseason berth.

A few hours after I noted that the other teams in the AL postseason field were significantly better than the Yankees at manufacturing runs (not that I feel the Yankees need to be highly proficient at this per se, mind you), the team went out and basically small-balled its way to all six runs last night. Three sacrifice flies — one each from Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano — a fielder’s choice, bases-loaded walk and RBI groundout were responsible for all six Yankee runs.

As expected, the Yankees couldn’t do much with rookie Kyle Drabek, who threw six innings of three-run ball, but that was more than enough with their horse on the mound. CC Sabathia sure has been some kind of pitcher for the Yankees, huh? After putting up a 3.37 ERA/3.39 FIP/3.82 xFIP season worth 6.0 fWAR and $27.0M last year, Sabathia has been arguably even better in his year in pinstripes, with a 3.18 ERA/3.55 FIP/3.79 xFIP. Fangraphs has Sabathia’s 2010 worth 4.8 fWAR and $19.1M, while B-Ref has Sabathia’s 2009 worth 4.3 bWAR and his 2010 at 5.5 bWAR. With one more start to go, Jon Lester will likely pass Sabathia in bWAR, but regardless the big man should at least end up staying in the top five most valuable pitchers in the American League this season, at least according to bWAR. That’s awesome.

As a side note, as much as I do love Fangraphs, I’ve found myself gravitating closer and closer toward B-Ref’s WAR calculation, given that it utilizes John Dewan’s +/- system for fielding as opposed to UZR. We still haven’t arrived at a defensive metric that has reached general consensus as the be-all end-all, but from various conversations I’ve had and articles I’ve read it seems Dewan’s is superior to UZR, which has some significant flaws, perhaps most notably that it doesn’t track balls in foul territory converted to outs.

The Yankees finally get a bit of a breather and can rest several of their banged-up guys and try to line the rotation up the best way they see fit. Andy Pettitte announced during the locker room celebration last night that he won’t be pitching tonight, and Joe Girardi confirmed that Javier Vazquez will take the hill tonight for the last game in Toronto against Brett Cecil. Thank goodness they clinched tonight.

I know there was some hemming and hawing about Sabathia even getting the start last night to begin with, but I didn’t have a huge problem with it. As for Andy, I imagine they’ll throw him on Saturday afternoon at Fenway if they’re planning to line him up to start ALDS Game 2 and we’ll plan to take a deeper look at the postseason rotation later on.