How should the Yankees proceed?

With the Yankees’ double-header sweep of the Rays yesterday, combined with another Boston loss, the Yankees accomplished what 45 ESPN baseball contributors thought to be impossible: winning the American League East.  With the division safely sewn up and the Yankees’ spot in the playoffs secure, the Yankees will have some interesting decisions about how they want to handle their seven remaining games.  Among the factors to consider will be how much to rest the regulars, how to set up the rotation for October, and who they would want to face in the Division Series.

I expect to see a number of the regulars to get a few extra days off to help them rest up for the playoffs, which means more playing time for Austin Romine, Eduardo Nunez, and Brandon Laird, among others.  CC Sabathia will probably also not make his final scheduled start of the season (to put him on regular rest for Game 1), so I expect to see Hector Noesi get another opportunity to start.

Currently, the Yankees have the best record in the American league, leading Detroit by 5.  The team ending the season with the best record would have home field advantage through the ALCS, as well as the right to play either the wild card or the division winner with the worst record.  Even though the wild card is still up in the air , with the Rays and Angels trailing the free-falling Red Sox by 2 games in the loss column, it seems very likely that the wild card winner will come out of the East.  If so, the Yankees would take on whoever has the worst record between Texas and Detroit.

The first-round matchup I would fear the most would probably be the Angels (if they are able to make it in) because of their rotation, but neither Detroit nor Texas are as scary in my mind.  I would probably lean toward facing Texas if I had a choice, due to the Yankees’ well-documented ability to crush left-handed pitching.  However, since both teams are tied and don’t have a ton to play for, it will be hard to predict who will wind up ahead.

Since the Yankees appear to have little say in determining their first-round matchup, the next question is what kind of a role they want to play as a potential spoiler for Boston or Tampa.  Since the Yankees have 7 games remaining against the two, they are in a position to crush the playoff dreams of one of their divisional rivals. Between the two, I would argue that it is in the Yankees’ interest to ensure that the weaker of the two makes the playoffs (since the Yankees have little control over how the Angels perform) while resting players in a manner that will maximize their effectiveness come October.  While Boston is playing terribly right now, and the back of their rotation looks weak after the top 2 of Beckett and Lester, Boston’s lineup still is a far more formidable force than that of the Rays, which for me is enough to make me prefer to face Tampa.  Consequently, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Yankees rest more of the regulars in the Tampa series and then play the starters in the 3-game set against Boston to finish the season.  This will get them sharp again for the Division Series, as well as give Tampa a little help in catching Boston.  Even if Boston winds up winning the wild card, it still is in the Yankees’ interest for them to play as many important games as possible going down the stretch.

I imagine this perspective may not be a popular one around baseball.  Boston fans certainly would not be happy if the Yankees took this approach, and they would likely be ripped in the media for taking it easy on Tampa.  Ultimately the Yankees need to do whatever maximizes their probability of winning the World Series this year.  If this means that they earn some criticism from their rivals or the media for influencing the wild card outcome, so be it.  I would certainly sympathize with Boston to a point here, but the bottom line is, if they didn’t absolutely spit the bit in September, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.  In my opinion, the Yankees have no moral obligation to maintain a level playing field.

8 thoughts on “How should the Yankees proceed?

  1. You always play to win and the fans who go to the games deserve to see real competition. That doesn’t mean that the “A” lineup needs to all play to the extent that some guys would benefit from rest but anyone on the field will and should be playing to win.

    At this point, the division is wrapped up and the Yankees are highly likely to have the best record in the AL and thus homefield advantage. I think the goal should be to:

    (1) lineup the rotation
    (2) give guys rest who need it
    (3) give other guys who are slumping ABs to get them going
    (4) give some key bench guys ABs to get a tuneup
    (5) get more looks at whoever is on the bubble for a playoff roster spot

    Trying to engineer the Wild Card victor should not be a goal at all. Frankly, I’m not sure if I’d even prefer to face Tampa than Boston right now anyway.

  2. Love that you posted the link to ESPN’s preview! I looked up that very article a couple days ago. Astounding that not ONE person picked the Yanks.

  3. What Yankee fan would possibly prefer to face the Red Sox over the Rays?

    I don’t care if the Rays are actually better than the Sox. Facing the Rays means the Sox missed the playoffs, and suffered one of the greatest collapses in baseball history.

    This is easy. Rest every one against Tampa, go for wins against Boston. Doesn’t the rivalry count for anything?

  4. You’ve got the remaining games backwards. The Yanks play Boston this weekend and finish the season in Tampa. So then you’d be playing the regulars this weekend against the Sox and resting them against the Rays. Not sure that makes a whole lot of sense.

  5. Moreover, having Boston out also eliminates the possibility of Boston beating the Yankees in the ALCS, which would be the ULTIMATE comeuppance for the “Nation”, after all the trash talk the Yankee fans have been saying

    (i am a yankee fan)

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  7. Anyone that listens/reads ESPN and pays attention to the drivel should note that they try to keep as many fans believing that their team has a chance to be relevant for as long as possible. Of course, that’s how they make their money. But NOBODY should take their BS seriously, just look back for a decade or two at their predictions on teams/players and you’ll that 3 year old with a set of lawn darts is probably more accurate. The Yankee Analysts and a number of other blogs have it all over ESPN when it comes to analysis. And one last thing, ESPN butt kissing of Epstein, John Henry (kudos for fleeing Miami, but he got a lot smarter w/ more more money to spend), Francona, and Ortiz (time for me to retch). Great job guys, keep it going!