Speculation on what caused the train wreck that ended last night with the Yankee’s 8-1 loss to Detroit is useless, so I’m going to empty out all the notes I took during this year’s ALCS and see what sense can be made of it.
First off, this is the third time the Yankees have lost a postseason series to the Tigers in 6 years — that’s 2006, 2011, and this year. Over that period the Yankees are 3-10 against the Tigers in playoff games. In each season, the Yankees won more games during the regular season and won more games against the Tigers head-to-head. Go figure. I’ve been going back and forth and back and forth on this all season long. I’m finally done once and for all:
C.C. Sabathia is not an ace, not a big-time pitcher, and he never
will be. He’s fat and ridiculously out of shape, and he tires too much
after long use. His postseason record is now 12-7, but that doesn’t
begin to show how poorly he has pitched. In 19 postseason games, he has
pitched 107.1 innings, given up 116 hits, and walked 51; I’m surprised
that his ERA isn’t higher than 4.53.
The Yankees big problem in the postseason is that they’ve always
lacked that one, big-time, overpowering stud starter. Andy Pettitte has
been a good approximation of that starter; if the Yankees had an
ace to go with as their number-one man with Pettite in the number two
slot, they probably would have won, well, more than one World Series in
the Girardi era.
Much has been written about the Yankees dead bats, but this one stat
still floored me: The Yankees picked up Ichiro Suzuki near the end of
the year. Raul Ibanez was left on the doorstep by the Phillies at the
end of last season. Jayson Nix is a utility player in his first
postseason who batted just 177 times this year, and Eduardo Nunez spent
much of the year in the minor leagues. In the 2012 postseason, these
four had 23 hits in 81 at-bats for a .284 batting average. The rest of
the Yankees — the regulars, the All-Stars — were 35 for 109 for a
batting average of .167.
Joe Girardi or Brian Cashman or whoever called the shot punished Alex
Rodriguez sufficiently by sitting him down for the better part of the
last two games against the Tigers. A-Rod was 3 for 25 this postseason
for a .120 BA. The man who replaced him was Eric Chavez, who was 0 for
16, was charged with one error, and made bad fielding plays that could
have been called errors on two other occasions. Atta boy, Joe — you
really showed A-Rod.
Finally, if there was one image that sticks in my mind about the
stubbornness and stupidity of this year’s Yankees in sticking with bad
habits it was the 9th inning of Game One. With Detroit leading 4-2 and
no one on base, Mark Teixeira came up, and the Tigers went into that
shift that is going to end up taking maybe 30 points off his career
average. There was virtually no one on the left side of the field
except Miguel Cabrera playing a few feet to the left of where the
shortstop usually plays.
One of the commentators — I can’t
remember who except that it wasn’t Ron Darling but the other guy — said,
“Why doesn’t Teixeira just slap the ball down the left side of the
field and get on base? Then Ibanez could be the potential tying run.” A
good observation. All Teixeira had to do was push the ball on the
ground to the left side of the field and he would be on base. Instead,
he selfishly and stubbornly tried to hit against the shift and . . .
succeeded! Then Ibanez hit the home run that tied the game so no one
remembered or cared what Teixeira had failed to do. His hit in that
situation was, I think, the only time during the entire postseason that a
Yankee succeeded in beating a shift or a pitching strategy designed to
stop him. I think I saw the Tigers, with right-handed pitchers on the
mound, throw to Cano nine times on the outside corner and watched him
try to pull it each time, slapping the ball harmlessly toward second
base. It was as if he had forgotten everything he had ever learned
about going with the pitch and hitting to the opposite field.
That’s all the baseball I want to talk about this year.