As the Yankees head into an early offseason, I'm fairly certain about a grand total of seven roster spots for next season. Two everyday positions seem to be set for next year - Mark Teixeira at first base (and he comes with a "missed virtually the entire previous season" asterisk) and Brett Gardner in center field. On the pitching staff, I think two rotation spots are set - CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova. In the bullpen, I'm confident predicting that three spots are already spoken for - David Robertson, Adam Warren and Preston Claiborne. That's an awful lot of uncertainty heading into next season, and they haven't done much this season to help themselves sort through things. Yes, I'm hoping against precedent that the Yankees will see Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells for the sunk costs they are and dump them. I started off preferring that if they are both on the roster next year, they'll used in some sort of platoon. However, looking at their lefty-righty and first half-second half splits, that seems unlikely, in addition to unwise. Both have been equally useless in the second half: Ichiro is hitting .223/.256/.259 in 273 plate appearances since the All-Star break. In 346 PAs since May 1, Wells is hitting a nearly identical .222/.263/.306. Furthermore, neither of them have much of a positive platoon split to exploit, and have not since 2011.
OPS vs LHP
OPS vs RHP
OPS vs LHP
OPS vs RHP
If you think either of them has a respectable OPS against lefties this year, it's only in comparison to their other splits the last two seasons. I can't think of a single baseball reason (as opposed to a contractual reason) to keep either of them on the roster next year.
At this point, it's not so much the fact that the Yankees will miss the playoffs that disappoints me (17 playoff appearances in 19 years is really tough to complain about), but how they're doing it. Specifically, I'm still watching Ichiro and Wells, plus Chris Stewart and Joba Chamberlain instead of Austin Romine (who probably wouldn't be playing even if he didn't suffer a concussion), J.R. Murphy, Zoilo Almonte, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Brett Marshall and Cesar Cabral, or anyone else who has a chance of playing a role on the team's next division champion.
Of course, I shouldn't be too surprised. I think that even if the Yankees had drafted Mike Trout in 2009 and Jose Fernandez in 2011, they would have split the 2013 season between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton if they were in the Yankee organization.
These next five games will probably be the last ones in which you can just watch and appreciate Robinson Cano as a fantastic player, and nothing more. He's either going to sign with someone else this offseason, in which case we'll be obliged to root against him, or the Yankees will give him a clearly-several-years-too-long contract (by which I mean eight years or more), that everyone will regret by the end of the 2017 season. If the later is the case, it'll be very weird watching him turn into 2013 Alex Rodriguez, where he can still hit a little but is a shell of his former self, and the Yankees are looking for a miracle to get rid of his contract.
I forget where I read it, but someone quoted a scout as calling Andy Pettitte the best number three pitcher of his generation (and meant it as a compliment). I think that's fair, and it's why on the question of Pettitte's Hall of Fame chances, I fall on the side of "just short, with a peak that wasn't quite high enough." Don't misinterpret what I'm saying, and don't let it overshadow what he's meant to the team and the fans - he's been one of my favorite Yankees for a long time, and is probably one of the 10 best starting pitchers in team history, and I'll miss him.
With one start left this season, Phil Hughes home / road splits continue to lead me to believe that he'll become a poor man's Pettitte for someone else next year. He's made 15 starts at Yankee Stadium this season, and in 76.1 innings is 1-9 with a 6.13 ERA and 17 home runs allowed. In 13 road starts, covering 67.1 innings, he's 3-4 with a 3.88 ERA and seven home runs allowed. That's not exactly a fluke, either. In his career, he has a 4.91 ERA with 76 home runs allowed at Yankee Stadium and a 4.10 ERA with 36 home runs allowed on the road.
Now that the Yankees are officially eliminated, I'll have to adjust my rooting priorities. In the American League, I'll be rooting for whoever the Red Sox are playing. In any other American League playoff series, I'll be rooting for the team that has the best chance to beat the Red Sox in the next round. In the National League, I'll probably root for the winner of the Reds-Pirates Wild Card game. The Pirates are an ancient franchise (started play in the 1891 National League) that lost the first World Series in 1903, and has won five World Series and nine pennants. Both last occurred in 1979, with their last winning season and playoff appearance coming in 1992.
The Reds, of course, were the first professional baseball team, and have been playing in the National League since 1890. They've won five World Series and 10 pennants in their storied history, with both last coming in 1990. They've had some success since then, with four division titles in the last 22 seasons (reaching the NLCS once), but this is just their third winning season since 2000, and they had nine losing seasons in a row from 2001-2009. Does that surprise anyone else?
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