When you think of the Yankees, you think of depth, experience and patience. Well, they still have all those things this year, but they are also different in a lot of ways from what they've been in the past. They bring a lot of speed to the table, as well as an extreme amount of bullpen depth and a surprising amount of youth.
So, how do you beat a club like this aside from the obvious way of exposing their makeshift pitching staff behind CC Sabathia? You look at teams that have beat them this year, and more specifically pitchers who have beat them, and it typically comes down to being able to throw secondary pitches early in counts for strikes. Throwing strikes isn't enough, as their patient approach can easily be modified to attack early in counts. Pitchers who have established breaking balls and changeups early in counts have kept them off balance deep into ballgames.
As strong as their lineup is, it is very much a fastball hitting lineup, and a lineup that feasts on pitchers who can't locate more than one pitch. And, as much attention that is given to the weakness of the Yankee rotation, beating them will come down to how this lineup is attacked. Colby Lewis established his breaking ball against them last season and shut them down. And, it's that type of approach that can shut them down if executed.
Matchup To Watch
This matchup could come in round one or two, or not at all, but if it does it could make or break a series. Jesus Montero is just 21-years-old, but clearly already has the type of bat that could carry a lineup if he's hot. Well, right now he is as hot as any Yankee and looks incredibly comfortable against left-handed pitching.
The Texas Rangers are heavily dependent on their lefty pitching and Montero has the type of bat that could give them fits. Texas' lefties are also owners of power fastballs, something else that matches up well with Montero's skill set. He's had some issues with good breaking balls this month, but has hammered fastballs in all quadrants of the zone. His performance against lefties, coupled with Mark Teixeira's success from the right side, and Curtis Granderson's emergence against southpaws make them far less vulnerable to the tough lefty in October than perhaps they have been in the past.
You could make the case that no Yankee reliever since Mariano Rivera in 1996 has had a better season than Robertson has had in 2011. He's allowed the Yankees to turn games into five or six inning affairs, and that could become even more pivotal in October as the underbelly of New York's rotation figures to become an issue at some point.
There's no denying that Alex Rodriguez is now a diminished player. But, just how diminished is the big question. Rodriguez has yet to show in 2011 that he can drive the fastball on the outer half of the plate out of the park to right-center field with any degree of consistency. Without that threat, pitchers have some holes they can aim for in his swing. He's been busted inside since returning from the D.L. and he's yet to chase pitchers out of there. What we don't know is if his bat speed and lower half drive is gone for good or if it will show up again in October. A resurgence from A-Rod could be just the thing to put New York over the top. Right now, however, signs point to the A-Rod we saw in the 2009 playoffs being long gone.
Whoever New York faces in the playoffs, they are going to need some big outs against left-handed hitters. Down the stretch, Logan hasn't given them those big outs against lefties. Now, this isn't to say that if Logan doesn't perform that they have no alternative. David Robertson is outstanding against hitters from both sides of the plate, but he can only give them so many innings. Logan performing on a high level would give Joe Girardi the flexibility to use Robertson more sparingly.
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