The Yankees and Aaron Boone are stressing about who should pitch when in the playoffs. But they’re all on top of their game. Pitch ’em all…
The Yankees are poised to make the run for their 28th World Championship. Once there was a fear the team’s pitching, while good, is not good enough. As it turns out though, Aaron Boone has a multitude of options to choose from in determining his roster of pitchers. As always in today’s game, analytics will make the selections. No matter, though, the Yankees can’t go wrong.
Name a pitcher on the Yankees staff not named Nestor Cortes Jr. you wouldn’t trust in a tight situation when the postseason begins for the team on October 4. The core three tandem of James Paxton, Luis Severino, and Masahiro Tanaka is a given. But look beyond that.
On two successive nights, Boone executed his experiment to have CC Sabathia and J.A. Happ (right) come in from the bullpen. Both times, their appearances were a success.
Sabathia worked one inning striking out two, and Happ went five innings striking out six while giving up a single run. Aaron Boone is reportedly considering using Sabathia as a multi-inning reliever.
The night before, Yankees pitching rang up seventeen Tampa Bay Rays, surrendering two runs over twelve innings. Over the two games, Tommy Kahnle, Luis Cessa, Zach Britton, Adam Ottavino, Aroldis Chapman, Jordan Montgomery, Chad Green, and Stephen Tarpley were all untouched for runs scored against them.
Maybe, we should be more worried about the Yankees ability to muster up only seven hits in losing both games to the Rays. But that’s to make the point the Yankees staff has come together to present Aaron Boone with the possibility of picking names out of a hat – while still getting results from whoever takes the ball.
Yankees ALDS Schedule Means Anything Goes
The Yankees play their final game of the regular season in Texas on Sunday. They don’t play again until Friday. That’s four days off giving ample rest to everyone on the staff.
The ALDS is played in a 2-2-1 format, with an off-day after the first two at Yankee Stadium, and once more following the next two on the road before the team heads back to the Stadium for the fifth game (if necessary).
If the ALDS goes the full five games, the Yankees get one day off before the ALCS begins on October 12. A best-of-seven series, the ALCS also has two built-in off days allowing for travel.
In theory, the schedule means Boone can use his entire bullpen, including Happ and Sabathia, in the ALDS as many as three times each – without using any of them on back-to-back days. That’s huge if only in terms of the arsenal Boone has at his disposal.
When you get to the ALCS, and so close to the World Series, all plans and strategies are thrown out the window, with the games becoming all hands on deck scenarios.
But still, with so many reliable resources, what difference does it make if Tommy Kahnle gets the nod over Adam Ottavino? They’re both capable of getting the job done.
Yankees Starters On A Short Leash
If you think managers have a short leash with their starting pitchers during the regular season, wait till we get to the postseason.
Severino will, of course, be on a pitch count limit. But don’t be surprised if you see Boone employing a once through the lineup limit for both Paxton and Tanaka, no matter how effective they are pitching.
Another option available to Boone is to use Chad Green as an opener in games one, three, and five of the ALDS. Green has been reliable for two innings when serving in this capacity while racking up the strikeouts.
Boone can then follow with his “starter” for three or as many as four innings, setting any combination of his relievers for the final three frames with Chapman closing out each game.
In-Game Situations Rule Everything
Aaron Boone and the Yankees will play each game as if there is no tomorrow. You give away nothing in the postseason.
Conventional moves are often discarded out of necessity. If, for instance, a situation calls for it, any of the Yankees power threats will bunt for a base hit if the defense gives them the opportunity.
The lefty-righty thing goes out of the window as well, and Paxton will face a right-handed batter in a tense situation, and not removed from the game as a reflex decision.
Touch and feel. We talked about the analytics before but make no mistake. There will be times when Aaron Boone flies by the seat of his pants – sensing the move he makes is the right one at that particular moment.
Boone might say all the right things about each of his players, in the same way, a parent claims to not favor one child over another. But there are some he trusts more than others, especially in critical game-deciding situations.
We’ll know it when we see it – for example – when Gleyber Torres plays every inning of every game even if he’s hitting a buck-fifty. Ditto Brett Gardner, who is made for these games.
For some individuals, having too many choices leaves them confused and frozen. Aaron Boone does not appear to be of that type. As much as for the players, this is Boone’s moment as well.
To be clear, Aaron Boone will run the postseason as he sees fit.
So far, so excellent. Boone is ready to carry this thing through, adding a notch to the legacy he is quickly building in Yankee’s lore. Next Friday, it all begins. For now, Aaron Boone has a chance to reflect on the way it was meant to be. (video)