Sunday, August 16, 2009

2009 Yankees: A Model for Winning Baseball

The current Yankees, on a 23-6 tear, are demonstrating pretty clearly what it takes for a team to play winning baseball.

Fact: With few exceptions, the Yankees are not hitting that well. I think I could warm my arm up and throw some past A-rod. Matsui, Swisher, Posada - none of them are hitting for high average. We have had a lot of games in which we leave a lot of runners stranded and we are not scoring runs in bunches (except in rare games).

Fact: The Yankees do not make many spectacular plays on defense. Watch ESPN Web-gems and see how often a Yankee is featured in it.

But, what we are playing is winning baseball. Here's what it takes to win:

(I know, I know - the Yankees have a huge payroll. But we had a big payroll last year and didn't win. These are things I think we are doing differently.)

1) Pitching, Pitching, Pitching. Our starters have been consistently good. Not only do we have some good pitchers, but some guys who battle when they do not have their good stuff (Pettitte on Friday night). Our relievers have been awesome. Robertson, Bruney, Aceves, Hughes, Coke (most of the time) and Mariano are shutting teams down.

2) Solid defense. We do not make spectacular plays, but we make just about every routine play. We do not give up a lot of errors. No one will ever mistake Nick Swisher for a Golden Glove outfielder (sometimes, you wonder if his glove is metal), but we are making solid plays and making teams earn their runs.

3) Timely hitting. Look at the last couple of weeks - how often have we scored in the 8th or 9th innings of close games. We haven't been knocking the cover off of it, but when we need a hit, we get a hit (usually a home run). On home stands, the pie in the face is pretty common (for a walk-off hit). If we were hitting really well, a lot of those games would be blowouts, but we are winning close games with clutch hitting.

4) Multiple options. This is what sets the Yankees apart. Many teams have four hitters better than our four best. But, imagine if you are the opposing pitcher and for the bottom of the order, you get to face Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Melky Cabrera? Look at the bottom of Boston's order (hitters around .200 to .230). Melky is not hitting that well, but he has had some key clutch hits. So has Swisher.

5) A Fun Clubhouse. I watch the Yankees a lot (surprised?). In years past, the Yankees were quiet and dignified under Torre. They were professional, but you never saw them cutting up much. But this Yankee group is having fun. Things are light. I know, winning makes things fun. But the presence of Nick Swisher and AJ Burnett (pie-in-the-face AJ) has made a lot of difference.

A-rod seems to be having fun, though he is having his worst season since he was a rookie.

There are other things, like staying healthy. But these are the big ones I see about this team.

No comments:

Post a Comment