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The Final Week
2008-09-22 19:37
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

With six days left in the regular season, five of the eight playoff spots are still in play and nine teams are still in the hunt.

In the NL East, the Phillies have won ten of their last 11 to build a 2.5 game lead over the Mets. They have just five games left, two against the Braves, and three against the Nationals. The Mets have six games left, the first three against the NL best Cubs. That race looks over.

Fortunately for the Mets, they still hold a one-game lead over the Brewers in the NL Wild Card race. The Brewers also have three games left against the Cubs and have gone just 5-15 on the month. Milwaukee's other three games are against the Pirates, the Mets' against the Marlins. Since the top two teams here are choking their seasons away, it's worth mentioning that the third horse in that race is Houston, which is 3.5 games back this morning and has seven games left against the Reds, Braves, and a season-ending makeup game against the Cubs. All four teams mentioned above play all of their remaining games at home. The other two teams still alive in the NL Wild Card race are the Marlins and Cardinals, both of whom could be eliminated to day with a loss and a Mets win.

The Cardinals host the Diamondbacks for the next three days, then send them home to face the Rockies. The D'backs trail the Dodgers by two games in the West. Joe Torre's team finishes up against the Padres and Giants.

The AL finds four teams still in play for the remaining two spots, though one of them is the Yankees, who can do no better than tie the Red Sox for the Wild Card. The Sox will clinch the Wild Card with a win or a Yankee loss. Boston also has a chance to pass the Rays for first place in the East (they trail by 2.5 games), though that's less significant since the Rays have already clinched a playoff spot.

That just leaves the race in the Central, which is where the real action is over the next three days as White Sox, who hold a 2.5 game lead in the division, travel to Minnesota to try to put away the second-place Twins head-to-head. If they fail, the Twins will finish at home against the Royals, while the White Sox host the Indians (actually, that will happen anyway, it just won't mean as much if the White Sox clinch in Minneapolis).

Here's the schedule for the White Sox's series in Minnesota:

Tue 9/23 8:10 (Vazquez v Baker)
Wed 9/24 8:10 (Buehrle v Blackburn)
Thu 9/25 8:10 (Floyd v Slowey)

Sadly, none of these games will be nationally televised.

Comments
2008-09-22 22:05:47
1.   Mattpat11
Assuming the Yankees don't win out and the Red Sox don't lose out, I'd like to see the Yankees eliminated by a Carl Pavano loss, just to put the bow on that disaster and hopefully kill any chance of this team trying to bring him back.
2008-09-23 00:01:05
2.   weeping for brunnhilde
I gotta say, I'm happy for Joe.

I've barely thought about him all year, but now that he looks to keep his streak alive, I'm really happy for him.

Given the turn of events this year, it's hard not to think what if...

It's hard not to think Joe may actually have been able to squeeze a little more out of this club, though I've no evidence for it, other than the fact that there he is, yet again, and here we are feeling the weather get colder with no baseball in sight until March.

Plus, since they canned Willie, my personal connection to the Mets is mostly gone so I can't even root for them the way I have since Willie took the helm.

2008-09-23 04:52:35
3.   monkeypants
2 Hmmm...the Yankees have 85 wins, the Dodgers 81. But I guess if Torre could have magically turned Xavier Nady into Manny Ramirez, then he probably could have squeezed a little more out of this club.
2008-09-23 05:25:08
4.   Sliced Bread
2 Yeah, I'm happy for Joe, too. I don't think Joe himself would have made the 6 game difference for these Yanks, but at the same time, I think this team might have had a different energy (luck?) had he accepted that lameduck deal. I don't think he would have made Hughes and Kennedy better, nor would he have prevented their injuries, nor Wang's, nor Posada's, nor Matsui's. But based on past results it's hard not to imagine his touch, and coaching staff (Bowa) couldn't have gotten more out of Melky and Cano.
He certainly wouldn't have allowed Melky to evlove into the blackhole he became, and Cano might have had a better year with Bowa riding him.
Girardi, for all his hard work, preparation, and intense will to win actually seemed more complacent to me than his predecessor, and less in command of his players. And when things were going bad (as things always do) his players seemed more complacent, and down on their luck sorry for themselves.
Yeah, nobody made excuses but they did at times seem to lack urgency, and fight.

I don't think Girardi is bad for the team,(he'll be great as the team gets younger) nor am I certain that things would have been better this season under Torre -- but as the streak ends, I think you're right, weeping, it's hard not to wonder what if.

I also totally agree about Willie and the Mets. They lost 99% of my goodwill when they dumped him. Man, it was great to see him gleefully sliding in the Stadium dirt the other night.

2008-09-23 05:31:39
5.   monkeypants
4 I guess I was pretty jaded about Torre and rather certain the streak was going to end one way or another. When I wonder what if, I get images of Joba as the 8th inning guy, being used relentlessly until his arm falls off. I imagine a whole bevy of RP rotting in the BP or the minors. I imagine bizarre infatuations, like Betemit becoming the starting 1B.
2008-09-23 05:45:39
6.   Sliced Bread
5 I don't think there's any question the bullpen was managed better by Girardi -- (it was Torre's biggest weakness) but there's no way Torre would have been allowed to abuse Joba. Not a chance. Joe complied with the Joba Rules, and if I recall correctly even phoned Cashman mid-game for clarification. He might/most certainly would have made a case to keep Joba in the pen, but I don't think he would have won that battle, not as a lameduck manager - and I don't think he would have complained much after Joba entered the rotation.
2008-09-23 06:28:53
7.   ny2ca2dc
6 It was really great to see good BP management. Next years pen, with the addition of Coke and Marte and with Humberto and Melancon waiting in the wings, should be bomber. We've still got Bruny and Alby, plus Robertson, Edwar and Veras, not to mention plenty of long relief options with Rasner/IPK/Aceves/Giese. Man that's a lot of arms. JB Cox is still breathing too (and Whelen)! And maybe Britton will get his wish (or non-tendered...) Cashman really has to take his pick of the litters and try to lump a couple of these guys and get some kind of value - the 40-man crunch is going to be a big issue.

I'm just hoping the rooks will get a lot of playing time. I'd be happy to see Gardner starting in center, Cervelli catching, and Miranda/Duncan (is Dunc up?) platooning at 1B and/or DH. Not that we'll be able to evaluate them based on a week, but lets get their feet wet, see if they're overmatched, and just make it interesting.

2008-09-23 06:57:03
8.   Knuckles
Assuming we don't somehow sneak by Boston this week, I am going to refer to 2008 as "The Deep Breath", a slight break for the Yanks between two ridiculously long streaks of playoff appearances.
2008-09-23 07:04:54
9.   unmoderated
good call, knuckles.
2008-09-23 07:44:40
10.   Just fair
I think the better question is , "Would Girardi have the Dodgers in first place?"
I think yes. And I don't think Torre could have miracled the 08 Yanks into the playoffs. Plus, Bowa would have held Wang at 3rd causing him to blow out both ACL's and dislocate both shoulders with maybe a concussion. So, ya neva, neva know. : )
2008-09-23 08:21:52
11.   Shaun P
6 If we assume Torre (and Bowa) would have gotten Melky and Cano to their 50th percentile PECOTA projections (Cano is around his 25th, Melky his 10th), that would have added 3.4 wins to the Yanks total (5.1 to 6.2 for Cano; 1.6 to 3.9 for Melky).

Then, as monkeypants rightly points out, subtract something for destroying the bullpen: at least 1 win, probably more. Let's be conservative and say 1.4.

So, Torre+Bowa, IF they could have prevented Melky and Cano's poor performance, might have added 2 wins to the Yanks' total, which is still not enough.

Having Wang doesn't get those 6 wins back either. Add Wang (2.9 WARP when hurt, so say 6 for the year (+3.1)) in place of Ponson (.6) gives a net gain of 2.5 wins. So even Wang+Torre+Bowa-Ponson doesn't give the Yanks another 6 wins.

No, the killer injury was Posada: .6 WARP1 this year; weighted mean PECOTA projection: 6.2 = loss of 5.6 wins.

Any discussion of why the Yanks will miss the playoffs this year begins and ends with the injuries to Posada - which Torre could not have prevented.

2008-09-23 08:36:42
12.   JohnnyC
Do you think acquiring Manny Ramirez at the trading deadline had anything to do with the Dodgers winning a mediocre NL West division? I guess Girardi didn't have that touch, that certain something, that ineluctable whatever that could have had Albert Pujols land in our laps on July 31st. But, hey, chances are Pujols would've quit on the team like all the other veterans.
2008-09-23 08:51:33
13.   monkeypants
12 See 3
2008-09-23 09:09:15
14.   Raf
I dunno. Seems to me the same club as last year.

Bowa wasn't the problem with Cano; he's pretty much the same player he was in 2005.

As for bullpen management, Girardi had his formula, like all managers. Big difference from this year to last is having guys like Edwar, Veras, Bruney & Co. coming through this year. Given the way Britton has been deployed, I'd say that both managers are the same :)

The pitching has been around league average, which it has been for the last few years.

I'm fairly confident that if Torre had remained in 08, that Chamberlain would've been transitioned to the rotation; wasn't that the plan all along?

And I'm not going to beat the "Girardi/Torre pitcher abuse" dead horse, as it has been discussed to death elsewhere that their cases of abuse are or were overblown.

2008-09-23 09:41:34
15.   Schteeve
if Posada can't catch next year, or if his offensive production is significantly off his 2007 numbers, and if the Yankees don't get 2 850+ OPS bats in the offseason, this team is gonna be in trouble again next year.
2008-09-23 10:35:26
16.   OldYanksFan
15 I agree. If he can't post .800, he may be of no use, depending on what 1Bs and/or DHs are available. Jorge's value is as a catcher. If he can't catch, it could end badly for him.

However, if there any reason he shouldn't be fully recovered by May 2009?

2008-09-23 11:01:36
17.   monkeypants
16 No use even with an OPS of .800? That's a bit strong, no? What's the average MLB catcher? This year the average C hit .714 OPS, 91 OPS+. So, even a .750 OPS Posada is a positive.

A major problem is that the team has grown too dependent on far above average production from weak hitting spots (SS, C). So, when Jeter or Po have an off year (or even a decline year) at ages 34 or so, everyone says crazy things about how much they hurt the team. No. they simply do not help the team as much as before. It's the real dead weight (like this year's Cano and Melky) that hurt the team.

This is also why the organization should for once get serious about filling slugging positions like DH and 1B with real hitters. These positions should not be used to extend the careers of Posada or Jeter or anyone else who isn't mashing.

Returning to Posada: I still contend that his ONLY real value is as a catcher. Like Jeter, he will likely never hit well enough again to warrant a move to full time DH or 1B. Rather, they should catch the hell out of him until he can't play anymore, and hope to ride a couple of decent seasons out of that four year contract.

2008-09-23 11:29:33
18.   weeping for brunnhilde
3 4 I know, I know, I know!!!

Jesus, I wasn't presenting a sabermetric argument!

I was just musing!

I deliberately labored over how to present my musing so as not to incur the mockery of the sabermetrically inclined.

I conceded I have no evidence!

Can't a guy just muse?

2008-09-23 11:30:35
19.   weeping for brunnhilde
4 Sorry, Sliced, I was really just talking to mp.
2008-09-24 00:14:04
20.   underdog
Torre's made some questionable moves here and there this season with the Dodgers regarding the 'pen, too, but overall he's managed it pretty well, it was not only not destroyed but has the best ERA in the NL. There were a few injuries -- Saito being lost for a while hurt them, but as a 38 y.o. reliever who wasn't really overworked this year that had nothing to do with Torre. Kuo got hurt, but he's been hurt 3 times before (Torre did seem to love him though) but in fairness they really babied him and haven't rushed him back. It helps having a deep bullpen with quite a few guys he has faith in of course, so no one guy bears the brunt of it.

And hey Proctor's abuse caught up with him this season and he finally got that long break he'd been wanting ;-) but he looks healthy now. At least, again because there were several other options, he wasn't overuse this year. (How could he be with the long stint on the DL and the other options.) Anyway, so there were some "Why is he leaving so and so in" or "why the double switch" kind of questions off and on this season but overall he really seemed to manage the pen okay. Maybe it helped that he listened to Rick Honeycutt who knew the staff a lot better. Helps to have some luck, too, of course, but with an odd OF overload, and a few critical injuries of their own (Furcal especially) it seems like Torre did a pretty good job this year overall, regardless of the weak division.

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