For the New York Yankees and all of the other 29 MLB, whoever scores the most runs wins. It sounds like it doesn’t have to be said, and is obvious, the difficultly is getting there, particularly in the postseason. The Yankees seem like they have been losing each postseason now, for years. The team, like the Tampa Bay Rays that pitches better and hits better, will win time after time That is exactly what happened to the Yankees in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
The New York Yankees worked to make that happen this past offseason by going to California during the Winter meetings and procured the services of the best pitcher available in baseball, Gerrit Cole. The Yankees thought that one move would take them to a World Series and a win. The reality is that it didn’t produce that 28th World Championship.
It wasn’t Gerrit Cole’s fault; there was plenty of blame to go around. The injuries, the mostly failure of the pitching staff, other than Gerrit Cole, and bats that frequently went dead. So what is most important for the Yankees to fix. As they say, its the economy dummy; well, likewise, it’s the pitching dummy. Pitching is always more important than hitting. If your pitching staff hold the opponent hitless or runless, you win, period.
This is not to say that hitting isn’t important, of course it is. The Yankees are built to be a home run team, a team that hits for power. The problem with that is when you don’t hit home runs, you frequently lose games. To assume your lineup will hit home runs in every game is just not realistic. The Yankees have the power but misses something in the basic baseball book. They don’t bunt, they don’t stea,l and usually, they don’t run. They rely almost entirely on hitting home runs.
What makes home runs key is to have players on the bases when that power hitter hits for the fences. To do that, you have to have a balanced lineup of power and contact hitters. The Yankees have the power, but they are lacking in the small ball factor. If you look at the Tampa Bay Rays that have a tiny payroll compared to the Yankees with their monster payroll, you see a better balanced team and can execute all that baseball has to offer.
For the Yankees to win in the postseason, they must have quality pitching, and that usually means four pitchers that can consistantly win games. The Yankees, pure and simple did not have that in 2020. For your hitting to mean anything, you must have somone on the mound that can keep you in the game. If you look at it realistically, fans only felt good with Gerrit Cole on the mound. If any other Yankee pitcher was on the mound, you never knew what would happen. That is not a good way to go into the postseason and expect to win. After spending big on Cole, the Yankee owe it to themselves and the fans to upgrade the pitching staff to back up Cole.
The recipe that the Yankees must put together is a pitching rotation that wins a lot more than they lose. With Cole leading the rotation and Luis Severino coming back in May or June, and the return of Domingo German, assuming you can count on him repeating his 2019 season, the Yankees are pretty well set up. The big but, is that they need a fourth premium type pitcher. Jordan Montgomery, dubuting Deivi Garcia, and the departing Paxton and Happ weren’t the pitchers to get the job done.
The Yankees may very well take Masahiro Tanaka back on a short term, discounted contract. This writer isn’t sure that’s the right thing to do. Tanaka’s best days are behind him. The few years haven’t been great. Do the Yankees settle for an inconsistant pitcher, or do they get a legitimate mid rotation pitcher. They should secure by whatever means a fourth man in the rotation and let Mongomery, Garcia or whoever fight it out for that anchor spot in the rotation. If they can do that they will go into a postseason with pitching confidence.
If the New York Yankees can do that, when the hitters go silent, which unfortunately will happen in the best lineups, they can still win games. I am not discounting that the Yankees need a better mix of hitters, but the bottom line is good pitching normally wins games.
The photo accompanying this article is the Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte, the winningness Yankee postseason pitcher of all time.
EmpireSportsMedia.com’s William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.