By Andy Singer
We’re just one day from the start of the ALDS, and my brain is finding it hard to form any further cohesive thoughts about the Yankees. What follows is a random sampling of the thoughts running through my head as they pertain to baseball. Here are my Sunday musings for your reading pleasure:
I was very sad to read of Bob Gibson’s passing on Friday at the age of 84. While I was too young to have seen him pitch live, stories about Bob Gibson’s career and his approach to the game have always been some of my favorites. In interviews, Gibson appeared friendly, relaxed, and generally affable in demeanor. On the mound and in the dugout on days he pitched though, Gibson was a different guy entirely. I’ve always loved the stories of Gibson’s glare when he took the hill. In the grainy video available of Gibson’s games, you can even see the eyes piercing through you. That’s before we even talk about Gibson as a pitcher. Gibson’s athleticism on the mound was striking. His leg rose high into the air with ease, prior to the ball simply exploding from his hand. Eyes can deceive, but I think Gibson threw hard even by today’s standards. In the form of a classic pitcher, he combined that fastball with a devastating slider, a pitch whose shape he was able to vary to keep hitters honest. I caught 15 minutes of Gibson’s 17 strikeout game on MLB Network, though I’ve seen it before. He was simply masterful, with a style that would work even today (though the modern game might take issue with his propensity to throw inside). Modern power pitchers owe plenty to Gibson. Seeing the game makes me want to re-read his autobiographical account of that game, Pitch By Pitch, where he goes into great detail into his thoughts on each pitch in that outing. The game lost one of the greats. A tip of the cap to Bob Gibson, a pitcher who was both unique, and a trailblazer for the modern power pitcher.
Onto the Yankees. I wrote a series preview for the ALDS on Friday, so I dug more deeply into the Rays lineup there than I will here. As I went through the Rays’ roster, sure, I was impressed by the depth in their pitching staff, but I was surprised by how underwhelmed by their lineup. The black hole behind the plate (far worse than the Yankees, no matter how bad you think Sanchez is), the poor plate discipline, and average, not great, power, and I’m really not sure how the Rays rolled through the AL East so easily. The Rays are a good team, not a great team, though I am willing to admit that they are better than simply the sum of their parts. I may be crazy, or maybe I just need more sleep, but the Rays don’t scare me the way I think they should. On paper, the match-up looks very similar to the one the Yankees just had with the Indians. I picked the Yankees in 4 games in the ALDS Preview, and I’m sticking with it.
Maybe I am crazy. The Rays did beat the Yankees in 8/10 match-ups in 2020, though a 60-game season is a miniscule sample size, and the Yankees were banged up throughout much of the year. Nope, still can’t talk myself into being scared of a match-up with the Rays as long as the Yanks stay healthy.
I can’t help but wonder what the Yankees are going to do with the bullpen. It doesn’t feel like anyone is pitching on all cylinders. In particular, Jonathan Loaisiga, who was so good for the first half of the season, has not been the same guy since returning from a mysterious illness. Who knows what is happening behind the scenes with Loaisiga, so first and foremost, I hope he’s healthy. On the other hand, he’s a different guy on the mound right now, and as a key cog in the Yankee bullpen, the Yankees are in a tight spot now that they can’t trust him. Prior to his IL stint, I would have argued that Loaisiga was the 3rd best pitcher in the ‘pen behind Chapman and Britton. Now, I’m not sure who the number 3 guy is. Green? Cessa? Ottavino is a mess right now, and can’t be trusted either. No matter how much worse Loaisiga looks, the Yanks are going to need him in this series.
The bullpen is even more of a mess than I give it credit for, particularly after reading what I just wrote. It really makes me wonder why the Yanks didn’t give Clarke Schmidt a longer audition late in the year in the bullpen. Would’ve, should’ve, could’ve, but the Yankees sure could use another power arm that Boone can trust. If the Yankees lose this series, I think we’ll look back at a weak bullpen as a cause.
Boy, do the Yankees miss Tommy Kahnle. I don’t think most fans realize how much deeper this bullpen was with him around.
Voit looks really banged up trying to run the bases, so I completely understand including Mike Ford on the roster, but I really wanted to see Miguel Andujar. No, he can’t be trusted defensively anywhere on the diamond, but his right-handed bat off the bench would make for a great pinch-hit, match-up dependent option in the late innings. Andujar is still really talented, and will flourish at the plate…somewhere.
I’m done analyzing Sanchez for the remainder of the regular season, but on a more emotional note, I want to see him crush Rays pitching this series. It would just make me happy to see Sanchez have some big moments.
Judge, Stanton, Voit, and Torres are all relatively healthy (at least enough to hit). I can’t wait for all of them to click at the same time. That will be fun.
Both the Yanks and the Rays have downplayed their animosity for one another in recent comments. Something tells me that MLB is behind that. MLB doesn’t want the best match-up in the Divisional round of the playoffs to turn into a bloodbath. Probably rightfully so, though I maintain that the Rays started it, and Cash should have been fined for his comments back in August.
I’m really looking forward to this week. This is going to be a great set of games between rivals. No matter what else happened this year, October baseball feels right. I’m going to enjoy it. Cheers!