- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot blogger
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I spent last night watching the postgame coverage on YES. I listened to Yankees fans calling in to sports-talk radio as I drove in to work this morning. I have the Mike Francesa show on YES on right now as I write this. Love the Yankees or hate the Yankees, the day after they're eliminated from the postseason is always one of the more interesting days of the year: The overanalysis, the stunned shock of defeat, the placing of blame on Alex Rodriguez. As Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay said on Mike & Mike about Game 5, "You couldn't find a person in New York who thought the Yankees had a chance to lose that game. ... Everything was lined up for the Yankees to win, it just was."
OK, some thoughts on all this, the 10th time in 11 seasons that will end without a World Series pennant flying over Yankee Stadium, the seventh time in eight years that ends without the Yankees making a trip to the World Series.
1. I didn't quite understand why everybody thought this was such a sure win for the Yankees. Did I miss the memo where Ivan Nova had suddenly turned into Bob Gibson? Do people realize this is baseball, where anything can one happen in one game? You could have put the Houston Astros out there and they would have had a chance to win. Plus, the dismissing of Doug Fister was a little embarrassing. It's easy to argue that Fister is a better pitcher than Nova and certainly not inconceivable that he could outpitch Nova. In analytical terms, the game was a toss-up.
2. You can extend that analogy one step further: Not enough fans understand that the baseball playoffs are a crapshoot. Since 1990, you know how many teams with the best regular-season record have won the World Series? Three -- the '98 Yankees, '07 Red Sox and '09 Yankees. If you make the playoffs, you essentially have a 1-in-4 chance of reaching the World Series. If you get to the World Series, you have 1-in-2 chance of winning. So if you make the playoffs every season you should win a World Series once every eight years. In their past eight trips to the postseason, the Yankees have reached two World Series and won one. Exactly what the odds would predict.
3. Of course, the current Yankees suffer in comparison to the 1996-2000 squad that captured four World Series titles in five years. What that team did was simply mind-boggling, going 46-15 in the postseason over a five-year span ... that's a .754 winning percentage, which is higher than the 1927 Yankees. That kind of run will never happen again. It can't. It just defies the laws of probability and postseason baseball. Since 2001, the Yankees have gone a still-impressive 48-43 in the postseason, but it's led to just one championship. (There's a comparison here to be made with the 1991-2005 Braves. In this ESPN Insider piece, Dan Szymborski reported that given their opponents, the Braves' postseason record of 63-62 was only one game worse than their expected record of 64-61.)
4. Let's not forget that the Yankees actually outscored the Tigers in the series by 11 runs. Of course, playoff series aren't determined on aggregate.
5. Alex Rodriguez ... look, you can argue that he shouldn't have been hitting cleanup. That would be the major question regarding Joe Girardi's managing in the series. Yankee fans love to bash A-Rod, of course, and it's somewhat understandable why. Here are his postseason averages since joining the Yankees:
2004 -- .320
2005 -- .133
2006 -- .071
2007 -- .267
2009 -- .365
2010 -- .219
2011 -- .111
Add it up and his overall postseason line with the Yankees isn't as bad as you think, however: .260/.388/.480, with 10 home runs and 33 RBIs in 53 games. He's hardly the one who should be "blamed," however. Here's how some of the Yankees did with runners in scoring position this series:
By the way, I'm not quite sure why Teixeira seems to escape criticism. His career postseason line (including one series with the Angels) is an abysmal .207/.315/.322, with just three home runs and 13 RBIs in 31 games. Swisher is a .169 postseason hitter in 38 games, with just six RBIs (he's 1-for-31 in his postseason career with runners in scoring position). The blame can be spread around.
6. You can't really fault Girardi too much. You can question the odd Eric Chavez pinch-hitting move for Brett Gardner in Game 3 and I thought his handling of the bullpen in Game 5 was a little questionable. Like pretty much every manager today, Girardi gets too locked into roles: David Robertson in the eighth, Mariano Rivera in the ninth. I know Ivan Nova's injury made things a bit more difficult, but I didn't like the idea of using CC Sabathia unless absolutely forced to. He brought in Sabathia to face the top of the Detroit lineup in the fifth inning when the Yankees trailed 2-0. Austin Jackson doubled and then after two strikeouts, he intentionally walked Miguel Cabrera. I think there were two better options as that inning unfurled: (1) Bring in Rafael Soriano to start the inning in the first place, try and get two innings from him, and then two from Robertson and then Rivera; or (2) once Sabathia had put two runners on base, bring in Robertson. What are you waiting for? I know it's CC Sabathia, but he was pitching on two days' rest. You cannot afford to allow any more runs at the point and Robertson was terrific all season. You have to manage Game 5 differently, and in my book, that meant getting as many innings as possible from Robertson and Rivera.
7. The Rob Thomson hold on A-Rod: Absolutely the right call. After the watching the replay again this morning, Rodriguez would have been out by 15 feet. Good decision by Thomson not to run the team out of a big inning.
8. For all the questions of "What will the Yankees do next?" the answer is: Not much. I expect the whole lineup will return, with the exception of Jesus Montero taking over the DH role from Jorge Posada. The bullpen is set with Boone Logan, Soriano, Robertson and Mo. A-Rod will be a year older and maybe a year more injury-prone (he's missed 150 games over the past four seasons and I wonder if we can ever expect him to play 150 games injury-free again). Jeter is a year older. Swisher will be 31. Teixeira will turn 32 and his OPS has declined three seasons in a row. And the rotation ... well, let's see if CC opts out of his contract and go from there. No doubt the pressure will be on GM Brian Cashman to re-sign Sabathia, and maybe go after free agent C.J. Wilson or swing a trade for another rotation anchor.
9. Anyway, it was a fun, interesting series. Did the better team win? Maybe, maybe not. I certainly don't buy the argument that the Yankees should have won the series and Game 5. There is no should in postseason baseball.
Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter @dschoenfield.