BBB Weighs In: Recapping the 2020 regular season and previewing the playoffs
With the postseason finally upon us, the writers at Bronx Bomber Ball weigh in on how they felt the 2020 regular season went, as well as give their thoughts on the playoffs which begin tonight in Cleveland.
Mary Grace DonaldsonFollow @TheRealGracieD
Not gonna lie, I’m cautiously optimistic based on the Yankees’ most recent stretch. WFAN’s Joe and Evan said it best earlier this week -- the Yankees haven’t been consistent. They’ve either managed to score 10+ runs in one game, or the offense can’t get it together. But the low scores that come in the latter situation is not only the fault of the offense; the inconsistency of the bullpen mimics the inconsistency of the team at large (and Tommy Kahnle is largely missed, a factor that hasn’t been discussed all that much). To get back to the offensive side of things, the Yankees can’t put all of their playoff eggs in the baskets of DJ LeMahieu and Luke Voit; everyone needs to play a part. In fact, all of the Yankees’ offensive players can take a page out of LeMahieu’s book when it comes to hitting with RISP -- there’s a reason why the man has won the batting title in both leagues. Spoiler alert: that reason isn’t solely home runs. Home runs are not the only answer, and the “home run or bust” problem has plagued the Yankees for years now. If Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres catch fire and come in clutch situations, they can make immeasurable contributions to postseason success. If Gary Sanchez can get out of his own head, he has the potential to erase all of the underperforming of the 2020 season in the minds of fans. If Aaron Hicks can do something besides walk, but continue to work counts at the same time, he’ll help get runs on the board. To pivot to starting pitching: the Yankees’ “X-Factor” in 2020 is, by a landslide, Gerrit Cole. He could prove the missing piece that the Yankees have needed since 2015. If Cole performs as he has all through September, with Kyle Higashioka behind the plate, he’ll continue to be as advertised.
To conclude: I say “cautiously optimistic” because the Yankees’ biggest enemy is complacency that leads to the aforementioned inconsistency. It almost appears as though the feeling through the last few games was, “Oh, we are in the playoffs, we don’t have to care,” or, “We just won ten in a row, we can rest on our laurels for a while.” Even Aaron Boone contributed to the complacency in his pressers, with lines such as, “We have time to fix it” -- when there was no time to be found. There are no laurels to rest on in October. There is no “time to fix it.” If the Yankees keep up the pressure -- both on themselves and on their opponents-- and stop the complacency that leads to inconsistency, I believe their chances for success are good. They have the talent to get it done.
If you had asked me about the Yankees and the playoffs three weeks ago, I probably would have given you the Jim Mora treatment. The Yankees had just lost their second straight game to the Blue Jays, their fifth in a row overall, and their seventh in their last eight games. They sat at a .500 record at 21-21. The day before they had allowed a 10 run inning to the Blue Jays that by all accounts was as rock bottom as you could get. Nothing was working. But then something changed. The Yankees slowly got healthy and out of nowhere ripped off 10 wins in a row. Gerrit Cole looked like the ace we paid him to be, the Bronx Bombers were hitting home runs at a record pace, and the offense was hitting well with runners in scoring position. We even started considering the possibility of stealing the AL East crown from the Tampa Bay Rays. But then something changed again. The Yankees fell off a cliff to end the season, losing six of their last eight games, and the offense looked dead again. If not for a comeback win by the Baltimore Orioles against the Blue Jays on the season’s last day the Yankees would have fallen to the American League’s eight seed.
To sum up the 2020 regular season in one sentence is simply impossible. There were a lot of highs but also way too many lows. Manager Aaron Boone had no sense of urgency all year, calling games like the long-term health of the team was the only thing that mattered, even when playoff positioning was at risk. The team struggled with injuries yet again despite Boone opting for extra rest days for key guys throughout the season. The offense was bi-polar. Key players like Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez had seasons that, to put it extremely lightly, they'd rather forget. The bullpen wasn’t as consistent as we had hoped going into the season. We lost guys like Tommy Kahnle and James Paxton for the season. Yet, somehow, the Yankees lineup also hosted the Major League’s batting champ as well as home run king in the forms of DJ LeMahieu and Luke Voit. Just an impossible season to predict.
So here we are, the afternoon of the 2020 postseason. The Yankees are in Cleveland to take on the Indians and the American League’s pitching triple crown winner Shane Bieber. This is a best of three series, so anything can happen, especially with Gerrit Cole on the mound tonight and the firepower our offense has, but I’d be lying to you if I told you I was any sort of confident right now. The Yankees need to get off to a fast start against Bieber tonight because as they’ve shown of late, they lack that innate ability to dig themselves out of holes if they go down early. Three games to decide the fate of the season. Ace on the mound. It all starts tonight.
Matthew LuzziFollow @MLtlks
Man, what a weird season. It was just starting to feel normal having Yankees baseball on almost every day...yet now the regular season is over after an up and down 60 game stretch. Despite how bad the Yanks were at times during that stretch, it’s all moot now. It’s the Covid postseason where home field advantage really isn’t that much of a factor and we have no off days between games until the World Series. Despite the oddness that surrounds this entire situation, I am very excited to see it. Every second, every pitch is going to mean even more with this 3-game series to start, and honestly; who the hell knows how the Yanks come out? Would it surprise any of us if they came out and smacked four homers off Bieber in the first inning? Would it surprise anyone if they came out and got 3 hits in two games and were sent home abruptly? Absolutely not. This team has been extremely inconsistent and anything can happen...which makes everything so much more nerve racking.
At the end of the day, let’s all just enjoy the ride. We have an actual ace in Gerrit Cole plus a guy in Masahiro Tanaka who has the lowest opponent playoff batting average amongst starting pitchers in the postseason, and that may be all we need, as the postseason usually comes down to who’s rotation is dominating. And if we lose? We lose. I hate saying that but with the craziness that this season has caused it will be much easier to accept defeat than other years. And who knows, maybe an early exit will mean major changes are made and possibly even a new manager?? This is just wishful thinking as I believe Boone is here to stay, but a guy can dream right?
Lets just hope this team decides to have one of their hot streaks during the postseason, because if they play anything like they did the last week of the season, we won’t even be seeing the ALDS.
Matt GrazianoFollow @mattgraz930
In incredibly stark contrast to last season, this season was not very much fun at all. Although the injuries from last season were back and ravaged the roster for large chunks of this season, the #nextmanup, grind out wins mentality seemingly was not. This Yankees regular season was defined by inconsistency, throughout the roster and in the results. Although there were things to be excited about, such as finally getting to see Gerrit Cole as a Yankee, this was not a really fun season to watch. It was stressful and felt very much like a team that realized that they only had to make it through 8 weeks to meet an even lower, expanded bar to make the playoffs.
Now the injuries are definitely concerning and frankly annoying but the team as of now is healthy heading into the playoffs. The mindset and the inconsistency is a whole other thing entirely. While they gave players their customary regular rest and healthy days off, it would've been nice to see them ramp up the last few weeks especially as players started to return. That didn't happen and with the team fighting for seeding right up to the last day of the season that feels really irresponsible. Gleyber Torres sat for a healthy rest day two days before the end of the season. For a team that rotates players in and out of the lineup, it would've been nice to see them try to run a consistent lineup out everyday and build some momentum. I haven't been a fan of Aaron Boone for that reason. It feels like he picks a different lineup out of a hat everyday.
When they're healthy, the Yankees probably are the "best" or most talented team but they haven't acted with any sense of urgency and have acted like they can just flip the switch when the moment arrives. Well the moment has arrived and they'll be facing a very dangerous Cleveland team with scary pitching. If the Yankees aren't able to flip the switch, their season could be over by this time next week and I'm not sure how many fans would really be surprised by it.
When they're clicking they can beat anyone. Gerrit Cole looked like an ace in September. Masahiro Tanaka has been strong in recent postseasons despite inconsistency during the regular season. The bullpen is not as deep as recent years but they still do have Green, Britton and Chapman. At the end of the day this team needs to hit to win. Things were looking good after they ripped off 10 straight wins and hit a ton of homers doing it but they then fell flat on their face losing six of their last eight. We're out of time to find out who these Yankees are, it's time to see what happens when they flip the switch.