Hey Detroiters: does this bother you?

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I have never lived in Detroit, so I am an outsider to the place in most every respect.  My parents were both born and raised there. My extended family calls the Detroit suburbs home now (like a lot of folks they started moving out after the 1967 riots). But I was born and lived until I was eleven 55 miles north of Detroit in beautiful Flint, Michigan.  As such, I don’t presume to have any standing of my own to talk about what is and what is not appropriate when it comes to talking about Detroit and its ills itself. Just a vicarious interest in the place by virtue of people with whom I share some DNA.

But outsider status notwithstanding, columns like the one George Vecsey wrote for today’s New York Times — about how the Tigers and Lions are making Detroit feel good, and ain’t it great for such a crappy city to feel good — really bug me. This one isn’t bad or egregious in any way — it’s an OK column on its own merits — but we see them written every time a Detroit team does something good. Or New Orleans or Cleveland or anyplace else that is depressed or blighted. And they kind of drive me nuts.

I’m not sure which aspect of these columns bug me more: (a) the “those poor, poor sods” sentiments which, not unlike ruin porn, necessarily revel, however unintentionally, in the misfortunes of the city; or (b) the presumption that something as superficial and fleeting as the success of a professional sports team makes a bit of difference to the people hardest hit by those misfortunes. (note: anyone with tickets to tonight’s Tigers-Yankees game probably has a job).

This isn’t a really big deal in the grand scheme — and you all know that I can get overly-sensitive about certain things and that this may be one of them — but I’m curious to hear if this kind of thing bugs people with stronger Detroit ties than mine.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.