Why do you root for those guys? You’ve never lived there!

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Even though he called me and my ilk “underwear guys” the other day, I still read George Vecsey in the Times. What can I say? He’s good. And he’s just about done, so no sense in boycotting him a day or two before his retirement.

Today he tackles a subject close to my heart: rooting for a team from a geographic area with which you have no connection.  It vexes him and he’s curious about it. He starts by talking about Cardinals fans who are not from Cardinal country, then moves on to other sports:

In New York I run into Packers fans who have never lived in Wisconsin, Canadiens fans who have never lived in La Belle Province, Celtics fans who admire Russell and Bird and Pierce but have no trace of a Boston accent. The cable brings sport into our homes and bars, causing fans to pick a team from outside their natural habitat … If you root for a team not from your region – or know somebody who does – can you give some details? How does that work out for everybody?

As I’ve said countless times around here, I’ve never been to a game in Atlanta. My Braves thing is because they were the only baseball I could watch after I moved to West Virginia in 1985 and they just grew on me. I suppose for a lot of people there’s a front-runner thing too (I’d guess there were fewer Packers, Cowboys and Bulls fans around the country in the 1980s than there are now).  But there are countless other reasons too.

Neat topic. Almost so neat that I am willing to forgive Vecsey for saying that bloggers have ruined the fine art of reporting just as he publishes a column in which he’s basically crowd-sourcing like a lot of bloggers do.

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.