Forget A.J. Burnett, forget Cliff Lee; the real story is the Yankees offense

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The first thing everyone wanted to do after the Rangers’ domination of the Yankees last night was to speculate how much New York would now pay for Cliff Lee this winter. Fun topic, but let’s save it for the hot stove season, OK?

The second thing everyone wanted to do after the Rangers’ domination of the Yankees last night was to fret about A.J. Burnett starting a pivotal playoff game. Also a fun topic, but with Joe Girardi making it clear that he’s sticking with Burnett, it’s not really a debatable point anymore.

The third thing on people’s minds is the most interesting and most important: where is the Yankees offense? Yes, Cliff Lee was incredible last night, but the Yankees lineup didn’t do much against Colby Lewis of C.J. Wilson either. But for a single breakout inning in Game 1 that was probably more the fault of Ron Washington’s bullpen mismanagement than anything else, the hitters have been silent. The tale of the tape:

  • Mark Teixeira: 0 for 11;
  • Alex Rodriguez: 2 for 13;
  • Derek Jeter: 3 for 13;
  • Nick Swisher: 1 for 11;
  • Jorge Posada: 2 for 10;

Of the Yankees’ primary offensive weapons, only Robinson Cano, who is 5 for 13 with a couple of homers, has been contributing in a material way.

So covet Cliff Lee all you want, Yankees fans. And freak out about A.J. Burnett all morning and afternoon.  But know this: if the Yankees end up losing this series, it will not be because of those two guys. It will be because the vaunted Yankees offense is not getting the job done.

Starters? Openers? Who cares? It’s the lack of offense killing the Brewers

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The talk of Game 5 of the NLCS — and, indeed, the talk of the postseason so far — has been the Brewers’ creative use of their pitching staff. Indeed, Craig Counsell calling for Brandon Woodruff, and removing Miley from the game after just one batter and five pitches, stands as one of the more audacious acts of bullpenning in recent memory.

In light of that strategy, it was tempting to compare and contrast the Brewers’ approach to that of the Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw gave up an early run and, as has so often been the case lately, didn’t look super sharp early. But as the game wore on he got stronger, his curve got more devastating and he turned in an ace-like performance, leaving after seven innings of work, retiring the final 13 batters he faced. The Brewers may have an army of pitchers they throw at you, but the Dodgers, on this night, had a Hulk.

That’s all a lot of fun, and it was a tempting narrative to grab a hold of, but you know what? It doesn’t matter a bit. The fact of the matter is that the Brewers have scored two runs in the last 17 innings between Games 4 and 5. Two runs, with one of them being an oh-by-the-way run with out in the ninth tonight. They’ve only scored three runs in their last 24 innings. They could have a college of coaches using a murder of pitchers and they’d still be staring at being down 3-2 like they are right now because the bats have gone cold.

The presumptive NL MVP, Christian Yelich, was 0-for-4 in Game 5 and is only 3-for-20 with three singles in the entire NLCS. Ryan Braun is 5-for-21. Lorenzo Cain is 6-for-24. Games 3 and 4 have, obviously, been the big problems for the Brewers. In those games the entire team is batting .168 with 26 strikeouts and they are 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

Craig Counsell could go back in time, bring back Pete Vukovich, Rollie Fingers, Teddy Higuera, Moose Haas and Jim Slaton, use them all for an inning and two-thirds each and it wouldn’t matter if the Brewers can’t score. That’s the story of the series so far. No matter how much we might want to talk about the pitching shenanigans, that’s the only thing that really matters.