Yankees: Proposed playoff rule change would make things harder for NYY
The Yankees bullpen, already battered in 2020, might be dead after this new playoff rule.
The New York Yankees have gone from prohibitive American League favorites to dead-in-the-water at .500 before bouncing back and making headway in the playoff race once again.
But if New York does make the expanded postseason, that’s only the beginning of the journey, and there’ll be little-to-no familiarity to greet them when they arrive.
Best-of-five first round? Nah. Try a best-of-three, likely all on the road, and potentially located in the house of horrors that is (shudders) Tropicana Field.
And if you escape the first round? There’ll be no rest for the weary. No, seriously.
According to reports, MLB and the MLBPA are close to agreeing that there will be no off days in the postseason prior to the World Series. That could mean seven straight ALCS games. It’s about to get much harder to look at the on-field action, shrug, and say, “Ah, the bullpen will fix it!”
Of course, this applies to every team. If a struggling starter is pulled in the second inning of Game 2 and you have to empty the entire bullpen tank (a la James Paxton in Houston last year), there’s no ability to “get right” with an off day the next day. Nope. Right back at it.
This is, to be fair, a more proper simulation of baseball. After all, when does a team ever play two consecutive games, then get gifted with a day off during the regular season?
But in 2020, it especially hurts for a team like the Yankees that was theoretically built on bullpen depth, but has watched the trustworthiness of that unit diminish significantly in practice. Aaron Boone doesn’t like to go to his relievers more than two days in a row as is. Now he’ll be confronted with four straight? It’s not so easy to go Green-Britton-Chapman ad infinitum when that would turn the third game of a postseason series into Ottavino-Loaisiga-Holder. The Tommy Kahnle injury and trade deadline dead-ness strikes again.
And (sighs for 12 years) it’s not like those so-called bullpen aces have been anywhere close to impenetrable this year, either.
Perhaps when the rest of the baseball world assured us all summer that the Rays were “uniquely built” for a 60-game sprint, this is what they meant. Maybe they knew this all-out October was coming. Tampa Bay has displayed time and again they have an endless horde of faceless pitchers who can all soak up innings effectively in a pinch — a stable of guys who throw 98, if you will. Kevin Cash has to be absolutely licking his lips at the potential approval of this rule change.
One positive for the Yankees, though? This doesn’t allow teams to hide their fourth and fifth starters once October rolls around, and no AL contender (including Tampa Bay) really has an exceedingly trustworthy back end. JA Happ and Jordan Montgomery wouldn’t be overmatched; they’d be par for the course, and a slight advantage. Losing Gerrit Cole from 1-4-7 would hurt, though.
Everyone would be equally dinged from this simulation that would turn postseason baseball into 162-game baseball. But the Yankees, once thought of as the preeminent dominant bullpen team, would have to bow down to the Rays even deeper if this motion is approved.