• How The Yankees Pulled It Off

    Posted by on September 27th, 2007 · Comments (6)

    From Kat O’Brien

    But after the Yankees clinched a berth in the postseason Wednesday night, at least a few players admitted the almost unthinkable — that they had their doubts this season.

    “I didn’t think we would be here,” Alex Rodriguez said shortly after the 12-4 win over Tampa Bay that clinched at least the wild card. “It feels weird for me to say that.”

    The Yankees were 21-29 on May 29, and Rodriguez said all the losses “started stacking the chips” against the Yankees. Back in June, Mike Mussina calculated the kind of winning percentage the Yankees would need to get to the postseason. The mathematics were daunting.

    When the Yankees fell to 38-41 on July 1, they trailed wild-card leader Detroit by 8 1/2 games. But they went 53-26 in their next 79 games.

    “I don’t think people realize how difficult it was to be able to pull this off,” Andy Pettitte said.

    Various turning points stand out to members of the Yankees as far as when they got on track.

    Torre saw hints of good things as far back as April 19, when the Yankees rallied from a 6-2 ninth-inning deficit against the Indians and won on Rodriguez’s walk-off three-run homer. For Torre, a better turning point was when Melky Cabrera began to play every day because of the “energy” he provided.

    For Pettitte and several others, May 28 stands out. Although the Yankees lost to the Blue Jays, 7-2, and lost again the next day, 3-2, they held a pregame meeting that many see as a starting point.

    Another key game occurred on June 3 in Boston, when Rodriguez homered off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning to give the Yankees a 6-5 win.

    Johnny Damon’s thought was that the arrival of Duncan and Chamberlain provided a spark.

    That team meeting was on May 28th. Melky pretty much became the full-time center fielder on June 1st. (For what it’s worth, June 1st was also the day that Jason Giambi left the line-up as a full-time player.) Shelley Duncan came up on July 20th. Joba Chamberlain came up on August 7th.

    To me, that June 28th observation that I made the other day still stands out.

    Looking at it some more, I just noticed that Johnny Damon, from Opening Day through June 27th, batted .247/.333/.357 (BA/OBA/SLG) in 66 games. From June 28th through September 26th, Damon batted .283/.363/.409 in 72 games. Could Damon’s return to good production be the key to the Yankees turnaround?

    Or, was it all about Robinson Cano getting hot with the bat?

    Perhaps the key was Damon and Cano starting to swing the bats well? Then again, Hideki Matsui ripped the cover off the ball in July and August this season – as did Bobby Abreu.

    It’s probably safest to say that the Yankees season started to take-off after June and once Damon, Cano, Matsui and Abreu began to mash the ball – joining Posada, A-Rod, and Jeter (who, as a trio, had been doing it all year). When these guys are hot, and doing it at the same time, it’s the best “one through seven” in baseball when it comes to the sticks.

    Comments on How The Yankees Pulled It Off

    1. Jen
      September 28th, 2007 | 12:36 am

      //Perhaps the key was Damon and Cano starting to swing the bats well? Then again, Hideki Matsui ripped the cover off the ball in July and August this season – as did Bobby Abreu.//

      Torre brought this up last night as well. The lefties started to hit like they were supposed to.

    2. bloodyank78
      September 28th, 2007 | 1:30 am


      I would have put this in your post-game commentary but because this is your most recent post, I’ll put it here.

      It appears obvious that the 94-95 mph fastball that Phil was advertised as hurling consistently is down some after his return from the DL. Whether that is due to his being cautionary when planting his leg to push off on, or whether it is just that all that time on the DL not pitching took some gas of his fastball is not known. I DO think that when we see this guy next Feb his velocity will be back to what it normally should be. My main point is that EVEN with his decreased velocity this kid has shown (at a very young age I might add) that he can overcome his little setback with some very smart pitching. Mixing pitches, changing eye levels and locations. I think Phil Hughes is going to be f’ing nails for the Yankees for many years to come. A smart and mature pitcher IMHO.

      What do you think at this point?

    3. His Thickness
      September 28th, 2007 | 3:04 am

      I’d agree with you, but with one caveat: he still had a good amount of maturing in the control department, to say nothing of his big-game mental state.

      This was TB, after all. We were back in the Trop the night after we clinched and sprayed Champagne all over their visiting clubhouse–not exactly October baseball.

      Look, if he locates his breaking stuff and doesn’t elevate his junk too much, he can give you 6-7 solid innings.

      But his control is still immature (unlike the uncanny Chamberlain), which in turn raises his pitch counts. I agree, he works out of jams nicely with his plus-pitches, changing speeds, etc. I just want to see some constancy and confidence.

      (I still want him as a franchise name, don’t get me wrong).

    4. rbj
      September 28th, 2007 | 7:58 am

      I thought the turning point was the HA! game.

    5. September 28th, 2007 | 8:44 am

      ~~~What do you think at this point?~~~

      I think what we see now is what he will be…and that there’s no proof that his current MPH readings are the result of being cautionary, etc.

      He’s a four pitch pitcher – with each pitch capable of being above average. Therefore, given his age, and what he’s done so far, there’s a lot to love there – and I’m happy that he’s on the team.

      But, I don’t think he’ll ever be a fireballer, etc. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

    6. antone
      September 28th, 2007 | 10:13 am

      Definitely doesn’t need to be a fireballer, the one thing I like about Hughes is that he doesn’t really get hit hard and usually his problems are with his control. That is something that he can definitely work on and improve, especially since he is so young. If he was wild and was getting smashed around the park as well, then I would be worried. His WHIP is 1.28 which is decent especially for someone who has had some control problems, I’m sure he will be even more effective once he starts throwing more first pitch strikes and walking fewer batters. But even now he is effective enough to be the Yankees 4th starter at a young age.

      As far as the turning point, when a team is this dominant for such a long stretch, I don’t think you can point to one thing being the reason. It has to be a series of events that occur and sustain the momentum. The pitching getting healthy, the lefties starting to hit better, Melky starting full time, Joba and Shelley, and the one thing that gets overlooked is Clemens, I think that really helped the pitching staff and team just to know that he was going to be out there every day and that they had a 3rd starter behind Wang and Pettite. But I think all these things played an equal part in it.

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