As the Yankees make their way back east to play the Blue Jays in Toronto they are officially on cruise control heading into the playoffs as they are in first place by 4.5 games over the Red Sox, as Boston is crumbling to the finish. The Yankees should also have three players receivers hardware at season’s end and possibly a fourth.
The Bronx Bombers are basically firing on all cylinders but the Red Sox are hoping to finish the season as the Wild Card qualifier.
The Red Sox are 2-9 in their last 11 games and that last loss was to the Rays in the first game of their critical four-game series against Tampa. The Rays are now only 3 games out of the Wild Card spot with 13 games left to play and they have a realistic chance of qualifying if they can win at least two more games in Fenway. Tampa, on the other hand, is 8-3 in their last 11 games and is surging down the home stretch just like the Tigers who have won 12 straight games.
Manager Joe Girardi’s team could play a role into who makes the playoffs, the Red Sox or the Rays, since they play the Rays in Tampa the last three games of the season.
Three of the major reasons that the Yankees are in the position that they are in are Bartolo Colon, Ivan Nova and Curtis Granderson. These players should be a shoe in for post-season awards along with CC Sebathia who will certainly finish in the top five of the CY Young voting.
At the beginning of the season, everybody thought Granderson would contribute and be a solid all around player but nobody could have predicted that he would be able to be deserving of the American League MVP.
He has been able to continue his turn-around since last season’s meeting with hitting Coach Kevin Long, last August, in Texas, by being the top hitter in baseball since that time along with Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays. However, since Granderson plays for a playoff team he is more deserving of the award.
Granderson has played gold glove caliber defense in center-field and he has also drastically improved his hitting against lefties, since his average is .274 this season against them compared to .234 in 2010. The only part of his arsenal that would slightly take away from his MVP candidacy is his low .265 average but all of his other statistics across the board are MVP worthy.
The Grandy Man, as radio announcer John Sterling refers to him, is second in the AL with 39 home runs, is in a three way tie at 111 RBI with Robinson Cano and Adrian Gonzalez of the Red Sox, is second in the league with 10 triples, is 12th in the league with 24 steals and in the runs scored category he is in first place by a grand total of 17.
It is unheard of that a player who is in the top three in home runs and RBI is also second in triples and has the amount of steals that he has. That seems to be evidence right there that he should be the MVP.
The Yankees would be nowhere near where they are in the standings right now without Granderson. What makes him even better is that he was able to drastically improve his weakness since last season and that he is so helpful with his Grand Kids Foundation around the community.
The other players that are in line for awards are both pitchers.
Even though Nova started seven games last season, he did not pitch enough innings in 2010 to not still be considered a rookie in 2011. It sure seems like it helped Nova getting a feel for the big leagues last season as he has blossomed into a number two starter this season. Last season the knock against him was that he pitched well the first one or two times through the order, but then in the fifth inning he would falter and lose his command.
This season he has been a much improved starter as he 15 wins and would have a chance for a 20 win campaign if not for getting sent to the minors for most of the month of July as a result of Phil Hughes’ return. Unlike A.J. Burnett he is not flustered after allowing one or two early runs, in fact he is usually able to dominate for the duration of his start after doing so.
He has a very respectable 3.81 ERA, but in 10 starts since July 1st he has only allowed more than three earned runs once. Ivan “Super” Nova has also gone 14 starts without picking up a loss, since the beginning of July, picking up 11 wins in that time period. During his winning streak he has passed Hall of Famer, Whitey Ford, among other less heralded Yankees.
The above statistics should definitely add up to Nova winning the Rookie of the Year because he has been pitching well beyond his years especially during his history second half of the season.
He is confident in his skills but not cocky. A few weeks ago it made more sense to allow Colon to start the second game of the playoffs but now since Nova has been so consistent, and has proven to be able to pitch under pressure he should be the number two starter.
The only statistic that would make it somewhat of a toss-up at this point is that he has a 4.42 ERA at home but a 3.26 ERA at home this season. However, Colon excels even more on the road as his ERA sits a 2.96 but at home it is 4.24. Nova has been more consistent recently than Colon so he should get the edge and that high ERA at home by Nova is more a result of his shakier first half.
Colon is the third pitcher who is destined for a postseason award and that would be the Comeback Player of the Year.
This is by far his best season since his healthy season in 2005, when he received the CY Young award (best pitcher in the league), for the Anaheim Angels. The reason that he did not pitch during the 2010 season was because he had right shoulder pain and damage to his rotator cuff, ligaments and tendons.
He returned to the Yankees this season on a cheap minor league contract and his been one of the best bargains in baseball. He has an excellent strikeout to walk ratio as he is 128 K’s to only 36 walks. That is more than a three to one ratio. He has had so much movement on his pitches that he has greatly resembled his 2005 form at times.
Colon had a five-game stretch from July 19th to August 11th where he allowed two runs or less in every start. He only has eight wins but because of his 3.55 ERA that number could be more like 13 or 14 but he has not gotten enough run support in some of his starts.
It is remarkable that he has been able to pitch 152 innings this season without breaking down besides for a few starts like the two games on August 17th and 23rd where he allowed five runs.
He has dominated in two out of his last three starts and the Yankees will be able to count on him in the playoffs to pitch a quality start, in the first round of the playoffs, which will most likely be against the Detroit Tigers or Texas Rangers.
These three players have outperformed expectations but one player lived up to them in every way is CC Sebathia. He was the ace of the staff coming into the season and has had an even betters campaign than last year when he finished third in the CY Young voting.
Sebathia has a 19 wins, 216 strikeouts with a 2.93 ERA but will likely not win the CY Young because of the even more outstanding seasons that Jared Weaver and especially Justin Verlander are having. Verlander, the Tigers ace, has 23 wins, 238 strikeouts and 2.36 ERA.
Sebathia has also been nominated by the Yankees for the Roberto Clemente award for his philanthropic efforts through his PitCChing in Foundation, which he founded with his wife in 2009. An example of his work in the community is that last week the foundation donated 1,700 backpacks filled with school supplies to 3rd – 5th grade students at P.S. 106 in the Bronx.
These four players described above have been outstanding overall for the team this season helping to lead the Yankees into the playoffs and possibly another World Series championship.