Going into the postseason the Astros were my clear cut choice to win the World Series. You just can’t beat their pitching rotation especially when you pair it with their high-level offense. I mean who do you think can beat Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke?
I certainly didn’t think any offense in the entire league would be able to come away with a series win against those three juggernauts. However, I’m now starting to question that based on how dominant the Yankees are looking. They just swept the Twins and in dominant fashion. They won game one by a score of 4 to 10, game two 2 to 8, and game three 5 to 1. When you look at those scores I see two things. A dominant offense and dominant pitching staff. Each game they racked up the runs while also being able to silence Minnesota’s bats.
Don’t forget that the Twins did set the record for most home runs by a team in a single season in the entire history of Major League Baseball. So, keeping their offense at bay speaks volumes about how good the Yankees pitching staff is. It wasn’t just the starters that looked impressive either as the Yankee’s bullpen looked like the best group of relievers that could be assembled. The Yankees are performing at their best in all aspects of the game and I don’t think anyone is going to stand in their way.
Not only do the Yankees look dominant but the Astros seem to be slipping up. After originally winning the first two games against the Rays in the divisional series, it looked like the Astros were exactly who they were made out to be. However, now elimination is looming over them as they are headed to game five against the Rays. The Astro’s bats were silenced in games three and four by outstanding pitching performances by Charlie Morton and the Ray’s entire bullpen.
Now with Tyler Glasnow and potentially Blake Snell ready to go in game five, the Rays could pull off one of the great comebacks/upsets in recent playoff history. Maybe even arguably one of the greatest postseason comebacks in MLB history. They will have to take down Gerrit Cole though who racked up 15 strikeouts in his impressive game two performance. No matter who ends up winning this series has an even bigger mountain ahead of them, the Yankees.
A three-game series is a limited sample size, however, the Yankees proved a lot over those three games. As I stated already they showed that their offense is unstoppable and their pitching staff paired with the bullpen is lights out. Maybe we should have seen this coming. Did we sell them too short? Did I sell them too short?
In the regular season, the Yankees finished third in the league in wOBA, only one point behind the Twins. The Yankees stood nine points behind the Astros who led the league with a .355 wOBA. When you look at the rankings classified by wRC+ the standings look very similar. The only difference is the Yankees sit in second place right above the Twins but still only being separated by one point. So going into the postseason it was known that the Yankees had one of the best offenses in the league. However, it wasn’t expected that they would significantly out-slug the Twins, a team that stood right next to them in terms of offensive performance. After all despite the Twins setting the single-season home run record they only finished with one more home run than the Yankees.
Now let’s take a look at the other half of the game, pitching. Here the Yankees still ranked among the top. In regards to xFIP, the Yankees finished fifth in a dead tie with the Twins as they both finished with a 4.27 xFIP. As you’d expect, the Astros sat atop the leader-board and by a decent margin as they finished with a 3.80 xFIP. That was seven points lower than the second closest team.
What happens though if we look at just the team’s relievers? The Yankees move up a little bit in the xFIP rankings. Now they sit in fourth place with a 4.15 xFIP. You can see the rankings below from FanGraphs and as expected, the Astros still sit at the top.
There is one major takeaway though from that leaderboard above. If you look at those top teams classified by WAR, the Yankees, Twins, and Rays all sit way above the others. By a sizable margin too. What I believe that indicates is that their bullpens have not only pitched more but have come through in important situations. Not that the bullpens for the Astros, Padres, and Brewers haven’t provided valuable innings, it’s just that their team’s success hasn’t been influenced by their bullpen as much as others. My point is that the Yankees, Rays, and Twins have been so successful this year in big part to their bullpen.
Now let’s remember what part of the year we are in and how that relates to pitcher usage. We are in the postseason which in today’s game means it’s a battle of bullpens. So, it appears that the teams that have relied on their bullpens for success this season are succeeding in the postseason. Well, that is except for the Twins of course but they ran into another strong bullpen. The Yankees and Rays both came to win this postseason and are doing so in major help to their bullpens.
Now, I’ve thrown a lot of numbers out there without providing too much context as to how it relates to the Yankees winning the World Series. I provided all of those numbers so you can see that the Yankees just steamrolled another top offense, pitching staff, and bullpen in the league. Meaning that if they can do that to the Twins than there is nothing they can’t do to any other team in the league.