I wonder how much sleep Aaron Boone has lost this year. Between the injuries and historically bad stretches of pitching, while simultaneously having the best record in baseball, this scenario would be a head scratcher for anyone, let alone the guy who’s seeing it unfold right before the bill of his cap.
Boone has seen it all this year, and this year has surely not gone the way he planned a potential World Series year to go. Yet here he is, playing for the best record in baseball, eyeing the playoffs, and eyeing all the players he had lost coming back for the most important time of year: October.
This would make any manager swoon. Except, perhaps Boone is losing more sleep now than he ever has, because he might soon be making the toughest decisions he’s ever had to make as a manager, and break some hearts along the way, too.
Step in his shoes for a minute, put on his cut-off sleeved hoodie, and let’s open up the roster book. It’s time to (sniff sniff) make some cuts to a team that stole our hearts from the moment the first “next man” stepped up.
Hypothetically, because hypothetical always works out in sports (not), let’s say these particular players come back in time for the playoffs:
Now, let’s say nobody else will hit the IL moving forward (the revolving door has to close at some point, right?). If this is the case, guys who have brought it all year, who have brought us to this point, who have won the hearts of many, will not only be benched in the playoffs, but may not even make the roster altogether.
I’ve looked up and down this roster a gazillion times, and I’ve come to my decisions as fake manager of the New York Yankees. Whether you’re an analytical nerd, or you make decisions on feel and eye-test alone, this is not easy. Even the nerds have to admit, numbers aside this team has been fun to watch.
The toughest decisions above are what to do with Stanton and Gardner, and benching Urshela. A lot of this depends on what Stanton looks like when he comes back. It’s hard to say you wouldn’t start a former NL MVP in the playoffs, a guy who, despite playing only nine games all season, still has the hardest hit ball in the MLB this year.
His name and stardom alone will help give him the nod over Gardner in the Yankees brass eyes, but if he plays very poorly down the stretch, perhaps he’ll be a pinch hitter in the Division Series, while Gardner camps out in left. Gardner has earned it, no doubt, and his defensive metrics are better (although surprisingly not that much better than Stanton), but Stanton is Stanton, and the Yankees will want his home run bat in the lineup. If you DH him, you lose potentially Voit or Encarnacion, so if Stanton is healthy, left field is where he’ll land.
Tougher still is benching Urshela. This, of course, would be a fluid situation, and I don’t doubt Boone will spot start him and, just like he’s done all season, maybe have a different line up everyday of the playoffs depending on who the pitcher is that day. If Urshela is starting at third base, then DJLM is playing first. Your possible future AL Batting Champ will never sit in the playoffs, so the person to sit if Urshela played would be Voit. I’m okay with this, as we could see Voit either DH and sit Encarnacion, or DH him and sit Voit.
Now if you’re keeping count, that is thirteen position players, leaving only twelve pitchers. This is typically something the Yankees don’t do and like to have thirteen pitchers on the roster. However, looking above I don’t see who else you cut, (Wade, maybe?), but then you’re leaving out what has proved to be an important weapon in the playoffs: speed.
This leaves me to conclude the Yankees will in fact go with only twelve pitchers on the playoff roster, conceding to having an extra “mop up” bullpen guy and take advantage of the days-off in between games to maximize their pitchers’ potential.
That being said, let’s take a look at who would be my potential playoff pitchers for the 2019 Yankees:
This is a tough one. I wouldn’t be surprised if CC doesn’t pitch at all in the playoffs and could very well be left off the roster and relegated to a bench role who is there to simply cheer the team on and be a leader in the clubhouse. If he is on the roster, I believe it’ll be for mop up duty only, but would CC even want that role? Perhaps he goes out on top making one more start in the regular season to be celebrated by fans, then takes on a cheerleader role, satisfied to watch his boys do their thing, especially if his knee can’t quite get him through October.
Chad Green will have an “Opener” role along with a relief role, while Severino’s role is still up in the air. Depending on how much work he can get in before the playoffs begin, he may only be stretched out enough to give a couple innings at a time. If he is stretched out and ready to go, I wouldn’t rule him out being a starter for a playoff game, either.
All the big guys are on here, and I’ve added not so fan favorite, Cessa, as the lone mop up guy, one who can come in if a starter simply doesn’t have it and left the game way too early for one of our big guys to take over. Of course, Cessa is the one the Yankees hope will never need to use, and they could take their chances on having no true mop up guy, being confident the days off between games will keep their guys rested, or guys like Happ or Severino can come in relief if a starter craps the bed. If that’s the case, that opens the door to Jonathan Holder making the roster if Cessa does not. Or, perhaps, Sabathia.
I wouldn’t entirely rule out Cortes as Boone has some kind of love for his odd deliveries and soft-touch pitches, but his numbers have been on a downward trend over the last couple months, and I don’t believe he’ll have a role to fill in the playoffs that Cessa and Holder couldn’t fill first.
This is a roster put together with a mixture of analytics and the eye-test. I am a baseball purist at heart, so analytics come second for me while the eye-test comes first. Purely analytical folks would have you believe Didi should sit. Numbers alone, they’re not wrong, but heart alone that’s the worst decision Boone could ever make.
Didi is by far one of the most popular guys in that clubhouse, has shown up in some of the biggest moments in the playoffs over the last two years (Wild Card game, Cleveland series), played through a torn UCL last year, and some argue could be the captain of this team if Judge wasn’t primed to be. Sometimes it’s not always about the numbers, but the heart of the player, the chemistry of the team, and the feel for the big moments. These are things analytics can and will never touch or quantify. And for all the Gardner haters out there, these are the exact reasons why his signing this year was so important. Turns out, he has quietly been one of the MVP’s of this team.
So that’s it. That’s my roster. Obviously, as September goes on, this may change depending on how guys come back, if guys come back, who’s playing well and who’s not. It’s so fluid and so up in the air that if you’re not the worrier type, as Boone has proven, you’re probably sleeping just fine. Because more often than not, as the baseball gods have shown, this tends to work itself out. The revolving door to the Yankees injured list proves that.
But if you’re a worrier like I am, it’s always good to be prepared, so grab a pen and paper and give me all your hypotheticals, because I’m here for it.