Everything about this year’s 2020 MLB postseason is brand new. All teams will be placed in “bubble” locations specifically designed so that one team doesn’t get home field advantage over the other. There will also be 28 players allowed on the roster with a 12-man taxi squad entering the bubble as well, per SNY’s Andy Martino. And with two more teams making it in as Wild Cards, the postseason will kick off like the NBA does it with the No. 1 seeds facing off against the No. 8 seeds and so on.
Oh, and did I mention there’s a schedule change, too?
Perhaps the biggest change of all, there is truly no room for error in this year’s postseason, as MLB released their scheduled that has virtually no days off. From the three-game Wild Card Series to the Championship series, playoff matchups will be played without any off-days in between. That means there is no time to regroup after a tough loss or allowing time for players to freshen up and return two days later for the next one.
For the Yankees, who currently hold one of the Wild Card slots in the American League, it will be a challenge if they indeed make it into the postseason. Here’s how this schedule change could affect them once October baseball comes around:
1) Pray Injuries Don’t Occur
There’s a reason for the taxi squad and additional players already on the roster. Injuries can happen and teams will need replacements quickly without those off-days.
But let’s just say manager Aaron Boone will have his fingers and toes crossed that the injury bug stays away from his roster.
Once again, it’s decimated the Yanks this season, with players like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, James Paxton and many others hitting the IL at one point or another. At the moment, it looks like Boone will be getting Judge back by this weekend and Stanton was activated on Tuesday. So his lineup will begin to look like it did to start the season.
That’s when the Yankees really asserted their dominance, getting off to a really hot start before injuries began to hurt their play on the field. The Yankees were once leading the AL East by a good amount. Now they sit third in the division, just behind the Toronto Blue Jays by half-a-game while the Tampa Bay Rays are at the top with a 30-17 record.
The Yankees knew injuries needed to stay at a minimum this postseason, and that’s before the schedule came out. It’s even more important now that off-days to recover won’t be in the cards.
2) Taxing the Bullpen
Another consequence of the schedule could be the exhaustion of bullpen arms. And the Yankees will be without Tommy Kahnle, who underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this year.
On top of the that, the Yankees’ bullpen hasn’t been their normally sharp selves in 2020. Relievers like Chad Green and Adam Ottavino have seen their ERAs much higher than what they’re used to, and even Aroldis Chapman has two blown saves in his four opportunities so far in nine appearances.
The Yankees not only need them on their A-game if they make the postseason, but with no days off, starters will need to help them out as well. Going deep into starts will allow Boone to utilize his starters in a smart fashion by keeping them as fresh as possible. If that happens, the less of a chance there is for a reliever to have a dud outing because of fatigue.
3) The Starter Dilemma
Here’s a scenario for you: Gerrit Cole has to pitch in a do-or-die Game 7 of the ALCS. That would be Saturday, Oct. 17 at Petco Park in San Diego. If the Yankees were to win and advance to the World Series, Game 1 of that matchup would kick off on Oct. 20. And Game 2 would be right after that on Oct. 21. Then, finally, an off-day the next day before Game 3 on Oct. 23.
Cole would have a full five days rest when Game 3 comes around, so he’d be able to start that game. But Games 4 and 5 are played in the next two days after that.
See the dilemma here?
This schedule is designed in a way that a team’s ace might not be able to start when they want them to because of the close time frame. Of course, I’m sure Cole would pitch on short-days rest if it was the World Series. But that even goes for a team fighting in a Game 5 of the Divisional Series. The ALDS ends on Oct. 9 and Game 1 of the ALCS kicks off on Oct. 11 – just one off-day. If that was the case, Boone would have to rely on starters not named Cole to pick up the slack while he rests.
The Yankees, though, don’t have a clear No. 2 behind Cole. Masahiro Tanaka figures to be that guy, but he’s been a bit inconsistent at times this season. He turns it up usually when the postseason comes around, but who knows? James Paxton doesn’t look to be returning after Boone called it “challenging” recently. After that, it’s J.A. Happ – who the Yankees look to have on an innings limit so his 2021 vesting option doesn’t kick in – Jordan Montgomery, and Deivi Garcia.