Derek Jeter

The New York Yankees shortstop is set for another playoff appearance.

Aaron Judge's Magisterial Game 3 Performance Lifts Yankees over Astros

NEW YORK –- Stop for a moment and appreciate it, the way you might by pulling your car over to the side of the road to dwell on the majesty of a mountain or the expanse of a river. We’ve never seen anything like it. The largest position player to ever play Major League Baseball heaved his 6’ 7”, 282-pound body at the culmination of sprints into a wall and into the turf to make catches of hard-hit line drives. In between, he smashed a high-and-tight 93-mph cutter into the first row in leftfield for a three-run homer.

Aaron Judge is, in the manner of the highest complement to athleticism, a freak. The Yankees rightfielder played an astounding game in an 8–1 New York win over Houston in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. He is a natural wonder.
Maybe this ALCS didn’t turn a corner quite yet. Not much really changed. To win this series the Yankees still need to win one of the games started by Houston aces Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander. They are 0–2 in those attempts, with Keuchel, the greatest Yankee antidote in history, looming in Game 5 and Verlander, after going all Bob Gibson on them in Game 2, lined up for a Game 6. But maybe Game 3 did something about changing the future of the sport.

“A beast,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said about his rightfielder. “An incredible athlete. A 6’ 7” guy who played some centerfield in college. He’s going to be a great recruiter for our sport. With some of the problems football has, he’s going to make it cool to play our sport. Not that it’s not cool already. He’s going to make it cooler [for big guys].”

Judge, a rookie with 56 career homers, already ranks fourth on the all-time list of home runs by players 6’ 7” or taller, behind Frank Howard (382), Richie Sexson (306) and Tony Clark (251), none of which could match his athleticism. As big-bodied shortstops have become routine (Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, et al), we should expect more players the size and adroitness of Judge to follow him.

Back in June, when Judge already had crushed 22 homers in 60 games, Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson cringed when he saw Judge lay out his body trying to make a catch in Oakland. The next day Jackson counseled him on the virtue of discretion.

“This team needs you,” Jackson told him. “And you can’t help unless you’re in the lineup.”

Bryce Harper learned that lesson after a year or two of challenging walls with his body. Better to play smart than to play recklessly hard.

October is something different altogether. A game, a series or even a title could swing on one pitch, one play made or not made. So when Yuri Gurriel of Houston hit a laser toward the wall in rightfield, Judge ran hard after it, jumped in mid-stride, caught the ball in his glove and smashed his left shoulder against the wall. He grimaced as he fell hard to the ground.

“I’ve never seen anything like him,” second baseman Starlin Castro said. “For a guy who is 282 pounds, he moves and plays like a little skinny guy. First time I’ve seen anything like him. For him to move all that weight around and be so tall, I think it’s amazing.”

Yankees trainer Steve Donahue met Judge in the dugout as soon as the inning ended, but Judge, without breaking stride, simply told him he was okay and went about preparing for his next at-bat.

That at-bat may turn out to be the at-bat that does turn this series, if only because the beast within Judge’s offensive game awakened. The game reached a crisis point for Houston in the bottom of the fourth, which began when leftfielder Cameron Maybin made a decision Judge refused to make: he inexplicably pulled up on a catchable flyball and gifted Greg Bird a double. Starting pitcher Charlie Morton then obtained what should have been the two outs to end the inning, but because of Maybin’s temerity, needed one more. It never came for him.

A nails-on-the-chalkboard kind of a rally—walk, infield hit, hit by pitch—pushed the New York lead to 4–0. The bases were loaded. Now Astros manager A. J. Hinch had to make a choice: have Morton, with his high-90s turbo sinker and fiercely-spinning breaking balls, face Judge, or bring in Will Harris, a cutter specialist who hadn’t pitched in 11 days.

Harris at that point was a better bet to throw strikes, not an insignificant consideration with the bases loaded. But Morton’s stuff matched up better against Judge. He had faced him twice, once striking him out on slider and once walking him on a 95-mph heater. Hinch made the wrong choice, and then so did Harris.

Since mid-August, Judge had seen 403 breaking balls and hit only one home run against them, while batting .127 (9-for-71). At least Harris, in addition to his trusty cutter, does throw a curveball to righthanded hitters.

Harris tried one curve to Judge, at 0–1, and bounced it past catcher Evan Gattis, escorting a run home. He would not throw another one. Three straight cutters followed, the last after he shook a sign from Gattis. The pitch was up and in, but Judge absolutely mashes mistakes and average velocity.

Judge has hit 54 home runs this year. Half of them have resulted from pitches in a tiny 5-mph window, between 89 and 94 mph. He is slugging .825 against pitches in that window. To beat Judge you have to go above or below such hitting speed.
As the ball slipped over the leftfield wall and into the first row, Judge, just before touching first base, let a small grin crease his face. A pressure valve had been released on an earnest young player who had just two hits in his past 28 at-bats, 20 of which had been strikeouts.

“I haven’t changed anything since day one,” Judge said. “A big change I wanted to make this year was just prepare the right way, prepare the same way and see how it works. It works during the regular season, and why would I come in the postseason and try to change something, even though I’m struggling for three or four games, five, six games. It’s six games. I’ve got to get ready to play for the game today and that’s what I’m focused on.”

People around the Yankees like to compare Judge to Derek Jeter because of their earnestness, comportment and consistent approach. The best story about Jeter’s consistent approach involved his bat. Having used a metal bat in high school, Jeter showed up at the Yankees’ minor league complex after being drafted in need of a wood bat. On his first day as a professional he looked through the bat bin at the complex, searching for a bat that most resembled his high school metal bat in terms of length and taper. He pulled one out that best fit the look. And with that same model bat Jeter rapped every one of his 3,465 hits. He never changed.

Truth be told, Judge already has made some adjustments, which is why his future as a more complete hitter who makes more contact is not in doubt. He changed his set-up and swing over last winter. He adjusted against high fastballs late in the season by not creating such a severe angle with his shoulders. In Game 1, facing the soft tosses of Keuchel, he moved up four inches in the batter’s box. He is a student, not just an athletic freak.

Judge’s home run carried some important context. For one, he expanded his claim as the city home run champion, having hit 35 of them in the Bronx this year, two better than what Babe Ruth hit in Manhattan in 1921 at the Polo Grounds (postseason included).

More importantly, the Yankees’ world returned to its proper axis. They are built for home runs, especially in their ballpark. They are 8–29 this year when they don’t hit a home run. They win two-thirds of their games when they do.

Seeing the ball go out of the park, especially off the bat of Judge, set them right. Seeing Judge rob hits in the outfield with his athleticism, well, that just might be the future of baseball.

Derek Jeter says Marlins will donate $200,000 to hurricane relief effort

In one of his first public appearances in Miami as owner of the Marlins, Derek Jeter announced his new franchise will be donating $200,000 to the hurricane relief efforts on-going in Puerto Rico.

Derek Jeter says Marlins will donate $200,000 to hurricane relief effort

In one of his first public appearances in Miami as owner of the Marlins, Derek Jeter announced his new franchise will be donating $200,000 to the hurricane relief efforts on-going in Puerto Rico.

Derek Jeter says Marlins will donate $200,000 to hurricane relief effort

In one of his first public appearances in Miami as owner of the Marlins, Derek Jeter announced his new franchise will be donating $200,000 to the hurricane relief efforts on-going in Puerto Rico.

Derek Jeter says Marlins will donate $200,000 to hurricane relief effort

In one of his first public appearances in Miami as owner of the Marlins, Derek Jeter announced his new franchise will be donating $200,000 to the hurricane relief efforts on-going in Puerto Rico.

Derek Jeter says Marlins will donate $200,000 to hurricane relief effort

Derek Jeter announces Marlins are donating $200,000 to Hurricane Maria relief at ‘Somos Live’ benefit concert

Derek Jeter OK with a Marlins player kneeling during anthem

Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell is the only MLB player to have taken a knee during the anthem.

Derek Jeter OK with a Marlins player kneeling during anthem

Derek Jeter OK with a Marlins player kneeling during anthem

The Yankees Stunned the Snakebitten Indians With Their Power and Bullpen to Win the ALDS

CLEVELAND — Playoff baseball today is to playoff baseball just three years ago as the iPhone is to a rotary phone. Among the early adopters, no team has mastered the modern game better than the New York Yankees.

Those traditionally quaint notions of playing small ball, bunting, hitting behind runners, stringing hits together and counting on starters to pitch deep into a postseason game are antiquated. Ever since a hotter, tighter version of the baseball appeared in the second half of the 2015 season, what wins now are home runs (a record number of which were hit this year) and relievers (who pitched a record number of innings with a record number of strikeouts).

The Yankees, who led the world in home runs and built the second-toughest bullpen to hit all-time, have figured out this equation. They displayed their firm grasp of the modern game yet again Wednesday night with a 5–2 win over Cleveland in ALDS Game 5, clinching a spot in the championship series against Houston.

Shortstop Didi Gregorius, who was such a lousy hitter when he arrived in New York in 2015 that he needed remedial hitting lessons, smashed two homers off tarnished Indians ace Corey Kluber to account for a 3–0 lead, and that was that. No need for rallies. Two swings were enough to win because relievers David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman faced 14 hitters while allowing no hits and only one ball to even leave the infield.

“Once I saw this team had like four closers,” said designated hitter Matt Holliday, “and really five with the emergence of Chad Green, I knew this was a team that can win the World Series.”

The poor, tortured Indians lost their sixth straight potential clincher, and 18th such game in their past 22 tries, starting with Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. On to a 70th year trying to win their next World Series. They went home having failed to hit a home run in Games 3 and 5 in their latest three-game postseason losing streak. Over the past two postseasons, teams are 6–30 when they don’t hit a home run, an 83% consignment to defeat.

But another force is at work that makes this Yankees team so dangerous. It is a Yankees team unlike any other, which was evident before the game, when facing their fourth elimination game in nine days they exhibited all the tension of a fraternity house on a Saturday night. Some players played video games. Some played arcade games stocked in the visiting clubhouse at Progressive Field. Gregorius was drawing on his spikes with a marker, turning them just the right shades of blue and gray that he wanted. The clubhouse stereo, often manned by Aaron Judge, cranked out, as Gregorius said, “all kinds of music,” including old school disco such as the Bee Gees. And guys like reliever Tommy Kahnle acted like, well, Tommy Kahnle.

“Tommy and a few other guys are live wires and were having a good time,” Holliday said. “The vibe here is loose because of all the young guys. I heard things about this team before I got here, about how the Yankees are buttoned-up. But this team is loose. I’ve found the best combination to have is a mix of veterans and young guys. That’s what we have. These young guys have never won before. They’re just having a good time and being themselves.”

Said Gregorius, “Oh, man, what was it like in here before the game? Put it this way: if you saw it you wouldn’t believe it.”

Chapman, who won the World Series with the Cubs last year, said he saw “a lot of similarities” between the Cubs and the Yankees.

“It’s a mix of veterans and young guys who get along very well,” Chapman said.

Said one veteran Yankee official, “Those teams that won [in the 1990s], when they won there was no music in the clubhouse, and when they lost they were downright ticked off, mad. These guys, when they win they play music and celebrate like they never won before. They’re young and don’t know any better.”

Such insouciance served New York well. This Yankees team has a unique identity already. It became the first Yankees team to win four elimination games in one postseason.

How in the world do you go 4–0 in win-or-go-home games in a span of nine days?

You do it the modern way, like this: you out-homer your opponents 7–4 in those games while your bullpen allows one run in 17 2/3 innings (0.52 ERA) while striking out 28 batters (14.5 per nine innings). The Yankees never trailed at the end of any of the 36 innings when they faced elimination.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman swung the balance of postseason power last year when he traded Chapman to the Cubs and Andrew Miller to the Indians. He might have done the same this year, but did so in the acquisition phase this time. To an already monster bullpen, he added Kahnle and Robertson in a trade with the White Sox. They have been more impactful than the big-time starter he acquired, Sonny Gray. Ever since Cleveland manager Terry Francona masterfully leveraged Miller in October last year, people have wondered about “the next Andrew Miller” of the new paradigm. So far it is Robertson who has raised his hand and said, “Here I am.”

Robertson, with his curveball, and Miller, with his slider, had the toughest pitches to hit in all of baseball this year: an .094 batting average allowed on their featured selection. Like Miller, Robertson throws multiple innings because he is a platoon-neutral pitcher who is efficient throwing strikes. Manager Joe Girardi smartly had him ready in the fifth inning in Game 5, and deployed him after a stout CC Sabathia suddenly surrendered four singles, in as old school a rally as you can find these days. Robertson immediately doused the Cleveland uprising by getting Francisco Lindor to ground one of his cutters into a double play. Robertson threw 6 1/3 innings in the elimination games without allowing a run.

“I just want to play,” he said. “I want to win and I want to play, so I’m always ready. The only thing I really want is an at-bat.”

The Yankees’ bullpen this year held hitters to a .204 batting average. Only the bullpen of the 1965 Chicago White Sox in the days when bullpens were afterthoughts, was tougher to hit (.198).

We’re talking serious, hard-to-make-contact kind of heat they bring. There have been 256 pitches clocked at 97 mph or above this postseason. Including Luis Severino, the hardest-throwing starter in the big leagues, New York has accounted for more of those high-octane pitches (54%) than the other nine playoff teams combined.

Chapman, the hardest-throwing man on the planet, is in a class by himself. He has thrown 49 pitches at 100 mph or greater. Everybody else this postseason has combined for just nine.

With Gregorius, the Yankees had all the offense they needed. The Yankees searched high and low for a shortstop to replace the legendary Derek Jeter after the 2014 season. They found few good options. They settled on a trade for Gregorius, then 24, who had just hit .226 with six home runs for Arizona. Well, they figured, at least he was a placeholder who would give them good defense, especially on pop-ups.

One of the hitting coaches at the time, Jeff Pentland, could not believe how technically inferior was Gregorius’ swing. Gregorius left all of his weight on his back side, failing to drive through the baseball. So the Yankees came up with a drill for Gregorius. They brought him into a batting cage and told him to throw the ball up in the air to himself and then hit it as hard as he could with a fungo bat, the way a kid might when there’s nobody around to play with. Think of it as the hitting equivalent of long toss, when throwing a baseball a long distance forces you to lengthen your arm swing and use your entire body.

Tossing a ball to himself and hitting it hard, Gregorius began to drive his back side through the ball, especially his back knee. Then Pentland hung hoops in the cage and told him to hit line drives through them. Pentland quickly learned that not only did Gregorius have a more powerful swing by driving through the ball, but also he had elite hand-eye coordination because he could drive the ball through the hoops all the time.

“Oh, man, I remember!” Gregorius said when asked about those drills.

I asked him if he ever believed back then that he would have this kind of power; he has hit three postseason homers after hitting 25 in the regular season, breaking Jeter’s franchise record.

“To be honest, no,” he said. “But it’s not about hitting home runs at Yankee Stadium, the way some people say. I think I’ve hit more home runs on the road than at home. I just want to hit the ball hard all over the place. I’ve gotten older and developed a plan, too.”
When I asked him about the plan against Kluber, he said, “All the pitches were in the zone. Mistakes. The guy is going to win the Cy Young so you have to take advantage of any mistakes. I just tried to stay short and quick through the zone.”

Said teammate Brett Gardner, “I’m happy for him, because when he first got here everybody in the stands every night was chanting Derek Jeter’s name at him. And it’s not just the offense. His defense is one of the best of any shortstop in the game. He’s also a lefthanded hitter who gives you great at-bats against lefthanded pitching. He came through in a big way today.”

Nothing about what wins and loses will change in the ALCS. Girardi and Houston manager A.J. Hinch will lean heavily on their bullpens. Other than the lower-seam baseball, nothing has changed how a game is run more than the analytics of the deep, modern bullpen. Girardi and Hinch know that relievers facing a batter for the first time (.244 batting average, .720 OPS) are a much better bet than a starter facing the lineup for the third time (.272, .800).

It’s not that starters can’t pitch longer; it’s that managers have so many good relievers that they would rather begin the relay race of fresh arms than to stick with a fatiguing starter. With extra off days, the postseason enhances this get-to-the-pen-quickly mentality.

There have been 36 starts made this postseason. Only once has a starter made it through a lineup three complete times (Kyle Hendricks, 27 batters faced). Three years ago— another era —there were 18 such postseason starts. Fourteen years ago— a virtual Pleistocene epoch ago— there were 49 such starts!

Now think about the ALCS, which begins Friday in Houston, and how we wound up with the Yankees playing the Astros.

Here are the two teams with the most home runs in all of baseball this year:

1. Yankees 241

2. Astros 238

Here are the two greatest strikeout bullpens of all-time:

1. 2017 Astros 662

2. 2017 Yankees 653

(The 2017 Dodgers, by the way, rank third all-time; that’s right: three of the final four teams standing rank 1-2-3 all time in strikeouts from their bullpen.)

The modern game is a brutally simple one. Home runs and power arms have knocked out subtlety, lessened the impact of our hallowed “little things” that for generations we liked to believe made the difference between winning and losing. It’s smashmouth baseball now. And nobody plays it better than the New York Yankees.

The Yankees Stunned the Snakebitten Indians With Their Power and Bullpen to Win the ALDS

CLEVELAND — Playoff baseball today is to playoff baseball just three years ago as the iPhone is to a rotary phone. Among the early adopters, no team has mastered the modern game better than the New York Yankees.

Those traditionally quaint notions of playing small ball, bunting, hitting behind runners, stringing hits together and counting on starters to pitch deep into a postseason game are antiquated. Ever since a hotter, tighter version of the baseball appeared in the second half of the 2015 season, what wins now are home runs (a record number of which were hit this year) and relievers (who pitched a record number of innings with a record number of strikeouts).

The Yankees, who led the world in home runs and built the second-toughest bullpen to hit all-time, have figured out this equation. They displayed their firm grasp of the modern game yet again Wednesday night with a 5–2 win over Cleveland in ALDS Game 5, clinching a spot in the championship series against Houston.

Shortstop Didi Gregorius, who was such a lousy hitter when he arrived in New York in 2015 that he needed remedial hitting lessons, smashed two homers off tarnished Indians ace Corey Kluber to account for a 3–0 lead, and that was that. No need for rallies. Two swings were enough to win because relievers David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman faced 14 hitters while allowing no hits and only one ball to even leave the infield.

“Once I saw this team had like four closers,” said designated hitter Matt Holliday, “and really five with the emergence of Chad Green, I knew this was a team that can win the World Series.”

The poor, tortured Indians lost their sixth straight potential clincher, and 18th such game in their past 22 tries, starting with Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. On to a 70th year trying to win their next World Series. They went home having failed to hit a home run in Games 3 and 5 in their latest three-game postseason losing streak. Over the past two postseasons, teams are 6–30 when they don’t hit a home run, an 83% consignment to defeat.

But another force is at work that makes this Yankees team so dangerous. It is a Yankees team unlike any other, which was evident before the game, when facing their fourth elimination game in nine days they exhibited all the tension of a fraternity house on a Saturday night. Some players played video games. Some played arcade games stocked in the visiting clubhouse at Progressive Field. Gregorius was drawing on his spikes with a marker, turning them just the right shades of blue and gray that he wanted. The clubhouse stereo, often manned by Aaron Judge, cranked out, as Gregorius said, “all kinds of music,” including old school disco such as the Bee Gees. And guys like reliever Tommy Kahnle acted like, well, Tommy Kahnle.

“Tommy and a few other guys are live wires and were having a good time,” Holliday said. “The vibe here is loose because of all the young guys. I heard things about this team before I got here, about how the Yankees are buttoned-up. But this team is loose. I’ve found the best combination to have is a mix of veterans and young guys. That’s what we have. These young guys have never won before. They’re just having a good time and being themselves.”

Said Gregorius, “Oh, man, what was it like in here before the game? Put it this way: if you saw it you wouldn’t believe it.”

Chapman, who won the World Series with the Cubs last year, said he saw “a lot of similarities” between the Cubs and the Yankees.

“It’s a mix of veterans and young guys who get along very well,” Chapman said.

Said one veteran Yankee official, “Those teams that won [in the 1990s], when they won there was no music in the clubhouse, and when they lost they were downright ticked off, mad. These guys, when they win they play music and celebrate like they never won before. They’re young and don’t know any better.”

Such insouciance served New York well. This Yankees team has a unique identity already. It became the first Yankees team to win four elimination games in one postseason.

How in the world do you go 4–0 in win-or-go-home games in a span of nine days?

You do it the modern way, like this: you out-homer your opponents 7–4 in those games while your bullpen allows one run in 17 2/3 innings (0.52 ERA) while striking out 28 batters (14.5 per nine innings). The Yankees never trailed at the end of any of the 36 innings when they faced elimination.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman swung the balance of postseason power last year when he traded Chapman to the Cubs and Andrew Miller to the Indians. He might have done the same this year, but did so in the acquisition phase this time. To an already monster bullpen, he added Kahnle and Robertson in a trade with the White Sox. They have been more impactful than the big-time starter he acquired, Sonny Gray. Ever since Cleveland manager Terry Francona masterfully leveraged Miller in October last year, people have wondered about “the next Andrew Miller” of the new paradigm. So far it is Robertson who has raised his hand and said, “Here I am.”

Robertson, with his curveball, and Miller, with his slider, had the toughest pitches to hit in all of baseball this year: an .094 batting average allowed on their featured selection. Like Miller, Robertson throws multiple innings because he is a platoon-neutral pitcher who is efficient throwing strikes. Manager Joe Girardi smartly had him ready in the fifth inning in Game 5, and deployed him after a stout CC Sabathia suddenly surrendered four singles, in as old school a rally as you can find these days. Robertson immediately doused the Cleveland uprising by getting Francisco Lindor to ground one of his cutters into a double play. Robertson threw 6 1/3 innings in the elimination games without allowing a run.

“I just want to play,” he said. “I want to win and I want to play, so I’m always ready. The only thing I really want is an at-bat.”

The Yankees’ bullpen this year held hitters to a .204 batting average. Only the bullpen of the 1965 Chicago White Sox in the days when bullpens were afterthoughts, was tougher to hit (.198).

We’re talking serious, hard-to-make-contact kind of heat they bring. There have been 256 pitches clocked at 97 mph or above this postseason. Including Luis Severino, the hardest-throwing starter in the big leagues, New York has accounted for more of those high-octane pitches (54%) than the other nine playoff teams combined.

Chapman, the hardest-throwing man on the planet, is in a class by himself. He has thrown 49 pitches at 100 mph or greater. Everybody else this postseason has combined for just nine.

With Gregorius, the Yankees had all the offense they needed. The Yankees searched high and low for a shortstop to replace the legendary Derek Jeter after the 2014 season. They found few good options. They settled on a trade for Gregorius, then 24, who had just hit .226 with six home runs for Arizona. Well, they figured, at least he was a placeholder who would give them good defense, especially on pop-ups.

One of the hitting coaches at the time, Jeff Pentland, could not believe how technically inferior was Gregorius’ swing. Gregorius left all of his weight on his back side, failing to drive through the baseball. So the Yankees came up with a drill for Gregorius. They brought him into a batting cage and told him to throw the ball up in the air to himself and then hit it as hard as he could with a fungo bat, the way a kid might when there’s nobody around to play with. Think of it as the hitting equivalent of long toss, when throwing a baseball a long distance forces you to lengthen your arm swing and use your entire body.

Tossing a ball to himself and hitting it hard, Gregorius began to drive his back side through the ball, especially his back knee. Then Pentland hung hoops in the cage and told him to hit line drives through them. Pentland quickly learned that not only did Gregorius have a more powerful swing by driving through the ball, but also he had elite hand-eye coordination because he could drive the ball through the hoops all the time.

“Oh, man, I remember!” Gregorius said when asked about those drills.

I asked him if he ever believed back then that he would have this kind of power; he has hit three postseason homers after hitting 25 in the regular season, breaking Jeter’s franchise record.

“To be honest, no,” he said. “But it’s not about hitting home runs at Yankee Stadium, the way some people say. I think I’ve hit more home runs on the road than at home. I just want to hit the ball hard all over the place. I’ve gotten older and developed a plan, too.”
When I asked him about the plan against Kluber, he said, “All the pitches were in the zone. Mistakes. The guy is going to win the Cy Young so you have to take advantage of any mistakes. I just tried to stay short and quick through the zone.”

Said teammate Brett Gardner, “I’m happy for him, because when he first got here everybody in the stands every night was chanting Derek Jeter’s name at him. And it’s not just the offense. His defense is one of the best of any shortstop in the game. He’s also a lefthanded hitter who gives you great at-bats against lefthanded pitching. He came through in a big way today.”

Nothing about what wins and loses will change in the ALCS. Girardi and Houston manager A.J. Hinch will lean heavily on their bullpens. Other than the lower-seam baseball, nothing has changed how a game is run more than the analytics of the deep, modern bullpen. Girardi and Hinch know that relievers facing a batter for the first time (.244 batting average, .720 OPS) are a much better bet than a starter facing the lineup for the third time (.272, .800).

It’s not that starters can’t pitch longer; it’s that managers have so many good relievers that they would rather begin the relay race of fresh arms than to stick with a fatiguing starter. With extra off days, the postseason enhances this get-to-the-pen-quickly mentality.

There have been 36 starts made this postseason. Only once has a starter made it through a lineup three complete times (Kyle Hendricks, 27 batters faced). Three years ago— another era —there were 18 such postseason starts. Fourteen years ago— a virtual Pleistocene epoch ago— there were 49 such starts!

Now think about the ALCS, which begins Friday in Houston, and how we wound up with the Yankees playing the Astros.

Here are the two teams with the most home runs in all of baseball this year:

1. Yankees 241

2. Astros 238

Here are the two greatest strikeout bullpens of all-time:

1. 2017 Astros 662

2. 2017 Yankees 653

(The 2017 Dodgers, by the way, rank third all-time; that’s right: three of the final four teams standing rank 1-2-3 all time in strikeouts from their bullpen.)

The modern game is a brutally simple one. Home runs and power arms have knocked out subtlety, lessened the impact of our hallowed “little things” that for generations we liked to believe made the difference between winning and losing. It’s smashmouth baseball now. And nobody plays it better than the New York Yankees.

Yankees shock the Indians, advance to the ALCS

Yahoo Sports Minute recaps top stories including the Yankees defeating the Indians 5-2 in Game 5 of the ALDS and advancing to the ALCS, Derek Jeter saying he would be okay with Marlins players kneeling during the anthem and Stephen Strasburg leading the Nationals to a NLDS Game 4 win over the Cubs to force a Game 5.

Yankees shock the Indians, advance to the ALCS

Yahoo Sports Minute recaps top stories including the Yankees defeating the Indians 5-2 in Game 5 of the ALDS and advancing to the ALCS, Derek Jeter saying he would be okay with Marlins players kneeling during the anthem and Stephen Strasburg leading the Nationals to a NLDS Game 4 win over the Cubs to force a Game 5.

Yankees shock the Indians, advance to the ALCS

Yahoo Sports Minute recaps top stories including the Yankees defeating the Indians 5-2 in Game 5 of the ALDS and advancing to the ALCS, Derek Jeter saying he would be okay with Marlins players kneeling during the anthem and Stephen Strasburg leading the Nationals to a NLDS Game 4 win over the Cubs to force a Game 5.

Yankees shock the Indians, advance to the ALCS

Yahoo Sports Minute recaps top stories including the Yankees defeating the Indians 5-2 in Game 5 of the ALDS and advancing to the ALCS, Derek Jeter saying he would be okay with Marlins players kneeling during the anthem and Stephen Strasburg leading the Nationals to a NLDS Game 4 win over the Cubs to force a Game 5.

Yankees shock the Indians, advance to the ALCS

Yahoo Sports Minute recaps top stories including the Yankees defeating the Indians 5-2 in Game 5 of the ALDS and advancing to the ALCS, Derek Jeter saying he would be okay with Marlins players kneeling during the anthem and Stephen Strasburg leading the Nationals to a NLDS Game 4 win over the Cubs to force a Game 5.

Watch: Didi Gregorius Hits Two Homers for Yankees in ALDS Game 5

Derek Jeter is known as the most clutch player in Yankee history. His successor, Didi Gregorious, is doing all he can to etch his place in Yankee postseason lore.

Gregorius gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead over the Indians in the ALDS Game 5 by pounding a 1-2 fastball from Cory Kluber over the right field fence.

The shortstop came back to the plate in the third inning, with Brett Gardner on first. Gregorius crushed an 0-1 breaking ball from Kluber, this one also exiting via right field.

Two homers off the likely AL Cy Young award winner in a winner-take-all game is the stuff of legends. Gregorius is just the second Yankee ever to hit two homers in a winner-take all game. Oh, and his three-run homer brought the Yankees back from 3-0 down to the Twins in the Wild Card Game.

Quite the postseason, Didi.

Derek Jeter Says He Wouldn't Mind if a Marlins Player Kneels During Anthem

New Marlins part-owner and CEO Derek Jeter said he would not mind if a Marlins player kneels during the national anthem.

Jeter made the comment at the 21st annual dinner for his Turn 2 Foundation.

Debate over the national anthem was reinvigorated when President Donald Trump said in September that NFL owners should "fire" players who protest during the anthem. The comments were denounced by NFL owners, players and coaches as well as figures from other sports.

In September, the Athletics' Bruce Maxwell became the first MLB player to kneel during the national anthem.

Derek Jeter says he'd be fine with Marlins kneeling during national anthem

Derek Jeter says he'd be fine with Marlins kneeling during national anthem

FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2008, file photo, Toronto Blue Jays hitting coach Gary Denbo throws batting practice during the team's first official spring training baseball workout in Dunedin, Fla. Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter has begun restructuring his front office by hiring a former mentor, Gary Denbo, as vice president of scouting and player development. Denbo will oversee player development and amateur scouting. (Mike Carlson/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2008, file photo, Toronto Blue Jays hitting coach Gary Denbo throws batting practice during the team's first official spring training baseball workout in Dunedin, Fla. Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter has begun restructuring his front office by hiring a former mentor, Gary Denbo, as vice president of scouting and player development. Denbo will oversee player development and amateur scouting. (Mike Carlson/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

Report: Derek Jeter plucks Yankees exec to join him in Marlins front office

If you had any doubt Derek Jeter’s new regime as owner of the Miami Marlins would resemble the New York Yankees, here’s this news: Jeter has plucked a Yankees exec to join him in the Marlins front office.

Report: Derek Jeter plucks Yankees exec to join him in Marlins front office

If you had any doubt Derek Jeter’s new regime as owner of the Miami Marlins would resemble the New York Yankees, here’s this news: Jeter has plucked a Yankees exec to join him in the Marlins front office.

Report: Derek Jeter plucks Yankees exec to join him in Marlins front office

Derek Jeter's reign as owner of the Marlins is off to a bumpy start and he already appears to be backpedaling on one of his first major moves

Derek Jeter's reign as owner of the Marlins is off to a bumpy start and he already appears to be backpedaling on one of his first major moves