New York Yankees
Last but not least is the New York Yankees, a team that will be directly in the Blue Jays’ way as they try to claw their way back to the top of the division over the next few years. That’s not going to be an easy task in the AL East any year, but the Yankees are definitely going to make that difficult in the foreseeable future.
I view the Yankees as a bit of a light version of the Astros, in that they’re a very balanced team that can hurt you in a number of ways. They were struck with the injury bug to epic proportions this season, and yet they still managed to continue their dominance, even when they had more All-Stars on the IL than the opposition had on the field against them.
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Speaking of which, the Yankees have really focused on lining up a devastating group of hitters, lead by the likes of Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Gary Sanchez, and many, many more. They’ve built the majority of the team through the draft, but guys like Torres have also come along through trade, and once again Brian Cashman has proven why he’s been employed in New York for so long.
The Yankees have taken a different approach than some other teams when building their pitching staff, focusing more on the bullpen than on the starting rotation. The bullpen has remarkable depth when they’re all healthy, and that’s an advantage that’s played very well in the playoffs over the last few seasons. While it’s a big advantage, the Astros have matched their bullpen performance so far this fall, and their rotation has been the bigger difference.
Even though the Yankees have a reasonably talented group of starters, I would argue that they’re the weakest of the final four teams. I might not be saying that if Luis Severino had been healthy all year, but it certainly plays as the biggest difference in the ALCS right now. Whether that ultimately makes the difference between the Yankees getting their 27th championship in franchise history or being sent home in the ALCS remains to be seen, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
As I said at the beginning, there are lessons to be learned from each team that made it this far, and as the Blue Jays approach the next era of contention, hopefully they’ll be able to apply what they’ve seen. If there’s one overwhelming lesson to take away from this year’s postseason, I’d say it’s that pitching is just as important as it’s always been, even in a record-breaking year of home runs.