Maybe its nothing. Maybe it’s just like 1998.
The 1998 Yankees had pretty much wrapped up the AL title by mid-June. So in September, they went on cruise control. They lost 4 in a row in late August, 5 of 7 in early September, then 7 out of 10 in mid September before remembering, "Oh, yeah, we're a good team." They finished on a 7-win roll.
Hopefully, it's just something like that.
We really have no reason to be worried. They Yankees have the best record in baseball. I mean, we can't expect the Yankees to always win 12 out of 13 (like they did in early August), right? The Yankees only lost 3 out of their last 5. Nothing too bad.
What worries and gives me the sour feeling in my stomach is the way in which the Yankees have been losing. That is to say, terrible pitching. In the games they've lost this month, they've given up 6, 14, 10, 7 and 10 runs. And in those losses, the starting pitching's ERA has been a whopping 10.00.
The Yankees cannot just rely on Sabathia for solid pitching come the playoffs. And after Sabathia, the rest of the rotation rolls out like this: Pettitte—shoulder issues; Burnett—has forgotten how to pitch to the tune of a 7.67 ERA in the last 28 days; Chamberlain—who knows?; Mitre—Good Lord.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox—in a display of "Hey, we're not so bad, either!"—suddenly seem like World Dominators, having gone 15-5 since the Yankees took 2 out of 3 from them at Fenway in late August. And that includes having won 6 in a row, giving up just 8 runs in the process. The Red Sox, with a dominating performance Tuesday night from Matsusaka, would appear to almost have an embarrassment of starting pitching. With a revitalized Matsusaka, the Red Sox would compound him with Beckett (3.82 ERA; lifetime postseason ERA of 2.90), Lester (3.29 ERA; 1.51 ERA in the last month) and Buchholz (3.66 ERA; 5 runs in the last 28 IP). That's a pretty impressive starting 4 heading into the playoffs.
Again, this could be just a blip in “Yankee juggernaut 2009”. They are still 6 1/2 games ahead of Boston and have the best record in the majors. That said, Pettitte has shoulder fatigue—memories of last year, anyone?—making Chad Gaudin follow Sergio Mitre in the rotation. Who knows what you get from Joba on any night—is only giving 3 runs in the last 7 innings really something to get excited about? And can Burnett go into deep regression hypnosis so as to remember how to work his slider with a semblance of control. Burnett leads the AL with 87 walks and 17 wild pitches—think that kind of performance might hurt him come the playoffs? BTW, Chamberlain, even with his innings monitored, is tied for third in the AL with 68 walks.
And that's why there is an ookey feeling in my stomach right now. Of course, this could be just the Yankees on cruise control, like in 1998.
But I don't think so.