It took 162 games, myriad unexpected developments and the wildest final month in the history of the game, but we've finally gotten to the end of the regular season.
Everyone expected the Yankees to still be in the mix at this point. We've expected the Yankees to be here since the season got underway, and we've spent most of the last two months trying to figure out who they would face in the Division Series. We got our answer Wednesday night when the Tigers failed to catch the Rangers and earned themselves a ticket to the Bronx.
There are plenty of reasons to be scared about a matchup with Detroit, but we'll get to those on Friday. For now, we're going to concentrate on the reasons to feel bullish about the Yankees' chances of getting a little revenge for 2006 and moving on to the ALCS:
1. There isn't another team in baseball with the kind of lineup depth that the Yankees enjoy. They can beat you by working walks, they can beat you by hitting home runs, they can beat you with speed, or they can do what they do most nights and just use a mixture of all those things to overwhelm the opposing pitching staff.
Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano had two of the better years in all of baseball, while Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher turned it on after slow starts to round things out nicely. There isn't a soft spot anywhere in the lineup, and that's something that will keep the Yankees in every single game until the final out.
2. The Yankees bullpen has the ability to shut down games from the seventh inning forward. Rafael Soriano has been maligned all season, but he was great since returning from the disabled list.
David Robertson has been spectacular all year and could even see multiple inning duty if the situation should arise during the postseason. And Mariano Rivera remains Mariano Rivera.
3. You'll hear a lot of talk about the state of the Yankee rotation, but it isn't like the Tigers are some version of the Phillies. Justin Verlander is great, obviously, and Doug Fister's been very good, but the Tigers are pretty short from that point and that should tilt things in favor of the Yankee offense.
4. Speaking of offense, the Tigers don't have enough of it. They have some strong top-end talent in Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta, but the rest of the lineup is pretty weak for a team playing baseball at this stage in the season.
The Tigers can mitigate some of that by playing matchups, but there should be soft spots for Yankees pitching to attack every night. That's a welcome development for a rotation that leaves much to be desired.
5. The Yankees normally come roaring into the playoffs as the baddest boys on the block, but this year has felt different even if they wound up with the best record in the American League. All year it felt like there were big obstacles for the Yankees to overcome in every phase of the game and plenty of reasons to expect that they wouldn't make it this far.
They did make it, though, and the journey has given them the confidence to know that they can tackle anything that should fall in their path. While this team looks a lot like the ones that fell in the ALDS three straight times from 2005 to 2007, none of those teams proved themselves time after time when things went wrong.
That, along with the other four points above, leaves you feeling confident about this team's chances to keep weathering the storms against the Tigers.