Five Reasons to Worry About the Yankees

Alex Rodriguez makes the list of Yankee concerns

By Josh Alper
|  Monday, Oct 3, 2011  |  Updated 9:01 AM EDT
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Verlander could make life miserable for the Yankees.

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Contrary to popular belief, there are still some good products coming out of Detroit.

The Tigers are on the top of that list. Unlike that overhyped team from Boston that is compounding their collapse by firing their manager, the Tigers started the season slowly and then caught fire at the right time.

Detroit was 20-6 in September, putting away their division quicker than either the Rangers or the Yankees and finally catching the attention of baseball watchers overly interested in other matters.

That's a bit surprising since Jim Leyland was long ago confirmed to be a baseball genius that baseball commentators love to praise to the heavens, but it probably served the Tigers well as they put their team together out of the glaring spotlight.

Leyland might have to do battle with Mayor Bloomberg should he decide to enjoy one of his smokes in the Stadium, but most eyes will be on the battle between the teams on the field. It should be an awful good one.

On Thursday, we shared some reasons for confidence in the Yankees, but we've got to share the dark side of the coin as well. So here are some reasons to keep you from buying tickets to the ALCS just yet.

1. Justin Verlander is going to win the AL Cy Young Award, he might win the AL MVP and he's currently the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2012. That's not true since there is no such thing as a frontrunner in the GOP, but there isn't much you can put past Verlander at this point in time.

The spectre of facing Verlander twice in a five-game series is a terrifying one for the Yankees, especially since they are throwing CC Sabathia against him in Game One. A loss in that game, with Verlander looming later in the series, will turn the pressure way up.

Verlander didn't pitch great in his two starts against the Yankees this year, but they were both early enough in the season that it is hard to take much from them. The Yankees could win the series without beating Verlander, but we don't recommend trying to go that route.

2. The reason Verlander beating Sabathia in Game One is so scary is about more than Verlander pitching again in Game Five. It is also about Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia.

Nova has pitched well down the stretch, but he's never been in this spot before, and Garcia has been trending downward for quite some time. Bad starts from either one of them could put the Yankees in a seriously precarious position.

3. Alex Rodriguez missed almost half the season to injury and hasn't flashed the customary offensive pop when he's been in the lineup. His knee flared up at the end of the regular season, causing some added worry that he isn't going to be anywhere close to his best during the playoff grind.

The Yankees will likely need to put up runs to advance past the Tigers. If A-Rod isn't providing them in the middle of the lineup, it is going to be much harder to do that often enough to take three games.

4. It is a bit hard to understand why Miguel Cabrera's name has never been mentioned when people discuss the contenders for the MVP award. All he's done this year is get on base nearly half the time, post an 1033 OPS and produce more runs than anyone other than Jose Bautista.

The Tigers lineup doesn't have tremendous depth, but if the Yankees put themselves into positions to face Cabrera with runners on base they are going to pay the price.

5. Jose Valverde hasn't blown a save all season. That's not the reason to worry about him, though.

He's the kind of closer that makes life dangerous by putting runners on base and then pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Those kinds of closers have long found themselves on the mound at Yankee Stadium while announcers scream about mystique and aura.

No, the reason to worry about Valverde is the way he celebrates his saves. They are best described as a man simultaneously celebrating winning the lottery, the end of World War II, the announcement of another season of The Wire and losing his virginity.

It scalds the eyeballs and it is not the kind of thing you want to see even once over the next five days. The worry is that the Tigers are good enough to put him in position to make it happen.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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