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In the end, the Astros were a little better than the Yankees in all phases, yet with just a few clutch hits from some of their best players, as well as more dominance from the ballyhooed bullpen, the New Yorkers could have prevailed in the ALCS.
It doesn't mean Brian Cashman should overhaul this team by any means. The Astros are looking more and more like a potential dynasty: they're on the verge of winning two championships in three years, and they might well have won it all last year had Jose Altuve and a couple of other key players not been playing through injuries in October.
Mostly the Yankees need to keep knocking on the door, while hoping that Gerrit Cole leaves the Astros as a free agent and Justin Verlander starts looking his age.
As for fixes, I've already written that the Yankees should sign Cole as the ace they very much need. Indeed, some telling quotes came out of the losing clubhouse after Game 6 from relievers admitting that Astros hitters made adjustments to them as the series went on.
"The more times you face a guy, obviously, as relievers, you get uber-exposed," Zack Britton told The Athletic. "It's the one thing I always say: that's why we're relievers, not starters, You overexpose guys, it's inevitable that eventually they're going to get got a little bit.
"I still think starting pitching is what's going to get you a world championship at the end of the day."
Yes, bullpenning only goes so far.
As for the offense, D.J. LeMahieu added the much-needed high-contact dimension in the postseason, and Gleyber Torres should keep getting better.
The surprise was that Aaron Judge wasn't more of a force. Otherwise there are still too many strikeouts in the lineup, and Brian Cashman should look for ways to at least tinker with that.
Getting Miguel Andujar back will help, but where does he play after Gio Urshela established himself at third base? Maybe Andujar moves to first base, but ultimately that likely would mean not re-signing Didi Gregorius, and the Yankees are already short on left-handed bats.
So Cashman has a lot to chew on, to say the least, in what should be a very intriguing offseason in the Bronx.
In the meantime, here are my postseason grades for the Yankees...
Hit .346 with a 1.029 OPS in the ALCS, and delivered on of all-time clutch home runs in post-season history in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS against the Astros.
Hit .324 with a 1.078 OPS for the postseason and looks like he'll be a very tough out in Octobers to come, even if he did strike out in a huge, bases-loaded spot in Game 4 against the Astros.
Hit a big HR against the Twins but otherwise had a bad October -- one extra-base hit and no RBI vs. the Astros. Not the best way to convince the Yankees to re-sign him.
Grade: C -
Was mostly quiet with the bat until Game 6 of the ALCS when he homered, then singled ahead of LeMahieu's game-tying blast in the ninth. Made a sensational play with the glove as well. Defense makes the case that he should stay at 3B next season.
Yanks needed him to match Altuve to have a chance, but Judge had little impact, with one HR and a slash line of .240/.321/.360/.681 against the Astros. Did play an outstanding right field throughout the post-season, however
After a career season, power-wise, Gardner was invisible in October, hitting .176 with a whopping 15 K's. Worse in the ALCS, hitting .136 with one run scored, one RBI.
His surprise return from the elbow injury gave the Yanks a boost in the ALCS. Hit only .154 but drew five walks and his Game 5 HR was a game-changer
Actually looked like he was getting on track before the quad injury, but useless after that, overmatched as expected by Justin Verlander in Game 5. Has eight more years to try and find postseason glory.
For all of his talent he seems destined to make Yankee fans nuts for years to come. Shockingly inept with the bat, not-so-shockingly inept behind the plate at times. Hit .129 (4-for-31) for the postseason, .130 against the Astros.
In some ways even more stunning than Sanchez because of his track record. Went 1-for-18 against the Astros with 11 strikeouts, and, if possible, looked worse than the numbers suggest
Lowered his postseason ERA to 1.32 after Game 1 start vs. Astros, but just when you were starting to think he was Koufax in the postseason, Tanaka finally had a clunker in Game 4 vs. Astros.
Saved his postseason after two shaky starts with a dominant six innings in do-or-die Game 5, offered the Yankees hope the best is still ahead for him.
Grade: C +
Would have been fascinating to see how he pitched had there been a Game 7. All things considered, after missing almost the entire season, Severino gave the Yankees about as much as they could have expected, pitching 8.1 innings over two starts, giving up only a couple of solo home runs vs. Astros.
Was unscored-upon until Game 6, but let's face it, nothing else really mattered. Got beat on a terrible pitch to Altuve, an all-time hanging slider -- a mistake made worse because he throws 100 mph with his fastball.
Had an outstanding ALCS, putting up 5.2 shutout innings. Had to pitch out of trouble, thanks to five walks, but allowed only one hit.
Put the Yanks in a 3-0 hole as the "opener" for Game 6, thanks to three-run HR by Yuli Gurriel, and gave up another big HR in the series.
Seemed to be searching for command/confidence throughout the postseason. Gave up game-tying HR to George Springer in Game 2 that may have changed series. Finished ALCS with an ERA of 11.57.
Put up a 1.59 ERA in five ALCS appearances, would have been something of an unsung hero had the Yankees won.
Gave the Yankees a couple of important innings in Game 6, but also served up the game-winner to Carlos Correa in Game 2
Got three outs over two appearances without allowing a baserunner before his shoulder gave out on him. As he said, a fitting way to go out, leaving it all on the field.
Manager Aaron Boone
Debatable, but probably should have had Chapman pitch around Altuve -- especially when it was clear the closer was overthrowing his fastball -- with Jake Marisnick on deck. Nice bit of managing in Game 5, trusting his eyes and letting Paxton pitch to the lineup a third time. Never should have had Torres hitting in the No. 5 spot, behind Gardner and Encarnacion, in Game 3 vs. Gerrit Cole.
GM Brian Cashman
Yanks could have used another starting pitcher, but hard to be too critical since there wasn't a game-changer available at the trade deadline. Signing of LeMahieu had a huge postseason impact. Quite the opposite for Encarnacion.