Last year, you kind of had a feeling that the Yankees were going to win their 27th World Series title. This year, not so much for their 28th.
The Yankees do have the best record in baseball, but New York fans have to wonder if the Bombers have already played their best baseball already.
And while the Yankees are coming off of a recent eight-game winning streak, is there really a feeling that they are truly the best team in the game?
Now, that's not to say they're not, but that's more of an indication of how wide open things are this year. It's tough, though, to call the Yankees the clear favorites to hoist trophy in late October.
The main reason for skepticism surrounding the Yankees is obviously the pitching staff. You know what you're going to get with CC Sabathia, but after that, is there any confidence in handing the ball to anyone?
A.J. Burnett, at times this season, has been an absolute train wreck, certainly not worth the top-tier money the Yankees paid him to be their No. 2. Andy Pettitte is the closest thing you'll find to a sure thing in the playoffs, but with his return date from a groin injury changing seemingly every week, it's tough to approximate what you'll get out of him the rest of the way.
Young right-hander Phil Hughes is not the pitcher we saw early this season, at least not right now. The All-Star pitcher came into this season never throwing more than 86 1/3 innings in a season. He's at 155 already this season.
There are question marks everywhere in the rotation after Sabathia, and that's even without mentioning the problems that Javier Vazquez has had this season.
The offense, which is usually something the Yankees can hang their hat on, is not the steamroller it was last year.
The biggest reason for that? It has to be Derek Jeter, the man who makes the Yankees' offense go. At the top of the lineup, Jeter is relied upon heavily as the catalyst. If he's not getting on base, it makes opposing pitchers' jobs a lot easier to deal with the boppers behind him.
The veteran shortstop has struggled mightily of late. At some point, maybe now, we'll have to start asking ourselves, is this a prolonged Jeter slump, or the beginning of the end? Jeter usually saves his best work for the end of the year, but if he doesn't turn it on soon, he'll be heading into October with questions surrounding his play for virtually the first time in his career.
Third baseman Alex Rodriguez was out of the lineup for precautionary reasons on Tuesday night, but he has battled injuries this season as well. And while the Yankees have actually put up some gaudy numbers without him in the lineup, there's no question they'd prefer the man who is arguably the game's best in the lineup.
The Yankees' offense is still one of the best in the game despite minor concerns. But if they meet up with a team like the Rays in the playoffs, a team that the Yankees are 5-6 against this year, and a team that has some of the best pitching in the game, they could be in trouble.
This isn't to say the Yankees won't be the ones left standing when the dust settles. They have the best record in baseball for a reason. But unlike last year and years before, facing the Yankees just isn't quite as scary as it once was.
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