Editor's note: As the NLCS and ALCS get underway, SN will present a case for why each of the remaining four teams will win the 2019 World Series.
Some things in baseball are beyond the explicable.
Juju? Baseball gods? Mojo? They might be unquantifiable things in an increasingly quantifiable sport, but if there's any one team that has defied the odds in 2019, it's the Yankees.
More than 30 players spent time on the injured list in 2019, and it took until the postseason for most of the team to get back and healthy. Along the way, the Yankees won 103 games and their first AL East crown in seven years, so there might be some kind of higher power at work here.
In any case, when the Yankees were building a new core four-plus years ago, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that championship runs would be in their future. Well, after that surprising 2017 team and a disappointing end to 2018, 2019 presents a great opportunity for the Bombers to mash their way to No. 28.
Offense, offense and, oh, offense
Need we say more?
Juiced ball theories or not, there's a reason this Yankees team hit more than 300 home runs in the regular season and was one of the best offenses that baseball has seen in decades. Even while dealing with injuries to major players this season — they were without Aaron Judge for 50 games, Giancarlo Stanton for nearly the entire season, to name a few — they finished with 306 home runs (second in the majors), a .267 batting average (fourth in the majors) and 943 runs scored (first in the majors).
While the Yankees weren't afraid to strike out, they were pretty much middle of the pack in the majors when it came to strikeouts this season, notching 1,437 whiffs, ranking 14th in baseball. The idea that they're a feast-or-famine team is inaccurate at best and pigheaded at worst.
Obviously, 2019 has been the year of the offense, even if the postseason has course-corrected and pitching has been more of a focus. But when an offense like the Yankees' is an active volcano, nobody wants to be the next Pompeii.
Bull(pen) in a china shop
It's a scary proposition knowing the Yankees can shorten a game to five innings given the names they're running out of their bullpen.
While mixing-and-matching for specific matchups is the strategy the Yankees deploy more than set innings in a bullpen, consider that they can run out Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman for a sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth inning, respectively. That's frightening, especially when all you need is a starter to give you five quality innings.
But the names don't end there: They also have reliever Chad Green, who has been lockdown since his return from the minors earlier in the season, and potentially J.A. Happ working in relief as well.
With a fully rested bullpen entering the ALCS, manager Aaron Boone won't be afraid to go to them early and often and treat every game like a Game 7.
An interesting tidbit: The Yankees' top three starters are not American-born. James Paxton (Canada), Masahiro Tanaka (Japan) and Luis Severino (Dominican Republic) are the 1-2-3 of the team's rotation. That means approximately nothing in the grand scheme of things, but what does mean something is that all these guys are pretty good.
Birthplace, stadium, continent doesn't matter. The Yankees' biggest bugaboo for years has been their starting rotation, and it finally looks like they have a top three that can compete with any lineup in baseball. Very early returns in a small sample size vs. Minnesota in the ALDS were pretty indicative of that.
James Paxton was masterful down the stretch, regardless of competition. In the last 11 games he pitched in the regular season, he threw to a 2.51 ERA in 61 innings, struck out 69 batters and allowed 17 earned runs. He also wasn't getting hit, allowing a .171 batting average against. That continued in the ALDS despite some struggles.
Luis Severino certainly looks the part of Yankees ace, though injuries played a major part in his 2019 season. In ALDS Game 3 he pitched four shutout innings, though he was hit around a bit and walked two on the day. He exited the game having done his part, and the Yankees exited target field on their way to the ALCS.
Masahiro Tanaka is as money as it gets come October. He has a career 1.54 postseason ERA in six starts, with a 0.800 WHIP and six runs allowed in 35 innings. Those are all pretty good numbers.
Should the Yankees win the World Series, those three are going to play a big part in it.