If healthy, the Yankees will make playoffs

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Yankees Manager Joe Girardi on Tanaka and Rodriguez

College Contributor Network

It seems like an eternity since that team from the Bronx played October baseball.

In reality, the New York Yankees, known in the past 20 years as a perennial playoff ball club, have not made the postseason in each of the last two seasons -- not exactly familiar territory for the 27-time champs.

One can surmise a myriad of reasons why the Yanks have suffered such misfortune: a precipitous drop in offensive (and home run) production, sub-par starting pitching, and players not living up to their contracts are all plausible explanations.

However, hovering over all of those aforementioned reasons is the chief cause of the two-year postseason drought, which is health.

Last season is a prime example. The Yankees finished second in the AL East with a disappointing 84-78 record, with a bottom-third offense and mediocre starting pitching.

To say the least, this doesn't exactly look zesty. But when looking deeper into how and why the 2014 season didn't end the way it was hoped, one can say it was impressive managing on the part of skipper, Joe Girardi to at least earn New York another winning record.

Of the nine players on the '14 opening day offensive lineup, six of them, including Mark Teixeira (39 games), Carlos Beltran (53), Jacoby Ellsbury (13) and Brett Gardner (14), each missed significant playing time. This caused the Bombers to finish 20th in runs scored with 633.

As reported earlier in the offseason, the Yankees followed the league-wide trend by hiring two new hitting coaches, Jeff Pentland and his assistant, Alan Cockrell. This can work, but only if the hitters can stay in the lineup.

Furthermore, we know what these players are capable of. Despite missing 13 games, Ellsbury still finished 2nd in the league in stolen bases with 39, and is just one year removed from arguably his best season as a major leaguer. Gardner set career numbers with 17 homers, even though he missed 14 games. We know what Tex and Beltran can do when healthy, and it hasn't been that long since they have produced the way baseball is accustomed to seeing them produce.

But the 2015 version of the men in pinstripes will need more than an offensive resurgence to get back to the promise land -- pitchers will have to pitch, too.

Unfortunately that is easier said than done, considering four-fifths of the starting rotation landed on the disabled list in 2014: Masahiro Tanaka, C.C. Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova.

Nova will miss the first two months of the season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, leaving pitchers like Adam Warren and Esmil Rogers to compete for the last spot.

It's looking like Warren will win the job based on the spring he has had thus far.

Like the offensive players that missed significant time in '14, we know what these four pitchers are capable of when healthy. Tanaka was a bonafide Cy Young-award candidate before being shut down for a UCL injury, Sabathia has already won a Cy Young and has gained (some) velocity back in his fastball based on his first spring training start, Pineda has had an incredible spring and pitched extremely well for the Yanks last year, and Nova is still young and has flashed great potential.

Mixing in newly acquired flame thrower Nathan Eovaldi who, though he has a great fastball (fourth in major leagues in average fastball mph last season) led the National League in hits allowed last season, and the Yankees have a chance to field one of the surprisingly strongest rotations in the American League.

Not many people are giving the Yankees a chance to re-enter the postseason because of the team's lingering health concerns, but I believe this is the year Girardi and his players figure it out.

Marquel Ingram is an aspiring sports writer from Rutgers University. He loves the Colts, Yankees and the Mavericks. Follow him on Twitter: @marquel_ingram
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