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Is this the year - at last - for the New York Yankees?

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To try to remedy that, the Yankees – as they have before – opened the checkbook. They signed free agent pitchers C.C. Sabathia ($15.2 million per year), A.J. Burnett ($16.5 million per year), and first baseman Mark Teixeira ($20.6 million per year).

By the time the Stein­bren­ners were finished last off-season, they had a payroll of $201 million, the highest in the big leagues.

So the Yankees will enter the postseason with more pressure on them.

From a statistical standpoint, the big spending adds 15 to 30 percent in the win percentage, estimates Andrew Zimbalist, a baseball historian at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. "It's an advantage but not a determinant of success," he says.

The most important factor in the postseason, say others, is for a team to have three good starting pitchers and a lights-out closer who can shut down the opposition in the ninth inning.

"It's all about pitching in the postseason," says Brian Brewer, coach of Marietta College in Ohio, which won the Division III World Series in 2006. "The Yankees have a pretty experienced pitching staff."

Left-hander Sabathia is akin to an NFL lineman in pinstripes, throwing a baseball with pinpoint accuracy. He tied for the league-lead in wins, with 19 and was fifth in the American League with a 3.37 earned run average.

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