The Yankees’ Playoff Rotation

23 09 2010

Posted by Teix4MVP

Everybody knows the Yankees of 2009. The three amigos Sabathia, Burnett, and Pettitte pitched the Yankees to the 2009 World Series title and the 27th for the hated Bronx Bombers. The three man rotation worked last year, and there were no blowups for the Yankees in the rotation.   This year, nothing is certain this year, so let’s take a look at this year’s candidates for this year’s rotation:

CC Sabathia: Let’s first assess last year’s rotationmates. CC is having a better year than last year. The 30 year old ace has 20 wins this season, which he has never done before. He is pitching to a 3.03 ERA, the lowest of his career, and is still eating up innings, with 224 IPs after his start on September 18th. The Yankees’  horse is going to be atop the Yankee rotation during the playoffs, and hopefully he can carry them again this year, as he is key to how deep they go into the playoffs this time.

Yankees

The Yankees hope to see a lot of this during the playoffs...

AJ Burnett: Last year’s number two isn’t performing like a number two any way you slice it. His record is 10-13 this year with an over 5 ERA, and while we know AJ is inconsistent, he’s given 73 free passes this year en route to a 3.7 BB/9 and hit a career high 16 batters and has thrown 15 wild pitches. This would be forgivable in the past, if he had his great stuff and was striking out endless batters, but he isn’t even doing that as much. In 175 innings this year, he’s K’d 137 people for a 7.0 K/9, his lowest since 2001. His K/BB ratio is 1.88, he has allowed 9 H/9, and as you can see, he is anything but good this year. He does have a .317 BABIP which shows he’s a little unlucky, but that’s still somewhat inline with his career BABIP against. Hopefully he can bounce back in the playoffs, as he will certainly get a spot in the rotation because of his massive salary, because the Yankees will not be in a good spot if he doesn’t.

...and they're hoping to avoid this from Burnett

Andy Pettitte: The man who pitched the game that clinched the World Series title for the Yankees is having a fantastic year. Well, he was until he hurt his groin on July 18th. He has an 11-2 record with a 2.81 ERA in 121 IPs this year before the injury. Pettitte’s BABIP is a very low .268, so he’s been lucky, and as a consequence his AVG against and WHIP are lower (.233 & 1.18, respectively) than last year. He tossed a good 6 innings in his return, with one earned run allowed and struck out two. To me, Andy is the “X-factor.” He came up big last year, and he looked like a shutdown pitcher this year, and if he can shut down the Twins/Rangers, it will be him and CC leading the Yankees to another World Series.

Phil Hughes: The age 24 pitcher is having a great 2nd full season. He was named an All-Star, and to this point has a 17-8 record in 169.1 IP. He’s allowed 159 hits in those 169 innings while striking out 140 batters, and he’s also walked 54 men, so his K/BB stands a 2.59. He does have a 4.31 ERA, and has allowed 25 HRs, so he hasn’t been fantastic, but he’s been really good as a #5.  Some of his success could be attributed to his .284 BABIP, which is lucky, but he’s also kept opponents to a 16.6% LD%. In comparison, that’s lower than Felix Hernandez(16.9%), Roy Halladay(19%), and just 2% higher than he of the .226 BABIP, Trevor Cahill. So, what does this mean? Some people believe that Hughes is as much of a question mark as Burnett. To me, Phil Hughes looks like the option that you put before Burnett and after Pettitte. In my opinion, Hughes looks ready to start in the playoffs for the Yankees and he should be ready to go come October.

That is the probable rotation for the playoffs, barring any major injuries, but for argument’s sake, let’s look at some other guys the Yankees could throw out there to start.

Javier Vazquez: The player the Yankees thought they were trading for and the player that was playing on the field didn’t match up at all. He does have a 10-9 record, but that’s only because of the run support he’s gotten in starts/ coming in a tie during a relief outing. He has a 5.09 ERA, and that’s with a .274

Vazquez is just barely mediocre, so he's missing out on a chance to start in the playoffs.

BABIP. His flyball % is 47.6, and his GB/FB ratio is under 1, compared to last year’s 34.8% and 1.20 ratio. He has a 13.3% HR/FB ratio, which could explain the 29 homers given up. Javy isn’t really a playoff caliber starter, so look for him to be more of a swingman, with more long relief appearances coming his way this October.

Ivan Nova: The 23 year old rookie was originally called up to take Vazquez’s spot in the rotation. He’s started 6 out 0f the 8 games he’s appeared in, for 35 IP. with a 4.37 ERA.  He’s struck out 23 and given out 11 walks, so his K/BB is about 2. He has a .267 AVG against with a BABIP of .297. 51.8% of the balls hit off him are groundballs and he owns a 17% LD%. The young pitcher isn’t really ready to pitch in huge games in the playoffs, so he’ll probably have the same role as Javy, only in more high-leverage situations. Although this isn’t really related to the playoff rotation, look for Nova to be in the rotation in 2011, as the #5 if the Yankees don’t sign Lee.

I don’t really think that Gaudin, Mitre and Moseley are pitchers the Yankees could slot in a rotation spot, so I won’t do profiles on them.

The Conclusion: CC will be the definite starter on days 1,4 and 7 of a series if the Yankees go with another three man rotation, or if a four man rotation is what they decide days 1, 4/5, 7, whatever allows for the most rest. Andy will probably return to his pre-injury form, so he looks like another reliable guy for the Yankees to throw out there and expect nothing else but a lead for Mo to protect. Burnett is the biggest question mark here, because he can either throw lightening or wiffle balls down the middle of the plate, so he might be a major factor in the postseason. Hughes is a smaller question, because he’s pitched as a setup man in the playoffs no problem last season, but if he can truly still pitch in huge games like this as a starter is a fact to be soon found out. Vazquez and Nova might be used to preserve these guys’ arms in a big lead, with Nova probably getting the call first, so they could get a lot of action if the Yankees got for a 3 manner. The Yankees will have their hands full this year, so they better be confident they can get this rotation right, because one bad mistake or decision could cost you the entire season in a blink of an eye.

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