New York Yankees: 6-Man Rotation and Implications
Tuesday August 9, 2011
Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports): When you look at the New York Yankees pitching staff in 2011, two things come to mind. C.C. Sabathia is the only frontline starter they currently have, and he has a pretty decent supporting cast. That being said, last week, the Yankees have decided to go with a 6-man rotation for the time being. This could be a motivational tool for Phil Hughes, who has struggled with injuries and command this season. It also could be a way to limit some of the other starters’ inning totals. Here is a quick look at all six members of the current rotation and how they stack up.
C.C. Sabathia is a true ace. A workhorse. A throwback to a generation where pitchers routinely threw 210+ innings in a season. In his first 10 Major League seasons, Sabathia averaged over 210 innings per season. This season, he is on pace for close to 250 innings. Sabathia is once again this season one of the strongest frontrunners for the AL Cy Young Award.
Bartolo Colon is having a resurgence nobody could have predicted. His ERA+ (a stat that compares his ERA with league average as well as adjusting to ballparks) of 126 is the highest it has been since 2002 when he was traded from Cleveland to Montreal. He has thrown 113 2/3 innings already, which is more than he threw from 2008-2010. Although it is fair to say he didn’t pitch in the big leagues in 2010. Colon hasn’t thrown this many innings since 2005, when he threw 222 2/3 on his way to a Cy Young Award. Colon is throwing strikes and eating innings. Since joining the rotation, Colon has averaged over 6 innings per start. Colon is a candidate to tire and wear down due to his large frame and weight, as well as the number of innings he has thrown in the last 5-years.
A.J. Burnetthas again been under-performing in relation to the 5-year $80M contract he signed before the 2009 season. Burnett has always been touted as a pitcher with electric stuff, but unable it seems to figure it out. Last year he was atrocious. This year he is better, but still not very good. He is on pace to lead the league in wild pitches for the second time in three years; in 2010 he was 2nd. Burnett’s walk rate of 4 per 9 innings is not good, and he is giving up home runs at an alarming rate of 1.3 per 9 innings.
If we thought that Colon has been good this year, then Freddy Garcia has been great. Once considered a great inning eater, with 7 of his first 8 MLB seasons throwing over 200 innings, he is back to his old tricks. Garcia doesn’t throw with the same velocity as he once did; his fastball averaged 93 mph in 2002, whereas it sits around 87 now. He knows this is the case, and actually only throws his heater 37.2% of the time, compared to 63% in 2002. The biggest difference is that he now throws a split-finger 21.5% of the time, which he didn’t begin throwing with any regularity until 2006. Garcia threw 157 innings last year, so I don’t see him wearing down yet as evidenced by his 3.16 ERA in 122 1/3 innings this season.
Phil Hughes has not had the 2011 that the Yankees dreamed of after his terrific 2010 season, where he went 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA. Hughes has only started 8 games this year, and has not pitched very well. His main problem is that he is simply not missing any bats. His K rate sits at 4.74/9 IP. Hitters are hitting more line drives, and less ground balls off Hughes, which is a reason for a spike in his BABIP of .343 as compared to .274 last year. The Yankees could be using his next couple of starts to see if they will stick with a 6-man rotation. Hughes has been unable to last more than 6 innings in a start this year. It should be noted though that his last start on August 2nd was an encouraging one, as he threw 6 innings, allowing only 3 hits and induceing 9 ground balls.
Ivan Nova had been dangled in trade talks seemingly from the end of the last World Series until this year’s trade deadline, where the Yankees pulled him back to keep for themselves. GM Brian Cashman has said that they feel Ivan Nova is as good as the current version of Ubaldo Jimenez, so they held on to him, hoping to harness his ability. When Hughes returned from the disabled list, Nova was initially optioned to AAA to make room in the rotation. Nova has been pretty good all season, as his sinking fastball induces a ton of ground balls. His 10-4 record with a 3.81 ERA has been impressive, but he still doesn’t strike out many hitters. Nova threw almost 190 innings last year, so he will have no restrictions this year as he currently sits at 122 IP in the MLB and AAA combined.
The Yankees have a pretty good problem to have in that four of their starters are pitching well., one starter has been working back from an injury and is improving, and the other is a guy with tremendous talent. The choice that many would like to see is Burnett being pushed to a bullpen role, but I don’t see that happening. One more turn in the rotation should prove that the Yankees need to cut down on Garcia and Colon’s innings, and that Burnett should throw on 5 days rest instead of the usual four. Garcia and Colon may also get skipped in the rotation a couple of times down the stretch to save their arms for the playoffs.
For the playoffs, most teams use a three or four-man rotation, using their fifth guy in a long relief role. The Yankees can make a case for a four-man rotation, using Sabathia, Nova, Colon and Garcia if they all stay healthy. That is a lot of talent and experience to utilize in a short playoff matchup. Hughes has never been that impressive to me, but if he rounds into form, he could easily slot into the fourth spot, pushing out Colon or Garcia, depending on who loses the battle at the end.
The bottom line is that the Yankees have depth at the Major League level. They have successfully held on to many of their top prospects in the last few years, while adding crafty veteran free agents to the mix. The result is that the Yankees should continue contending for the American League East division title this year and for many years to come.
***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***
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Posted on August 8, 2011, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis and tagged American league, bartolo, baseball, burnett, colon, garcia, hughes, jimenez, mlb, new york yankees, nova, pitching, sabathia, ubaldo. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.