Monday, August 1, 2011

The Yankees Starting Pitching Really Isn't That Good vs. The Yankees Need A Starting Pitcher

There are a few layers to this and I've been out of the game for a while, so bear with me. Let's start with some stats.

10-7, 3.14
10-7, 3.22
8-6, 3.30

The first player is Cliff Lee, the second player is Freddy Garcia, anbd the third player is Bartolo Colon. I'm not going to pretend like the peripherals are close, because they aren't. I'm also not saying that I'd prefer Garcia or Colon to Lee, because obviously I don't. But I'm also not pretending that these numbers don't exist in the context of AL vs. NL (making the latter two all the more impressive), and what I AM SAYING is that these numbers are close enough where you can make a comparison between Cliff Lee and Freddy Garcia/Bartolo Colon in 2011. We are 2/3 of the way through the season, and being able to make such comparisons is a good thing for the Yankees.

9th - where the Yankees 3.64 rotation ERA ranks in baseball. 20th - where Boston's 4.11 rotation ERA ranks in baseball. 1st - where the Yankees 3.08 bullpen ERA ranks in the AL. 6th - where Boston's 3.44 bullpen ERA ranks in the AL. These teams have the two best records in the AL and the 2nd and 3rd best in baseball, respectively. Boston is currently two games ahead of the Yankees despite - clearly - not getting the quality of pitching the Yankees are getting.

I use Boston as a measuring stick here because they have the best record in the league, and to this point they, along with the Yankees, are the class of the league. I have heard people say "the Yankees starting pitching really isn't that good" or "they don't have enough quality arms in the bullpen". If that's the case, what does that make everyone else's pitching?

Clearly, the Yankees starting pitching is good, even if the names don't impress you after Sabathia. So the question becomes, do the Yankees need a starting pitcher. This is a different question. You can have a good rotation and still need a starting pitcher. I have little doubt that the Yankees rotation, if it stays healthy, is enough to get them to one of the best 162 records in the game. They probably have the deepest rotation in the AL, as not many teams have someone who is 9-4 with a 4.01 (Nova) in his rookie season without a guaranteed rotation spot. What isn't as certain is do they have someone who you'd feel comfortable starting down 0-1, on the road, in Game 2 of the ALDS. That is where the "need" question/distiniction comes in.

The answer to that question, for me, is yes. The talk about the Yankees not having starting pitching is nonsense at this point. The conversation about them not having someone you can trust in that spot is a totally legitimate one. Is it possible that between Colon, Burnett, Garcia, Hughes, and Nova they could get someone to step up and pitch that game? Of course. But you certaintly aren't counting on it. And that is where the issue lies.

The flip side of that coin is I'm just not sure that player was available at the right cost this deadline. If this were the 2010 market, I would say the Yankees would have likely ended up with one of Lee, Oswalt, or Haren. They basically need Andy Pettitte, and Andy Pettitte wasn't available. DV ran through the list last week and yesterday, including Ubaldo, and it just doesn't seem like that guy was out there. At least not at the right price. So it's difficult to do that analysis and then get on the Yankees for not making that move.

You could make a case for Bedard, but I don't think he gives you anything beyond what the guys they already have offer. It would just increase the amount of "upside guys" they have behind Sabathia from 5 to 6, and while there is something to be said for strength in numbers (thus increasing the liklihood that one of them is going to pan out) there is only so far you can take that argument. I'm sure the Yankees would like to have 10 such guys but it isn't realistic. The Sox, with the uncertainty around Buchholz, needed Bedard far more than the Yankees needed him.

What the Yankees needed didn't seem to be out there at the non-waiver deadline. I would have liked for them to have added someone, but it's tough to add something that didn't seem to be there, so I certainly can't get on them for that. Now they have to see if they can use the waiver wire - something they can do with their financial might - to find that guy. It's also possible that the market will become more fluid over the course of the next four weeks. There has been a lot of parity this year, and a lot of teams are still hanging in, if only on the fringes. Chances are a number of those teams will drop out by the end of August, and might be more amenable to shedding some salary.

If that starting pitcher still doesn't appear, they will have to make due with what they've got. And what they've got is pretty good. It's not that the Yankees have bad starting pitching, it's that the way their roster is built they could really use a starter for the playoffs if they get there. But if they have to find one guy between Colon, Burnett, Garcia, Hughes, Nova, and now Banuelos (who was just promoted to Triple-A), at least they have a lot of guys to choose from, and they have a strong bullpen to lean on as well That's a lot of pitching, so if they can't get that one guy, at least they can throw the kitchen sink at you in a short series.


the gm at work said...

If you were to listen to the way people were talking around here, you'd think the Yankees were about ten games back in the East because their starting rotation sucks so bad.

I think your post pretty much nails everything. Congrats on getting out alive on the other side of your exams.

Anonymous said...

A PF sighting! Would add my congratulations DV's.

I agree with DV that you summed everything up very well. It would be helpful if you could make more controversial arguments so that we could get some debate going. I guess that's supposed to be my job.

As you state, I personally wouldn't fear Garcia or Colon in the playoffs. I think one of the reasons that people aren't giving the rotation much love is that in the past the Yankees backed up a great offense with guys like Pettite who you knew could come up big and shut you down in the playoffs. While Colon and Garcia have been good, you just don't worry abou them shutting you down. If you're the Red Sox and you are hopefully playing the Yankees in the ALCS, you're willing to take your chances even with all the flaws we have in our own rotation.

All that to say, I think the reason you see Red Sox fans hating on the Yankees rotation (aside from the fact that we are incredibly biased) is that we are very worried about the Sox rotation, but still feel like we would have a 50/50 shot against the Yankees in the playoffs because they don't have that second and third guy you really worry about. That sense of invincibility is not there.


Anonymous said...

the congratulations are much appreciated.

your two comments pretty much sum it up. there seems to be this feeling out there that the yankees have major rotation issues. not the case. this sentiment is particularly interesting coming from the north, because the yankees rotation has been fairly significantly better than the sox, in terms of 1-5, over the first 100+ games of this season.

at the same time, while the yankees have depth, they don't have that clear 2nd guy to bring at you after sabathia, which can be critical if they were to make the playoffs. where the sox have them is with the way beckett is pitching, they do have that 1-2 punch over the yankees. in that sense boston is certainly right to feel good about that matchup on paper. both teams would have to get to such a scenario first, obviously. there's a lot of baseball left this year with a bunch of teams hanging around, and that's to say nothing of the randomness that takes place if both teams do make the playoffs.

back to the yankees' need for that #2 guy, while i would have liked them to have gotten one, i just don't think that person was there. ubaldo would probably have been the closest thing. sherman reported that the question the yankees asked is if they had a game 2, would they feel more comfortable with ubaldo starting it than colon. such an assessment needs to be made before you commit significant prospects to acquiring ubaldo. the feeling, per sherman, was that the yankees would like colon in that spot. listen, i like ubaldo. he's young, he's on a team friendly contract, and he has spectacular stuff with that high 90's fastball, a great slider, and a great split. it would be an NL to AL move but i think his having pitched in colorado negates that to some extent. still, i can't say i definitely prefer ubaldo in a game 2 to colon the way they've pitched this year. i wouldn't want to give a huge prospect package to get him in that case. so i see where the yankees are coming from.

so now it's a matter of if they can find that guy before the waiver trade deadline at the end of this month. if not, they'll have to hope they can use their depth to their advantage and continue to ride CC in an effort to make up for the lack of a clear #2 guy. and maybe somebody steps up.

- pf

Anonymous said...


One other thing you to mention is that while the sox have the 1-2 punch over the Yankees, the Yankees have the clear best starter (in my opinion) on the two teams. That has it's clear advantages as well, because if you can somehow get Colon or Garcia or Burnett or whoever to somehow give you a great post season performance, you are just that much closer to being able to win a series given your ability to rely on CC. I understand I'm stating the obvious here.

In the end, this is why a Sox/Yankees ALCS could be so compelling if we are lucky enough to see it this year.

You have the Sox with the better 1-2 punch but the Yankees with the best overall pither. You have the Sox with the possible edge offensively, where in the past the Yankees have definitely had that edge in the recent past. Then you have the consistency of the Yankees bullpen (at least from a numbers standpoint) compared to the complete volatility of the Papelbon led Red Sox bullpen.

It would be really interesting, a total toss up in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Awful gramar in that post right there but you get my point.

Anonymous said...

Those stats provided reflect regular season numbers, would i take any of the pitchers on the yankees staff over cliff lee in the playoffs? no way. Also you have to account for playoff experience as one of the lesser experienced pitchers may go belly up once he has his chance in the spotlight -Jason

John said...

Not attempting to make a judgement either way, but also the point that in the playoffs you are going to face better teams. Haven't looked at any numbers so there may be a significant split against possible playoff teams or there may not.