Yankees Pitching Roulette: What Will Become of New York's Seven "Starters"
The New York Yankees went from having a quiet offseason of no deals to making two deals that have gotten a lot of people talking.
The Yankees gave up their up-and-coming rookie catcher Jesus Montero and relief pitcher Hector Noesi to the Seattle Mariners for starter Michael Pineda and 19-year-old pitcher Jose Campos.
The Yankees also made a deal that same day, in the same hour, acquiring Los Angeles Dodgers free agent starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda for one year, $10 million.
While these two deals add depth to a Yankee rotation that last year was solid at the top with a lot of question marks at the bottom, the Yankees now have a surplus of starting pitchers.
There are potentially seven members of the Yankees roster at the moment who can start for them. The question is: who are the Yankees going to go into the 2012 season with as their five man rotation?
Here is how I think the Yankees' starting pitching will pan out, as well as what will become of the other two pitchers who will not be starting.
1. C.C. Sabathia
As if this was not obvious enough, the Yankees will head into Opening Day with C.C. Sabathia as their ace and their starter.
Sabathia had another great season for the Yankees last year, posting a 19-8 record with a 3.00 ERA in 33 starts with New York. He also pitched three complete games and recorded one shutout on his way to another potential Cy Young award-winning season.
In 237.1 innings pitched for the Yankees last year, Sabathia gave up as many hits as he had strikeouts (230), while only allowing 19 home runs, 88 earned runs and surrendering only 61 walks.
C.C. Sabathia has been worth every penny the Yankees have offered him and then some, and there is no question that he is the No. 1 starter for this team.
2. Ivan Nova
The No. 2 starter for the Yankees heading into the 2012 season will be the biggest surprise of the Yankees' 2011: Ivan Nova.
When he was called up by the Yankees in 2010, Nova did not look like he was going to amount to much, posting a 4.50 ERA in 10 games with New York. However, 2011 was a much different story.
Nova ended the season with the second most wins on the starting rotation with 16 (only three behind C.C.) and the most by any rookie in the league. While he had a 3.70 ERA, Nova averaged less than a hit per inning while striking out 98 batters in 165.1 innings pitched.
With A.J. Burnett having another off year, the Yankees needed somebody to step up and fill the void that he created, and Nova rose to the occasion. At the age of 25, Ivan Nova is the future of the Yankee rotation, and deserves to be the No. 2 starter with the numbers he put up last season.
3. Hiroki Kuroda
Here is where the Brain Cashman deals come into play. At No. 3, I say the Yankees choose Hiroki Kuroda.
Kuroda had one of his best statistical seasons with the Dodgers last year, even though you would not be able to tell it looking at his 13-16 record. Kuroda started 32 games for Los Angeles last season, and owned an ERA of 3.07. In 202 innings pitched, Kuroda struck out 161 batters while only giving up 49 walks.
One important thing that Kuroda will bring to the middle of the Yankee rotation is experience. At the age of 36, Kuroda only has four years in the MLB under his belt, but eleven with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in Japan.
Kuroda will bring his veteran know-how to the middle of a very young Yankee rotation. His experience is important to the Yankee rotation, because I don't think it would be in their best interest to start two young pitchers back to back (spoiler for next slide), which is why Kuroda comes in as the No. 3 starter.
4. Michael Pineda
At No. 4 comes the other pitcher that the Yankees acquired in their other deal, Michael Pineda.
Much like Kuroda, Pineda's record of 9-10 in no way reflect how well he pitched with the Mariners in 2011. Pineda posted a WHIP of 1.10, striking out 173 batters in 171 innings in his rookie season. His ERA was 3.74, but for a rookie that can throw gas and strike people out, that's manageable.
Pineda was received in a deal for Jesus Montero, a prospect Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman refused to give up for Cliff Lee a year earlier. If Cashman was willing to give up Montero for Pineda (and Campos), he must have seen something special in this young right-hander.
Pineda gets the spot in the rotation because he proved himself in his rookie season in Seattle and will now have a much better offense in New York that will give him more run support.
I do not think Pineda should be any higher than three or four in this rotation, because the Yankees will have to see how he will deal with pitching in New York.
For a young kid, pitching in a big city like New York can be overwhelming, and there's no need to place Pineda in a stressful situation when there are other options the Yankees can put in ahead of him that are just as good.
5. Freddy Garcia
The fifth and final rotation spot for the New York Yankees in 2012 goes to Freddy Garcia.
If Ivan Nova was the biggest rookie surprise for the Yankees, Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia were the biggest offseason surprises. With Phil Hughes getting injured early in the year and Burnett struggling, the Yankees turned to Garcia and Colon to fill the pieces of their collapsing rotation, and they answered the call.
Garcia went 12-8 with the Yankees last season, striking out 96 in 146.2 innings last season. He may have had a 1.34 WHIP and a 3.62 ERA, but Garcia limited batters to a .268 average against him and kept the Yankees in the race for the playoffs.
The Yankees re-signed Garcia for a reason. He is a proven veteran and was crucial to the Yankees success last season.
With the pickups of Pineda and Kuroda, Garcia does not have to have No. 3 or No. 4 starting pitcher numbers, and if he has a season like he did last year, he could be one of the best No. 5 starters on any team in baseball.
Now here are where the question marks enter. Sabathia and Nova were locks for the rotation this year, and if the Yankees want to make the deals they made in the offseason worth it, they need to put Pineda and Kuroda in the rotation.
This really ended up being a three man battle for the fifth starting slot between Garcia, Hughes and Burnett, and Garcia won. Phil Hughes will start the year in the bullpen for the Yankees in 2012.
Phil Hughes was an incredible 18-8 for the Yankees in 2010, but it was a much different story in 2011. Hughes went 5-5 with a horrendous 5.79 ERA. Granted, he was injured in the beginning of the season, even when he returned at the end he did not seem to have the same stuff he had back in 2010.
I think that the bullpen is the best place for Hughes. With his starting pitching being hot and cold, Hughes is better suited as a reliever in the Yankees' already solid bullpen.
Hughes was a proven set up man 2009, dominating while setting up Mariano Rivera. With David Robertson as a set up man, a healthy Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera as the closer, if Phil Hughes is able to put up the numbers he did in the bullpen back in 2009, Yankee starters can easily pitch five innings knowing that there are four solid bullpen men to back them up.
We all remember A.J. Burnett: the 13-9 No. 2 man to C.C. on the Yankees 2009 Championship World Series team. The issue with this is that is merely a memory.
The last two years have been awful for Burnett. He posted a 11-11 record with a 5.15 ERA, dishing out 31 home runs and 109 earned runs in 190 innings pitched this year, which is, shockingly, an improvement from 2010.
Whether it be mentally or mechanically, A.J. Burnett is not the same pitcher he was for the 2009 Yankees, or the Blue Jays or the Marlins. He appears to have no command, he is wild and any ball that is hit in the outfield is most likely out of the park.
A.J. Burnett had to use this season to redeem his horrible 2010, and he was unable to do so. The Yankees have picked up two solid pitchers in Pineda and Kuroda and already have four other potential starters that (at the moment) are pitching better than him.
Perhaps a start in the bullpen for Burnett will give him a wake up call like it did Mike Mussina, and he will be able to rejoin the Yankees' rotation. Until then, Burnett is a long reliever and a backup in case one of the Yankees' starters get injured.