NY Yankees: 5 Creative Ways to Utilize All Seven of Their Starting Pitchers

Joe PerrinoContributor IIIFebruary 16, 2012

NY Yankees: 5 Creative Ways to Utilize All Seven of Their Starting Pitchers

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    The New York Yankees are certainly not lacking in numbers when it comes to starting pitchers.

    Currently, the Yanks possess seven starters on their roster: C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia.

    Realistically, it seems as though some changes will be made before the 2012 season begins, perhaps including the recently speculated dealing of A.J. Burnett to another club.

    Nothing is guaranteed, however, and it is most definitely fun to discuss some creative (and somewhat unconventional) ways that the Yanks could (didn't say should) utilize all seven of their starters.

Seven-Man Rotation

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    According to the official Yankees depth chart, the rotation consists of all seven starting pitchers. Naturally, the first creative (and I'm talking wildly creative) way to utilize all of them would be to operate on a seven man pitching rotation.

    Traditionally, it has been acceptable and expected for teams to use a four or five pitcher rotation. Last year, however, teams began experimenting with a six-pitcher cycle. The White Sox began the movement in 2011 and brought the conversation to the forefront.

    The idea sparked discussion throughout the MLB and was a topic of consideration and even experimentation for the Royals, Mariners, Devil Rays and Yankees during the season.

    The idea behind this expanded rotation is to prevent damage to pitchers arms and to consistently put a fresh starter on the mound.

    The Yankees have seven competent starters and although it is more than unlikely that they will throw them all in the rotation, it certainly wouldn't hurt to give each player some additional rest.

Play It by Ear

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    With the concern over pitchers wearing their arms thin during the regular season, it is always nice to have a back-up plan.

    If the Yankees decide to slim down to a five man rotation, they will always have two viable starters in their back pocket.

    No matter how solid a pitcher may be, there comes a time when an additional period of rest may serve as a benefit. If a game is coming up and the Yanks don't feel that their set starter is ready, they could turn to either number six or number seven to jump in for a game.

    Once that game is passed, they can either decide to continue the rotation as planned, or push each pitcher back a game.

    There is no need to risk injury with two "back-ups" at hand (or arm).

Have Multiple Starters Ready for Each Game

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    The Yankees have the power to prepare more than one starter for each game of the season.

    If they feel that the man on the mound is compiling too high of a pitch count, they can swap him out for another starter as early as the game as they would like.

    Although starters prefer to pitch at least five innings, which is necessary to earn a win, it is not always smart to keep your starter in if he is consistently falling behind in the count.

    Even if they wanted to keep the true starter in for around five innings, it wouldn't hurt to bring another fresh arm in for the last four or so.

Play to Your Strengths

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    Each starting pitcher on the Yankees presents a different skill set.

    C.C. Sabathia is the only lefty in the rotation, and he dominates against right handed hitters. The remainder of the rotation is filled with righties, but they each still possess their strengths and weaknesses.

    For example, Ivan Nova is solid against righties, while Phil Hughes tends to struggle against left-handed hitters. Having seven competent starters would allow the Yankees to pick and choose when to utilize each of their pitchers strengths.

    If the opposing lineup shows an array of righties, the Yankees know they can throw either Sabathia or Nova.

    If they show righties, Pineda, Kuroda or Garcia could step in. This would give the Yankees the best chance of exploiting mismatches.

Put Phil Hughes in the Bullpen

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    This is probably the most realistic of all scenarios.

    Although he shows flashes of being a great pitcher, Phil Hughes is relatively unproven. In 14 starts during the 2011 season, Hughes posted a 5.79 ERA.

    He finished the season at .500 with a 5-5 record. 

    Hughes weakness is that he hasn't been capable of pitching more than six innings, let alone complete games. During 2011, Hughes pitched 74.2 innings in 14 starts.

    To put that in perspective, that is an average of 5.3 innings per game. 

    For a pitcher who lacks stamina and consistency, Hughes may benefit from spending some time in the bullpen. This way, he will only be required to showcase his arm for a few innings at a time.

    Hughes in a relief spot will allow the Yankees to utilize a five- or six-man pitching rotation. 

Conclusion

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    The Yankees certainly have some decisions to make regarding their current depth chart, more specifically at the pitching position.

    Although the creative ways to use seven starters that I previously stated are fun to think about, the opportunity to try new things may not even present itself. 

    The reality of the matter is that A.J. Burnett will most likely join another team, perhaps even within the next few days, thus slimming the rotation to six.

    Once at six, I wouldn't be surprised if the Yankees put Phil Hughes in the bullpen.

    If that is the case, the Yankees pitching rotation will look as follows on Opening Day 2012: C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda and Freddy Garcia.

    I look forward to seeing how the Yankees handle their seven starters.

    I don't think too many NY fans would be disappointed to see the five man rotation that I speculate possibly becoming a reality.