George A. King III reported in the New York Post yesterday that manager Joe Girardi of the New York Yankees has all but said that Freddy Garcia has made the team's starting rotation. Given Phil Hughes' return to dominance, that would mean that either Michael Pineda or Ivan Nova will not be taking the mound every fifth day for the "Bombers".
In the article Girardi is quoted as saying, "You are trying to envision what they can give you, the amount of innings they can give you..." implying that what Pineda and Nova can do is still unknown. Both young hurlers have at least a full year under their belt (with Nova's season occurring right in front of Girardi) so to imply that what they can give is unknown is not accurate.
A deeper look into last season's performances reveals that perhaps it is Garcia who should be the odd man out of the rotation.
The numbers for each of the three pitchers for 2011 are:
|Garcia||35||12 - 8||146.2||3.62||16||1.343|
|Nova||25||16 - 4||165.1||3.70||13||1.331|
|Pineda||23||9 - 10||171||3.74||18||1.099|
These numbers show that Garcia pitched significantly less innings than either Nova or Pineda, yet his WHIP was higher than either (meaning more runners are getting on base in Garcia's innings than in either of the other two). In addition, the rate of HRs that Garcia yielded is higher than the other two. So, even though his ERA is lower (and not by much), there is a better chance that Garcia will be pitching out of a jam during any given inning than either Nova or Pineda.
Who should get the final two spots in the Yankee rotation?
Even if Garcia's pitching stats were better than his counterparts in 2011 (and they weren't), a look at his past six seasons of work shows real inconsistencies that should be carefully weighed by Girardi.
Garcia's 2011 campaign was the first time since 2005 that he had an ERA below 4.2, and he hasn't pitched anywhere near 200 innings since 2006. Nova and Pineda are only going to continue to increase their innings, and given the fact that neither has even entered the peak years of their careers, there's a very good possibility their ERAs will continue to diminish.
There are still arguments to be made beyond the raw numbers. Since Garcia has been in the league for 13 years, he can handle a move to the bullpen. While he might not like it, he is mature enough to understand that opportunities will continue to arise as long as he performs well out of the 'pen.
Conversely, with Nova and Pineda, you risk damaging their young psyches as all they have accomplished in their short careers has come from a spot in the starting rotation. One only need look at the roller-coasters that have been created in Hughes and Joba Chamberlain's careers to understand how delicate a young pitcher's mental state can be.
Garcia is in the twilight of his career, and while his contribution to the 2011 season cannot be overlooked, the "Big Picture" cannot be ignored either. Nova and Pineda make up part of the foundation that should be the Yankees rotation for years to come. To put either of them in the bullpen risks damaging that foundation and would appear to be a very short-sighted decision.
Girardi needs to rethink what he wants to accomplish in his starting rotation before making a mistake that may jeopardize the season before it even begins.