Can the Yankees Withstand the Loss of Michael Pineda?

Steven Goldman@GoStevenGoldmanMLB Lead BloggerApril 2, 2012

Michael Pineda: Damaged goods have been whisked away to the DL.
Michael Pineda: Damaged goods have been whisked away to the DL.Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Can the Yankees survive the loss of Michael Pineda? The real question is, can they survive the loss of anyone? Among position players, they lack depth. Pitching is a different matter. They will be just fine.

Sure, no team wants to lose a pitcher of the quality of Pineda, or at least Pineda’s first half of last season, but the Yankees are well-positioned to withstand the blow. With seven starters for five spots, the Yankees had—and still have—a surplus.

However, the quality of that surplus now becomes that much more important. Is Phil Hughes truly resurgent? Was Ivan Nova’s 2011 season real? Does the aging Freddy Garcia have an encore in him?

These questions do not include: Will this be the year CC Sabathia’s heavy workloads catch up to him? and How will Hiroki Kuroda adapt to the American League?

The answer to the last two would seem to be “No,” and “He’ll probably be fine,” but you never know with pitchers—I’m sure there are more recent examples, but for almost 25 years now, my scarring reference has been the 1987 New York Mets, a team which saw every member of its championship-quality rotation except Ron Darling spend time on the disabled list, and he had an off year.

Sometimes everything that can go wrong does.

If it comes to that, the Yankees have pitching depth that they have heretofore been ignoring. I’m not talking about top prospects like Dellin Betances (who seems to be drifting towards the bullpen) and Manny Banuelos, who require more baking, but future back-end pitchers such as Adam Warren, David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell, one of whom will probably make the relief staff in Pineda’s absence.

It may seem as if I’ve forgotten old Andy Pettitte, but I rate him more of a longshot than most.  At 40 years old, his arm may be willing, but his body may be weak—or vice versa.

We really won’t know if he can bear up to regular work after a year away until we see him try—and given that he’s expressed reservations about the current state of his legs, it might be awhile. That he’s coming back is exciting and, with Pineda’s indeterminate state, welcome, but expectations should be tempered.

The good news is that, given the Yankees’ offense, if some of these kids can be league average or even a little worse, the Yankees can get by—assuming they don’t suffer any serious injuries on offense, because those they can’t replace.

For more of my reaction to Pineda’s injury, see the Pinstriped Bible.

Meet the New Bleacher Report Guy
For those who didn’t follow me over from Baseball Prospectus, they and I have a new book out, Extra Innings, a sequel to the highly popular Baseball Between the Numbers in which the guys, gals and I get into a congeries of difficult questions such as why it’s so hard to build a bullpen, how can we evaluate managers without the benefit of useful statistics, and what really happened during the age of performance-enhancing drugs?

If you’re in the New York City area on Thursday, you can catch co-author Jay Jaffe and myself to talk baseball and hear us read from the book, or The Great Gatsby, or something. Here’s the info, as authored by Jay:

Thursday is Opening Day, and while the occasion doesn't need any additional embellishments, we have one for New York City-area Baseball Prospectus readers: at 7:30 PM, Steven Goldman and I will be reading from our latest tome, Extra Innings, which officially hits the streets this week. We'll be doing so as part of the Gelf Magazine monthly Varsity Letters series, which played host to Steve and Jonah Keri back in 2007, when Extra Innings' prequel, the popular Baseball Between the Numbers, was the newest game in town.

The event will take place at The Gallery at Le Poisson Rouge at 158 Bleecker Street in Manhattan's Greenwich Village (between Thompson and Sullivan Streets), so of course Steve will be modeling his collection of berets while playing the upright bass to accompany my readings of jazz poetry (OKAY, OKAY, we promise none of that if you actually show up). We'll have books for sale, and are hoping to arrange a means of giving away a free copy or two. I should also point out that Le Poisson Rouge is a bar, so you'll be able to quench your thirst while we read, though please note that I will be grading you on the brand of beer you drink, using the traditional 20-80 scouting scale.

Hope to see you there.