The 2009 New York Yankees Starting Rotation: Will It Carry The Team To October?

Randy AbbottContributor IFebruary 7, 2009

With the New York Yankees pitchers and catchers reporting to Tampa, Florida in five days for spring training, anticipation of the upcoming season will lead us to revisit the events of the off-season.

What stood out?  What is going to make or break this season for the Yankees and their pursuit of a 27th World Series Title?  Well, in this writer's opinion it is the starting rotation and the additions that the front office made to it.

The projected starting rotation for the Yankees will be C.C. Sabathia, Chien-Ming Wang, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and Joba Chamberlain.  A very formidable front that could make any team a World Series contender with each pitcher adding his own style and skill-set to the mix.

So what will C.C. Sabathia and his 7-year/$161 million dollar contract bring to the Yankees?  Well, previous results are the best indicator of future performance.  Over the past two seasons Sabathia has compiled some immense innings pitched totals, having thrown 513 frames.

Sabathia has been a consistent workhorse throughout his career while having very few issues with injuries.  He also boasts one of the better statistical pitching resumes of all active pitchers.  Sabathia has averaged 7.56 strikeouts/9IP over the span of his career and also a 4.79 K to BB ratio over the past two seasons while establishing himself as one of the premier pitchers in the MLB.

The thought that Joe Girardi and Dave Eiland will allow him to pitch 225+ innings is naive though.  The Yankees have invested $161 million dollars into the left arm of Sabathia and would rather not abuse his arm.  Look for Sabathia to finish the season with a record around 16-10 with an ERA below 4.00.

Moving on to the return of Chien-Ming Wang.  First of all, let's just hope he has learned how to run the bases in the event of him getting a hit or a walk against the Marlins, Braves, or Mets.  Aside from that, what can be expected from Wang?

Coming off of an injury-shortened season in 2008, the only fear that the fans should have is that his mechanics haven't been thrown off because of his foot injury.  Hoping that he returns to form, it has become expected of Wang to give the Yankees anywhere from 16-19 wins with an ERA below 4.00.

The other free agent that the Yankees added to their staff is A.J. Burnett.  Most fans would say that giving him a five-year contract is risky.  But then you look at his performances against the Yankees from 2008 and you become wowed by his upside.

Despite previous motivational and injury histories, Burnett has shined against A.L. East opponents.  In 45 career starts against A.L. East teams, Burnett has a career record of 26-8 with a 3.08 ERA.

Yankees fans can only hope for a similar result to what Burnett showed last year.  Unfortunately, the prospect of that happening is grim because of his past performances after being rewarded with a new contract.

Now for the crafty veteran Andy Pettitte.  After starting the 2008 season in vintage Pettitte style, he tailed off after July 31st.  After that point in time, he went 2-7 with a 6.23 ERA.  Some very questionable results after having been included in the infamous "Mitchell Report" because of his previous use of HGH.

So what can be expected of Pettitte?  Was his poor finish to the 2008 season a result of a nagging shoulder injury?  Or the fact that he was no longer using HGH?  His shoulder has had an entire off-season to heal and hopefully he can come back with something to prove.  Expect to see Pettitte return to form and have a record around 15-10 with an ERA slightly above 4.00.

The most exciting part of this rotation is the fact that the #5 starter is Joba Chamberlain.  Perhaps the best thing about the Yankees' busy off-season is that there was barely any attention or media pressure placed on Joba Chamberlain.

The only thing that is a concern is Joba's injury history and the amount of innings he will be allowed to pitch.  Will he be stretched out in the bullpen towards the end of the season, or will he be in the starting rotation for the entire season?  If he is in the starting rotation for the entire season, expect him to have a record around 15-8 with an ERA just over 3.00.

Overall, this year's rotation shows a sizeable upgrade over last year's five starters.  Let's not forget that the Yankees had a patchwork rotation with the likes of Sidney Ponson, Darrell Rasner, and Dan Giese for a majority of the 2008 season. 

The 2009 rotation is much stronger compared to the rotation in 2008.  The only real concerns are the same for every team in baseball.  Will the injury bug strike?  And if so, how frequently and how severe?