What to Expect from the New York Yankees' Staff in 2009

Danny SiegelContributor IFebruary 8, 2009

The Rotation:

There has been a lot of speculation about the pitching staff of the Yankees so far this offseason.

Some concerns are: Who will be the fifth starter?  Where will Joba be?  Will CC handle the pressure?  Is Andy Pettite still reliable?  In the last few years, the Red Sox have been the cream of the crop when it comes to pitching, but this year it appears the Yankees may gave them a run for their money, literally.  The projected starting staff for the Yankees looks like this:

CC Sabathia LHP

AJ Burnett RHP

Chien-Ming Wang RHP

Andy Pettite LHP

Joba Chamberlain RHP

This has been a very eventful offseason to say the least for the Yankees.  The payroll for the Yankees starters alone is 50 million.  Sabathia is making 23 million, Burnett 16.5, Pettite 5.5, Wang 5, and Chamberlain 390,000. 

On paper, this definitely looks like a better rotation than last year's which continuously struggled.  Let's take an in-depth look at each starter to see if this rotation will really play up to the hype.

Sabathia:  Arguably the best pitcher in the Major Leagues, Sabathia will be at the top of the rotation for the Yankees.  Last year, Sabathia finished with an overall record of 17-10 and a 2.70 era.  Out of the gate, Sabathia struggled with a 6-8 record and a 3.83 era before being traded to the Brewers in the National League. 

The NL was very kind to Sabathia where he was 11-2 with a 1.65 era.  He was lights out after the trade and was a main reason for the Brewers making it to the playoffs.  In the NL, CC surrendered just 6 homeruns in 130 innings while in the AL he gave up 13 in 122 innings.  It may be tougher than most think for Sabathia as he makes his return to the far superior American League. 

However, it is the same league he won the Cy Young award in 2007.  People can expect the wins to rack up for Sabathia as he has the high-powered Yankee offense behind him.  However, he has not had much success in the playoffs sporting a 1-3 record with a 7.92 era in five starts.  Projection: 20-8 with a 3.20 era

Burnett:  He was second in his Blue Jay's rotation behind Roy Halladay last season and will again be a strong second option behind Sabathia.  Burnett has always been a Yankee killer which may be a reason why the Yankees were so intent on getting him.  Burnett finished with 18-10 with a 4.07 era including 231 strikeouts in 221 innings. 

He closed out the season winning five out of his last six starts.  Burnett has spent a lot of time on the disabled list in recent years which may lead to a lowered win total (and also some potential starts for Phil Hughes).  Projection: 17-9 with a 3.95 era.

Wang:  He has also spent a lot of time on the DL in recent years but may very well be the best third starter in the league.  Wang went on the DL in June and did not return halting his record at 8-2 with a 4.07 era. 

In 2006 and 2007, Wang finished with 19 wins and was a strong candidate for Cy Young and was considered a strong No. 1.  Now he will be in the No. 3 hole and can still produce No. 1-like numbers assuming he can remain on the mound.  Projection: 18-7 with a 3.70 era

Pettite:  There was doubt that Pettite would return to the Yankees and be a part of the new stadium, but Pettite signed a one year deal recently bringing him back to the Bronx.  Pettite finished 14-14 with a 4.54 era. 

However, he lost six of his last eight decisions.  Earlier in the season, Pettite pitched very well and had a couple of wins blown by the relievers.  If Pettite can put last year's finish behind him, he could put up very good four spot numbers.  You can expect numbers similar to 2007.  Projection: 15-8 with a 4.00 era.

Chamberlain:  Cashman and Girardi seem to believe that Chamberlain is better suited for the rotation although many fans say that he is a better set-up man.  I personally believe it will benefit the Yankees if he moves back to the bullpen.  Chamberlain struggled last year as a starter going 3-1 in 11 starts.

He threw a lot of pitches while in the rotation and finished the season back in the bullpen after an injury.  If Chamberlain remains in the rotation the whole year, I think his numbers will be similar to Pettite, 15-8 with a 3.40 era. 

However, if they make the switch and move someone else into the rotation, it will be better for the Yankees.  He will much more valuable to the Yankees in the bullpen where he can pitch more than one time every five games.  This may lead to more wins instead of Jose Veras or Edwar Ramirez blowing eighth inning leads.  Phil Hughes, even though he struggled in 2008, may see some action.

The Yankees look poised to be at the tops of the league in pitching and will certainly see an improvement from last year.