As we get closer to the end of August, the Yankees' playoff rotation is on my mind. It should be a concern of many Yankee fans, so I am going to address it here. My basic point is, the Yankees need Andy Pettitte back and healthy, or they won't get past the first round of the postseason.
C.C. Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda are the only locks to start in the playoffs right now. Pettitte is on track to come back by the time the postseason starts, but nothing will surprise me. After those three, there is the traveling circus of Garcia, Nova, and Hughes. Nova has quit the circus for the time being to rest his shoulder that was hurt from walking around with a monkey on it.
Nova and Hughes are very similar pitchers. They are both young and inconsistent. Nova has given up an earned run in every start since June 11. Garcia has no place on this playoff rotation because he just doesn't have the stuff he once had. He's not overpowering, and he gives up too many runs. He's a good spot starter in the regular season, but he shouldn't be starting for the Yankees in the playoffs. I'll take Hughes out of those three.
So that leaves us with CC, Kuroda, Pettitte (if healthy), and Hughes. That's probably the most formidable rotation the Yankees can put together given what they have. But if Andy Pettitte isn't healthy, the Yankees will be doomed.
Pettitte has everything a manager wants in a playoff pitcher: experience, record, ERA. If he never took a year off, I might argue for him starting Game 1 of a short series. The bottom line is, he gets the job done. If I'm a Yankee fan, I'm more confident with Andy Pettitte on the hill in Game 4 or 5 of a division series than I am with Hiroki Kuroda.
People discount the playoff feel, the atmosphere. They say, 'Oh he did it in the regular season so there's no reason to think he can't do it in the playoffs.' These people are dead wrong. What the playoffs bring to a ball club, the feeling and the atmosphere, changes that club for better or for worse. It changed the Cardinals last year for the better.
I'm not saying Kuroda can't pitch in the playoffs. I'm saying I don't know.
But I do know about Andy Pettitte. He has dealt with that playoff vibe 13 times in his life. His leadership and ability to perform in pressure situations will prove to be what leads this team past the first round.
Without it, it's going to be very hard for the Yankees in October.