As the regular season winds down, the Yankees have found themselves in a tough spot.
After going on a seven-game win streak in late September, the Bombers have been unable to win back-to-back games.
A mixture of questionable pitching and streaky hitting has led the Yankees into their final series of the regular season tied for first place in the American League.
We know that even if they don’t clinch the American League pennant, the Yankees will still most likely be playing as AL Wild Card.
For Joe Girardi’s pitching staff, this season has been anything but normal.
Heading into spring training, it seemed as though the Yankees had an abundance of starting pitching. With Michael Pineda coming to the Bronx and young pitchers like Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos pushing to make it to the big leagues, the future seemed bright for the 2012 starting rotation.
But injuries and failed expectations have led to a somewhat tumultuous year for Larry Rothschild and his pitchers.
CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Ivan Nova have all seen time on the disabled list, while Phil Hughes has struggled with consistency.
Both David Phelps and Hiroki Kuroda have been pleasant surprises for the Yankees, but even they have struggled at times.
In short, New York hasn’t had one dominant pitcher this season. No one, not even Sabathia, has been spectacular for the Yankees.
So as the Bronx Bombers head into the playoffs, what should they do about their rotation?
Who should they turn to in a must-win situation?
The answer to these questions don’t lie in the statistics, my friends. For all those sabermetrics and number punching baseball geeks out there, these questions are to be answered with an old school approach.
In a must-win game, such as a Wild Card playoff, the Yankees need to turn to their horse, Sabathia.
This 6'7", 290-pound southpaw knows what he is doing on the mound. This isn’t his first rodeo.
Sabathia has been the Yankees’ ace since 2009 and has won big games for them in the past.
At 32 years old, Sabathia knows how to pitch, and despite his lack of dominance of late he is the guy to go to here.
Sabathia's experience and proven effectiveness throughout his career earns him the top spot in the rotation.
But here is what I’m sure you’ve been reading for.
The New York Yankees Playoff Rotation: Sabathia, Pettitte, Kuroda, Hughes
In the modern playoff structure, it has become commonplace to use only four starters, and that’s why I have left out Ivan Nova from the equation.
These four guys give the Yankees their best chance to win in a playoff series.
Sabathia, like I said before, is New York’s go-to guy. He has already helped win one World Series in the Bronx, and can do so again as their ace.
I was torn on who the second starter in the rotation should be. Kuroda was instrumental in holding together New York’s starting rotation while Pettitte and Nova were on the DL.
Kuroda has been statistically close to Sabathia all season, and has surprised many people after coming from the National League West into the American League East.
But Pettitte deserves to be the No. 2 guy in the playoffs. The 40-year-old has won 19 postseason games and simply has the experience in October.
Pettitte is already a Yankee legend, and he deserves to be ahead of Kuroda in the rotation mainly because of previous experiences with the Yankees in the postseason.
Whether to put Hughes or Nova at the fourth spot in the rotation is a bit of a question mark. This season, Nova has shown glimpses of being a strong pitcher, but has also struggled mightily.
In fact, this article outlines why many think Nova has pitched himself out of the playoff rotation with a 1-4 record and a 7.28 ERA in eight starts after the All-Star break before going on the DL.
And I agree.
Hughes, though inconsistent, has proven that he can get hitters out (maybe not so much yesterday, though).
The Yankees will need Hughes to step up in the back end of the rotation, and I believe he can get the job done better than Nova can.
With a three-game series against Boston coming up, the Bronx Bombers will be looking to clinch the AL East Pennant.
And with this starting rotation leading them into the playoffs, New York will be able to make some noise.