Starting Pitching Will Be the New York Yankees' Achilles’ Heel in 2008

Dan SiegelSenior Analyst IApril 17, 2008

Mike Mussina only lasted three innings in Thursday night’s contest against the Boston Red Sox. 

Chien-Ming Wang only lasted four innings the evening prior. 

With youngsters Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy slated to start the first two games against the Baltimore Orioles, there may be little rest for a weary Yankees’ bullpen.

Sure, the Yankees can probably outslug the O’s this weekend and get by, as they did Wednesday against the Red Sox. But this won’t serve as a long-term solution.

Wang and Andy Pettitte can be mostly removed from the content of the rest of this article, but their abilities deserve some scrutiny.  Neither Wang nor Pettitte are strikeout artists, with Wang relying on ground balls and Pettitte using more of a balanced attack to get the opposition out.

Yes, the two can last deep into games, but without the ability to mow down the opposition, they can rack up the pitch counts and may need an occasional early exit.

Nobody quite knows what the Yanks can expect out of Hughes and Kennedy this year.  It is safe to say that both are going to have a few bumps in the road before they fall into their expected spots in the rotation for good.

Hughes has a marginally longer resume than Kennedy and projects to be a top of the rotation guy, while Kennedy looks to be more like a back-end guy.

Nevertheless, these two will be responsible for their share of early exits, and outside of setup man Joba Chmaberlain and closer Mariano Rivera, manager Joe Girardi can’t seem to find anybody else he can rely on in the rest of the bullpen.  Kyle Farnsworth and LaTroy Hawkins give up too many long balls to be trusted.

Rather than picking on the kids, the guy to pick on is Mike Mussina.  Mussina looked to be a Hall of Fame-bound pitcher in the 1990’s, but has lacked the ability to adjust to his decrease in velocity that has been plaguing him in his later years. 


This separates him from Greg Maddux, who has been able to give his team at least five or six strong innings late in his career.

Mussina better act fast and make adjustments or he will find himself ousted from the rotation by the likes of Darrell Rasner, Jeff Karstens, Chase Wright, or Kei Igawa.  That is a scenario that can neither make Mussina nor the Yankees happy.

Mussina’s problems seem to lie with his inability to locate his curveball.  He has been leaving it up in the zone, out over the plate, and easily accessible to the opponents’ bats. 


The Boston Red Sox were able to sit back in the batter’s box and time Mussina’s offerings, either blasting them over the fence a la Manny Ramirez or slapping the ball a la Dustin Pedroia.  Without a dominant fastball, Mussina’s curveball is a feeble weapon.

David Wells is still available…