New York's pitching isn't the dominant force that it was in 2009, when they last won the World Series.
Phil Hughes is struggling to get back to the form that earned him 18 wins last season, and AJ Burnett has been the spokesman of mediocrity for the duration of 2011.
However, certain things can be done to give the rotation the strength that it will desperately need come October.
Ivan Nova has turned out to be a reliable starter, and at that, a strong one. In his first 10 win season, Nova is proving to be the innings eater that the Yankees hoped he would be, averaging about six innings per start in 2011.
A six man rotation is being featured in the Bronx right now for the first time, as manager Joe Girardi works to distinguish his top five starters by the end of the season.
I would say what needs to happen for the Yankees to have success in the postseason is for AJ Burnett to start living up to the standards and expectations of his contract, but I'm not one for naivety, and am under the impression that this won't happen. So what I think is necessary, although it may not be what New York would like to do, is for Burnett to have a time out from the starting rotation.
he is currently the only starter in New York not named Phil Hughes to be pitching an ERA over 4.00 (it sits at a pedestrian 4.54), and aside from Bartolo Colon (who has a 3.33 ERA, and 6 losses), has only accumulated 8 wins, with an ugly 9 losses.
Phil Hughes will need some time to get back to regular form, and when/if he does that, I believe Ivan Nova has earned a spot in the rotation, leaving Burnett as the odd man out.
Hughes is capable of being the number two starter on this team, and at this point in time, a rotation without Burnett looks, and performs, exponentially better than one with him.
With Burnett given the boot, the rotation could look something like this:
Sure, it's not your typical World Series rotation, but the four of them, excluding Hughes (his 32 innings aren't a big enough sample to use in the rotation's statistical calculation), make for a 44-23 record, and 520 innings.
On paper, this rotation could certainly get the job done.
The success of this rotation, and the Yankees pitching as a whole (if Burnett is to be exiled), rests on the shoulders of Phil Hughes.
If Hughes can find his way back to his 2010 form, New York's rotation will be solidified, and they will have their best chance at making it through the postseason having not made any acquisitions during the trade deadline.