Grading the New York Yankees: Pitchers

Jordan Schwartz@jordanharrisonSenior Writer INovember 25, 2009

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 04:  C.C. Sabathia (L) and A.J. Burnett of the New York Yankees celebrate in the locker room with the trophy after their 7-3 win against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Six of the 2009 MLB World Series at Yankee Stadium on November 4, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Even more than Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia was the biggest offseason acquisition for the New York Yankees last year. The Bronx Bombers have always had good hitting, but what they really lacked since last reaching the World Series in 2003, was a true ace to lead the staff through the postseason.

Take a look at the Yanks' ERA in the playoffs from 2004 to '07: 4.64, 4.40, 5.56, and 5.89.

Enter Sabathia.

The big lefty went 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA in five quality starts this postseason, leading the staff to a 3.26 ERA in the playoffs.

That's how you win a championship.

In Part One of this series, I graded New York's position players . Part Two evaluates the pitchers' performances in 2009.

CC Sabathia, SP: (A+) Some questioned why the Yankees would spend $161 million on an "overweight" pitcher who had been overworked down the stretch by the Milwaukee Brewers during the previous September and October, but the southpaw showed no ill effects of that heavy workload.

Sabathia went 19-8 with a 3.37 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 197 strikeouts in 230 innings for New York, finishing fourth in the American League Cy Young Award race.

The left-hander tied for the AL lead in wins, was fourth in ERA, and seventh in strikeouts, and he carried the Pinstripes to the division crown by going 8-0 with a 1.62 ERA from Aug. 8 to Sept. 26.

And then, of course, there was Sabathia's postseason performance, highlighted by his 2-0 record and 1.13 ERA in the AL Championship Series, which earned him Most Valuable Player honors.

Mariano Rivera, RP: (A) Mo did his job this year, converting 44 of 46 save opportunities with a 3-3 record, 1.76 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, and 72 strikeouts in 66-1/3 innings.

He did, however, struggle once again in two areas: tie games (.292 opponents' batting average) and against the Red Sox (1.58 WHIP).

And, obviously, I have to take exception with anyone who thinks Rivera was the most important player on the team this season. Clearly, there's no way he can rank above Sabathia, Derek Jeter, Teixeira, or Alex Rodriguez.

Remember, 40 of his 66 appearances came when the Yankees were already ahead by at least two runs, thanks largely to those four other guys. And in the playoffs, he pitched with an average lead of 2.5 runs.

Phil Hughes, RP: (A-) Hughes once again failed in the rotation, racking up a 5.45 ERA in seven starts at the beginning of the year, but his emergence as a top-flight reliever was one of the turning points in the Yankees' season.

The right-hander went 5-1 with a 1.40 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and 65 strikeouts in 51-1/3 innings out of the bullpen.

I still believe the 23-year-old should get another shot at starting in 2010, at least until Chien-Ming Wang is healthy enough to return to the rotation. This would allow Hughes to get his innings up high enough that he could become a full-fledged starter in 2011, when I can't imagine Andy Pettitte will still be pitching.

Alfredo Aceves, RP: (B+) Ace was the Jack of All Trades for the Yanks this year, winning 10 games, the second most among Major League relievers behind Matt Palmer's 11 for the Angels.

The righty started a game on July 9, just four days after recording an impressive four-inning save. But Aceves was mostly a middle reliever, chewing up important innings en route to a 10-1 record with a 3.54 ERA and 1.01 WHIP.

That one spot start was a turning point in the 26-year-old's season, though, as he entered July 9 with a 2.02 ERA and then had a 4.91 the rest of the way.

A.J. Burnett, SP: (B) The right-hander acquired via free agency from Toronto struggled with his control all season, leading the league in walks (97) and wild pitches (17). There were many bright spots, however, like his eight consecutive quality starts from June 14 to July 27, during which he went 6-1 with a 1.68 ERA.

Burnett, who was 13-9 with a 4.04 overall, worked much better with Jose Molina (.221 batting average against) than he did with Jorge Posada (.270), including his most important start of the year when he allowed just one run over seven innings to win Game Two of the World Series.

Andy Pettitte, SP: (B) Last winter, the Texan didn't even know if he'd pitch again, but the Yankees are sure glad he did. The 37-year-old went 14-8 with a 4.16 ERA and won all three clinching games in the postseason. The organization should do its best to bring him back for 2010.

Phil Coke, RP: (B-) Like most relievers, the southpaw had a streaky season, pitching well during the first half before accumulating a 9.92 ERA in 21 appearances between July 8 and Aug. 30. 

But his main job is to get out lefties, and he did pretty well in that regard, holding them to a .195 BAA with 32 strikeouts and just five walks. Coke's biggest problem was the long ball; he surrendered 10 in only 60 innings of work.

David Robertson, RP: (B-) This young flame thrower made quite the splash during his second season in the bigs. The 24-year-old struck out 63 batters in just 43-2/3 innings, or 12.98 K/9, fifth best in the AL. By comparison, Rivera's ratio was 9.77.

Chad Gaudin, SP: (C) The right-hander did a satisfactory job after coming over from the San Diego Padres in early August. He pitched well in six starts, as well as five relief appearances, to finish with a 2-0 record and a 3.43 ERA for the Yankees.

Brian Bruney, RP: (C-) Looking at the team's final statistics, I was astonished to find that Bruney was 5-0 with a 3.92 ERA. This is because the right-hander was so bad following his return from an injury. 

On Aug. 1, Bruney had a 6.10 ERA, but manager Joe Girardi kept his confidence in the reliever and from that point forward, he allowed only three runs in 18-1/3 innings (1.47 ERA).

Bruney's biggest issue was his control as he walked 23 batters in just 39 frames.

Joba Chamberlain, SP: (C-) The righty's disappointing second half was far from only his fault.

Chamberlain was inconsistent between April and June, but he seemed to figure things out in his first three starts after the All-Star break (3-0, 0.83 ERA).

That was until the Yankees' brass decided it would be best to mess with his rest and innings pitched. The result was a 2-4 record with a 7.69 ERA over his final 11 starts.

I am so looking forward to finally seeing Joba complete a full season in the rotation without any ridiculous restrictions.

Mark Melancon, RP: (C-) The rookie had a respectable 3.86 ERA in 13 appearances, but he walked 10 batters in 16-1/3 innings.

Damaso Marte, RP: (D+) The southpaw's regular season (1-3, 9.45 ERA) was nothing but a big fat F, but Marte's shockingly good performance in the playoffs (4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 5 K) was enough to bring his grade up to a D+.

Brett Tomko, RP: (D+) Tomko was 1-2 with a 5.23 ERA in 15 games for the Yankees before being shipped to Oakland, where he enacted his revenge on the Bombers by shutting them out over five innings to earn the win on Aug. 17. In fact, he finished the year with a complete game shutout of the Rangers.

Jonathan Albaladejo: RP: (D+) The right-hander was 5-1 in 32 appearances, but had an ERA of 5.24 and an astronomical WHIP of 1.66.

Edwar Ramirez, RP: (F) But those numbers were nothing compare to Ramirez's 5.73 ERA and 1.95 WHIP.

Jose Veras, RP: (F) The righty couldn't repeat his success of 2008, racking up a 5.96 ERA in 25 games for the Yanks this year before being sent to Cleveland.

Sergio Mitre, SP: (F) Some people thought that Mitre's recent success in the Minor Leagues would translate over to the Majors, but it was no surprise when a guy with a 10-23 lifetime record in the bigs entering this season, put up a 6.79 ERA in 12 appearances (nine starts).

Chien-Ming Wang, SP: (F) The former two-time 19-game winner had a 34.50 ERA in three April starts.  Thirty-four point fifty.  He pitched better after returning from injury on May 22, but suffered a season-ending injury on July 4 that could keep him out well into the 2010 campaign.  Hopefully, he can return to the form that had him go 46-15 from 2006-08.


Nick Swisher, Ian Kennedy, Josh Towers, Michael Dunn, and Anthony Claggett

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Jordan Schwartz is Bleacher Report's New York Yankees Community Leader. His book "Memoirs of the Unaccomplished Man"   is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and authorhouse.com.

Jordan can be reached at jordanschwartz2003@yahoo.com