Assessing the 2010 Yankee rotation

Not sure if anyone noticed, given that Mike and Jason did a stellar job of providing content in my absence as well as the fact that many of you have probably been similarly off the grid celebrating the holidays, but I was away this past week (the Bizarre Moves posts from this past weekend were written in advance). As a result, I haven’t yet had a chance to properly weigh in on the Javy Vazquez trade.

The news broke last Tuesday on my first day out of town, but thankfully I was able to piece the deal together quickly thanks to the magic of BlackBerries and Twitter accounts, as well as Mike’s solid analysis of the deal. I did jot down some quick thoughts on the trade in an e-mail thread a friend of mine sent around that morning, so let’s have a look:

“Initial impressions of this deal are that it’s a pretty nice move for the Yanks. I’ve always hated Melky, so to get anything of substance for Cabrera is a plus in my book. I know a lot of Yankee fans have bad memories of Vasquez’s time in pinstripes, and he definitely sucked in the second half of ’04, but he’s actually been a pretty good pitcher since being traded, continuing to post an impressive K/9 rate while eating up a ton of innings.

He also had arguably the best year of his career last year, with the 4th-best FIP (2.77) in the NL. He obviously won’t be quite that good in the AL East, but as previously pointed out, he won’t need to be. During his initial go-round with the Yankees, Home Run Javy was asked to be the ace of a staff that essentially shed four out of its 5 starters from the previous season. This time, he should excel as the team’s 4th starter.”

I still feel the same way, although at the time I didn’t realize that Arodys Vizcaino was also part of the package. Not that he should ever have held the trade up, but that bit of information made the deal make more sense for me on Atlanta’s end. Truthfully, simply trading Melky Cabrera for any living, breathing Major League baseball player is pretty excellent. To go out and trade Melky for a starting pitcher that has averaged a 113 ERA+ and a 3.65 FIP in the five seasons since being traded away from the Yankees is ridiculous.

I think it’s somewhat reasonable to be concerned about what Vazquez can do in the AL East circa 2010. However, as Joe noted at RAB, though no one will forget Javy serving up Johnny Damon’s knife-through-the-heart of a grand slam in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS, Vazquez was also quite good during the first half of that season until apparently both his mechanics fell out of whack and his arm may have also been hurt.

There’s been some speculation that Vazquez could potentially slot in as the #2 starter, but I think the smart money is to make him the #4 starter. This will lessen the pressure on Javy to perform and pretty much ensure the Yankees have the edge in the pitching matchup nearly every time Javy takes the mound — how many number four starters in baseball posted a 2.77 FIP last year? Yeah, didn’t think so. Additionally, Vazquez has been praised for his ability to shoulder large workloads, and iYankees notes that Javy also provides insurance for Sabathia, Burnett and Pettitte, each of whom threw a month’s worth of additional starts this postseason.

A few weeks ago I looked at what the Yankee rotation as presently constituted looked like using last year’s FIP and Bill James’ projected 2010 FIP. With Vazquez now in tow, let’s take a revised look at the rotation, using both James’ projected FIP and SG’s CAIRO-projected FIP (though I’m not sure if James’ has been updated to reflect Vazquez moving from the NL East to the AL East).

2010 BJ FIP 2010 SG FIP
LHP CC Sabathia 3.44 3.26
RHP A.J. Burnett 3.85 3.95
LHP Andy Pettitte 3.77 3.94
RHP Javier Vazquez 3.59 3.37
RHP Joba Chamberlain 3.73 4.11
RHP Phil Hughes 3.35 4.06

Now the James projection for Hughes is as a reliever, so we only have SG’s projection to look at for Hughes as a starter. Either way, it’s hard not to like what Cashman has done to the Yankee rotation.

While I’ve been as big a fan as any of keeping both Joba and Hughes in the rotation, between Hughes’ 2010 innings cap as well as the likelihood of someone missing a few starts somewhere along the line, there should be opportunities to continue developing both youngsters as starters. The only concern here is that Hughes continues to pitch absurdly well out of the ‘pen (not that I want him to pitch poorly, mind you) and the Yankees fall in love with the idea of crowning Phil as heir to Mariano’s throne without seeing what he can do with at least a few full seasons worth of starts.

2 thoughts on “Assessing the 2010 Yankee rotation

  1. Skippy

    "the smart money is to make him the #4 starter. This will lessen the pressure on Javy to perform and pretty much ensure the Yankees have the edge in the pitching matchup nearly every time Javy takes the mound…"

    Not sure what you're trying to say here, since there's no proven correlation between one team's rotation matching up with another. Meaning, Javy will rarely, if ever, be "matched up" with another team's #4 starter just because he's the #4. If anything I think we all expect him to be a little worse since what he'll really be matched up with is the powerful AL East offenses.

    Pitching orders only matter during the playoffs. Javy as the theoretical #4 starter just underscores the depth of the Yankees rotation. But saying he's #4 or #2 is just arbitrary. CC is obviously the ace, but everybody else from AJ to Hughes has a case to be 2nd-6th best.

  2. I think you're reading it a bit too literally. Obviously between the schedule and the way in which other teams line up their rotations, Javy won't always be matching up against the opponent's hypothetical 4th starter. Of course there will be times when he's facing a team's ace, or #2, #3, etc.

    The greater point that I was trying to illustrate was that having Vazquez slotted in at #4 on your starting pitching depth chart is still an advantage over other teams whose rotations simply aren't that deep, but perhaps I wasn't clear enough.

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