Updating playoff rotation permutations

There was plenty of news coming out of the Yankees camp last night surrounding rotation shifts.  As Chad Jennings of LoHud noted this morning, we have a pretty good guess of how the rotation shakes out for the remainder of the year:

Saturday, September 25 v. BOS: Ivan Nova

Sunday, September 26 v. BOS: Dustin Moseley (formerly Phil Hughes)

Monday, September 27 @ TOR: AJ Burnett (normal rest)

Tuesday, September 28 @ TOR: not announced (formerly Sabathia)

Wednesday, September 29 @ TOR: Phil Hughes (7 days rest)

Thursday, September 30: off day

Friday, October 1 @ BOS: CC Sabathia (7 days rest)

Saturday, October 2 @BOS: either AJ Burnett or Andy Pettitte

Sunday, October 3 @ BOS: either AJ Burnett or Andy Pettitte

If Burnett pitches on Saturday, he will be on normal rest.  Pitching on Sunday gives him an extra day, which he doesn’t particularly need given his recent rain-shortened outings.  If Pettitte goes on Saturday, he’ll be on seven days rest.  If he’s on Sunday, he’s on eight days rest. Obviously Pettitte doesn’t need extra rest.  He needs to be stretched out more than he needs to be rested, so pitching him on Wednesday would be the normal course of action.  But the goal is to line him up for the playoffs, and so he’ll pitch on Saturday or Sunday.  As Jennings notes, and he really does a good job covering the permutations, whether Burnett or Pettitte go on Saturday or Sunday depends entirely on how they want the ALDS rotation to shake out.  There are several possible options that I will detail after the jump.

The first four options will all presume that the Yankees win the AL East and open the ALDS against the Texas Rangers.  The first option, which I shall creatively dub Option 1, is a three-man rotation:

Monday-Tuesday, October 4-5: Off-days.  Rest, fellas.  No clubbing.

Wednesday, October 6, Game 1: CC Sabathia on normal rest.

Thursday, October 7, Game 2: Andy Pettitte on normal rest (meaning he pitches on  Saturday, 10/2).

Friday, October 8: off-day

Saturday, October 9, Game 3: Phil Hughes on 10 days rest

Sunday, October 10, Game 4: CC Sabathia on 3 days rest

Monday, October 11: off-day

Tuesday, October 12, Game 5: Andy Pettitte on normal rest

However, there seems to be increasing chatter from Girardi and Cashman, as well as a few knowing comments from beat reporters, that seems to suggest that the Yankees will not use a 3-man rotation in the ALDS and will instead go with four starters.  Option 2 is a four-man rotation with Sabathia and Pettitte as the first two starters:

Game 1 in NY: CC Sabathia

Game 2 in NY: Andy Pettitte

Game 3 in Texas: Phil Hughes

Game 4 in Texas: AJ Burnett

Game 5 in NY: CC Sabathia (normal rest)

The problem with Option 2 is that it features lefties back-to-back.  Even though RAB author Joe Pawlikowski did a good job casting doubt on the efficacy of “splitting up the lefties”, it does seem that it’s something the organization wants to do.  The other downside to this idea is that Sabathia would not be ready to start for Game 1 of the ALCS.  In fact, he would only be able to pitch Game 2 of the ALCS on 3 days rest. Unfortunately, this is the case in every scenario that uses a four-man rotation, but only comes into play if the series goes 5 full games. In Option 3, we split up the lefties:

Game 1 in NY: CC Sabathia

Game 2 in NY: Phil Hughes

Game 3 in Texas: Andy Pettitte

Game 4 in Texas: AJ Burnett

Game 5 in New York: CC Sabathia

The downside to this option is that Hughes starts at home, not on the road.  Given his relative success on the road, detailed by Moshe here and me here, the team may want Hughes to start Game 4 in Texas.  Option 4 then splits up the lefties and has Hughes on the road:

Game 1 in NY: CC Sabathia

Game 2 in NY: AJ Burnett

Game 3 in Texas: Andy Pettitte

Game 4 in Texas: Phil Hughes

Game 5 in NY: CC Sabathia

Of the four options listed so far, Option 4 seems to be most likely based on what the Yankees are hinting at at this point.  However, it’s very possible that the Yankees will not win the division.  They are currently a half game back and have to play Boston five more times and the Blue Jays three times, while the Rays face the Mariners this weekend and then host the Orioles and then head to Kansas City for the rest of the season. If I were an objective observer and a betting man, I’d wager on the Rays.  Accordingly, the Yankees may open the ALDS as the Wild Card team and in Minnesota.  Option 5 is the same order in Option 4 but obviously switches the home/away pitchers:

Game 1 in MIN: CC Sabathia

Game 2 in MIN: AJ Burnett

Game 3 in NY: Andy Pettitte

Game 4 in NY: Phil Hughes

Game 5 in MIN: CC Sabathia

However, the team may elect to start Phil Hughes on the road and make him the Game 2 starter.  Option 6:

Game 1 in MIN: CC Sabathia

Game 2 in MIN: Phil Hughes

Game 3 in NY: Andy Pettitte

Game 4 in NY: AJ Burnett

Game 5 in MIN: CC Sabathia

Whether the team goes with Hughes or Burnett in Game 2 is hard to handicap because we don’t know how much they trust either of them, and how much weight they give to home/road splits. The team will tip its hand soon when it announces when CC, Andy and AJ will start again.  If they slot Pettitte in on Saturday in Boston, then this may be an indication that they won’t split up the lefties in the ALDS and will start Pettitte on normal rest for Game 2 of the ALDS.  If Pettitte starts Sunday and Burnett goes on Saturday, then they may be planning to split up the lefties and use Burnett in Game 2 on normal rest.  Of course, the team is waiting to announce next Saturday and Sunday’s starters for a reason.  They don’t want to tip their hand, and it may depend on how the divisional race plays out. This murky picture will become a lot more clear in the coming days.