Enough of the rotation handwringing, please

John Harper weighs in:

The Yankees aren’t about to start Phil Hughes on three days’ rest, so even if CC Sabathia were to pitch Tuesday night on short rest, it still would leave Joe Girardi with no other option but Burnett in Game 5.

And if you’re looking for a miracle from Burnett, well, yanking someone so emotionally fragile at the last minute would only be asking for further disaster. In addition, the absolute last thing you want is him being asked to save the season if the Yankees are down 3-1 to the Rangers in the series.

Even if Burnett puts the Yankees in a 3-1 hole Tuesday, I’d rather take my chances with Sabathia, Hughes and Andy Pettitte coming back, all of them on regular rest for the first time in this postseason.

Calcaterra also chirps up:

If the response is “well, we need to win tonight, so just pitch Burnett tomorrow night,” you’re still loopy, because tonight’s matchup is way more suited for Burnett. The Rangers are pitching Tommy Hunter. Hunter has started two games against the Yankees. In those games he has given up seven runs on 14 hits in nine and a third innings. In other words, he’s hittable and thus the Yankees do not need a shutdown start in order to win this game. They simply need to hit the ball for once and hope for no worse than a mediocre start from Burnett. If the Yankees can’t hit Hunter, well, they’re screwed anyway. Assuming you get past Hunter with a win, the Yankees then throw Sabathia and Hughes on regular rest, and both of those games are winnable.

Look, I know it’s tempting to bring back Sabathia. But the series is at 2-1 right now, not 3-1. You can’t punt Games 4 and 5 simply because you’re freaked out over what happened in Games 2 and 3 and scared to death about facing Cliff Lee in Game 7. By throwing Burnett against Hunter and then Sabathia and Hughes on their regular schedule, the Yankees give themselves the best chance they have to win all three of those games. And that’s all a manager can do. Ultimately, the players have to perform.

There’s a lot wrong in Dave Cameron’s article here (for a nice rebuttal, check out what TYU had to say even though Cameron updated his original posting), but he’s right about this:

The most popular alternative was to have CC Sabahtia pitch on short rest, taking Game 1, 4, and 7, but that wouldn’t have eliminated the need to have Burnett start unless they also asked Hughes and Petitte to pitch on short rest as well, and there are some legitimate problems with that. Hughes has never pitched on three days rest, and Pettitte has a pretty long list of arm problems in his background. Getting potentially reduced performance by both, not even factoring in Sabathia’s two starts on short rest, makes that idea unappetizing.

That’s where the “we don’t know Hughes can’t pitch on short rest” argument rests, but to me, it’s less about Hughes and more about the other two on short rest.

Let’s see what AJ does tonite. We’ll know quickly if he has his stuff or not. And if he doesn’t the hook will be swift and quick.

IIATMS overlord and founder. ESPN contributor. Purveyor of luscious reality.

16 thoughts on “Enough of the rotation handwringing, please

  1. Tom

    What I think is lost in this is management's decision to flip flop Hughes and Petitte. I understand the Hughes is good on the road and in Texas argument, but if Lee was expected to pitch as well as he did (and he was), why not use your most proven October starter in game 2 to potentially come home with a 2-0 lead, making game 3 much less important. The decision marginalized Petitte's great game and put the Yankees in a much worse situation having to rely on Burnett tonight. I am not saying it would have been a guaranteed win, but Petitte has proven time and time again that he is the man to give the ball to in important spots. Just my two cents and of course hind sight……..

    • That's a very fair point, Tom. I didn't get into that for a few reasons, including the fact that the decision is rather far in our rearview mirror at this point and I am less of a vocal second-guesser than others. (who loves ya, Brien?)

  2. jon

    No one was imagining that Hughes would have such a poor outing – it made sense. Or at least, there was plenty of logic in the argument of putting Hughes 2nd. If nothing else, that put our best remaining pitcher against Lee – and c'mon – if the Yankees offense had strung together even a couple hits, Andy could have won. He DID hold them to two runs – if we can't do better than that, as Jason says, we're screwed.

    And thanks, Jason – you have me convinced that AJ just might win. Works for me. Thanks.

    • I'm pretty sure I said the idea was stupid on Twitter when they announced it, and I was totally against making Hughes the 2nd starter in the ALDS.

  3. dcarnagey

    While I don't have a problem with AJ tonight, one argument for CC is that it would allow him to be long relief in Game 7 if Pettite gets into early trouble. If the series gets that far, there would have to be a very short leash against Lee.

  4. JP1

    I completely agree with Tom here. Last night, Andy pitched about as well as you could really ask for. Against a Colby Lewis, 7 innings/2 runs is very valuable. Against Lee, it's not that much different than giving up 5 runs. Conversely, while Hughes can be dominant (see game 3 vs. Twins), he is more prone to a very poor start (ALCS game 2). But a very bad start is more costly against a hittable guy like Lewis, and LESS costly against a dominant guy like Lee. As it was, we just wasted a very very good start from Pettitte, while also blowing a winnable game against Lewis in game 2.

    I know Hughes has big home/road splits. But the Ballpark at Arlington ain't PETCO. It's not going to neutralize his fly-ball tendency.

    Is this second guessing a bit unfair? Sure. Was it an egregiously poor decision by Girardi? No. But that's what managers do. They make a few decisions that have a small impact on the likelihood of success. Managing is nit-picky details.

    Oh well. Go get em tonight.

  5. Taylor

    If AJ gets the job done tonight, all the sudden the worries are over.

    Series would be tied at 2-2, and we got CC on the hill for game 5.

  6. TZig

    How about this for a potential Lee/Sabathia Game 7 matchup even with C.C. throwing Game 5 on Wednesday?

    Here in North Texas, the weather forecast is right now shows the possibility of significant rain on Friday night in Arlington. If it was enough to cause Game 6 to be "PPD" until Saturday, then my guess is the Yankees would skip Hughes and go with Petitte (on regular rest) and then C.C. on Sunday on short rest for Game 7.

    I guess at that time, would the Rangers bump Lewis/Lee back, or would they throw Lee on Saturday (G6)?

    I don't want to give anyone false hope, but I find it interesting that rain could possibly play a role in the outcome of this series.

    I know the reality is that true Yankee fans deal with what's thrown at them and handle it. What will be funny so see are the "fair weather" Yankee fans (so-to-speak) who will be praying for rain (which we can use) in Texas on Friday night.

    I know second-guessing is frowned on here. I'm not sure how much speculation is invited when it includes elements out of our control. (But it could be an incredible deciding Game 7 if it unfolds that way.)

  7. David

    I second-guessed the rotation when it was announced as well, simply because — even if you needed to start both AJ and Hughes — there seemed to be better matchups.

    Pettitte in Game 2 and Game 6.
    CC in Games 1/4/7.
    Hughes on insanely long rest in Game 5 to keep the innings down and having shown complete domination on very long rest in the ALDS.
    AJ as the sacrificial lamb against Lee.

    Having said all that, I still do think that AJ has to be the favorite tonight even WITH his year and normal rest for Games 5/6/7 (if necessary) being good things at the moment.

  8. Jill

    Proof yet again that throwing money at something is never a cure all. Yankees have by far the largest payroll in MLB. They look dumbfounded by what they are seeing from the Rangers. And boy do I love it!!! Yes, I'm a Rangers fan. I would love for CC to have another night like he did in game 1. He looked pathetic. And that guy is supposed to be one fo the best??

    • NYNY

      Hey Jill,
      Id love to see your face when they show Lee in a Yankees uniform.

    • rick

      Why is that people can't understand it's their own team's owner's fault for not being willing to spend more on their roster? Instead they have to turn their jealousy into childish hatred. Yes the Yankees spend the most on their roster and no they don't always win the WS every year, but they have gotten into the postseason every year in the new century save for one season.

      Be happy that Seattle decided to take your Rangers offer in the last minute otherwise the Yankees won't even be looking at you right now, oh and don't get too sad when you see Lee in pinstripes next year.

  9. Patrick

    Jill – Nobody expects the Yankees to win every single game except non-Yankee fans and the late Boss.

    I'm totally not into the whole shoulda/woulda/coulda debates(hindsight is 20/20 rendering any argument extremely biased and corrupt), but I do like speaking about what will happen, since we have no idea as to what the result will be and there's nothing more fun than speculation.

    I'm pumped for AJ to be out there tonight. I know he's been ineffective this season, but I think this is make or break for him in the best possible way. He needs to go out there tonight and prove his worth, and everybody including himself knows that. And if he goes in there with some fire, attacks the zone, and doesn't let up, like the AJ we know he can be, I think that could help encourage the bats to awaken. I think it's unfair to treat Burnett like he's incapable of pitching a decent game.

  10. Bob

    I am a Rangers fan (20+ years). But, I have to say that I am still scared to death of the Yankees. I can only hope that this is the start of something here in Texas that over the next 20 years will come close to the success the Yankees have had over the past 20 years.

    I do like the Ranger’s aggressive style of play this year — very fun to watch as a fan.

    However, if there ever was a team that was the epitome of ‘ain’t over til’ it’s over’ it is certainly the Yankees.

    Good luck to both teams. Great baseball. I hope you Yankee fans will cheer for the Rangers in the WS (wink).

  11. Sabrina

    We are down 3-1 thanks to Burnett..panic now?

  12. Dom

    Didn't Hughes benefit A LOT from unprecedented run-support this season?
    I'm not sure he's big-game ready yet at this point, certainly not to the degree that an opposing team is going to shake in their boots about his starting.

    I hate to be the hindsight guy, but if they had started Pettitte in Game 2 and he had delivered something like the same performance (all purely speculative) then that would have really demoralized a young Rangers team I think, and put a lot of pressure on them to win Lee's start or else.

    I agree that AJ should have started, even as poorly as he's pitching, you never know-he's streaky.
    Heck, if Girardi hadn't had a brain-fart, then he might have got out of this, and we'd be talking about a gutsy pitching performance.

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