With Colon and Hughes due back, what of the rotation?

Bartolo Colon could start on Saturday. Phil Hughes may not need another rehab start, per Brian Cashman. If they both come back soon, the Yankees could be left with “too much pitching”, at least in terms of the rotation. They would have those two to go along with CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova. So, unless the Yankees want to go to a six man rotation (which would be stupid), they’re going to have to boot someone from the rotation.

Obviously, Sabathia and Burnett aren’t going anywhere. Colon has most definitely pitched well enough to stay in the rotation, and Hughes, despite early struggles, deserves another shot. That leaves one of Garcia or Nova as the odd man out, and both have statistical and anecdotal cases to stay in the rotation.

Garcia’s posted a 3.28 ERA with a 4.07 FIP (101 FIP-; in this version, over 100 is worse than league average) and a 4.18 xFIP (107 xFIP-). Regardless, he’s done a good job of keeping runners from scoring (78.9% strand rate) and has pitched about as well as the Yankees could’ve hoped.

Ivan Nova’s ERA isn’t quite as shiny at 4.26 and his FIP- is 113 (4.51 FIP–lack of strikeouts and relative abundance of walks huts) and his xFIP- is 108 (4.23 raw xFIP). He’s certainly had some ups and downs, but this about what we thought he’d do.

Bullpen Pros

Freddy Garcia could be suited for the bullpen since he’s able to go multiple innings and that can be incredibly valuable. That’s really about it for Garcia.

Ivan Nova throws hard and has been better when facing a lineup for the first time. His stuff could play up a bit in the bullpen and like Garcia’ he provides the ability to go multiple innings.

Bullpen Cons

If Garcia isn’t getting guys to bite at his not-so-impressive stuff, he’s going to get himself into trouble.

Ivan Nova doesn’t have the greatest control in the world and doesn’t strike guys out at all. Those two things do not bode well for relief pitchers.

So, what to do?

I’m a bit conflicted here because I don’t think either guy has necessarily pitched poorly enough to be demoted to the bullpen. I wouldn’t mind seeing Garcia shift into a relief role because he probably doesn’t have a future with the Yankees. Nova, on the other hand, could be a back-of-the-rotation mainstay for at least a few years. I know that’s not exactly the greatest compliment, but it’s worth noting. The Yankees definitely seem to have faith in him, and I can easily see his future being a huge factor in the Yankees’ thought process. If I had to guess right now, I’d say that the Yankees are more likely to push Garcia into the bullpen. But if I had my way, I think I would rather have Nova in the bullpen while keeping Garcia in the rotation.

Garcia has pitched just slightly better than Nova and I just don’t think his stuff can play up as a reliever like Nova’s can. This also helps the Yankees in terms of depth since they can stash Nova in the bullpen and use him to replace Garcia if/when he blows up. I’m not confident in Nova becoming a strikeout guy in the bullpen, but I think his fastball/curveball combo could play well there when he doesn’t have to get through a lineup multiple times. It would suck to have to cut his season short, but if Colon and Hughes are added to the rotation, I’m not sure you can say any longer that Ivan Nova would be one of the five best starters the Yankees would have.

About Matt Imbrogno

A native and resident of the Mean Streets of Southwestern Connecticut, Matt is a narcissistic, misanthropic 20something English teacher who lives by a simple creed: Yankees Only.

17 thoughts on “With Colon and Hughes due back, what of the rotation?

  1. I wonder if Nova’s stuff would play up in the bullpen, maybe enough to get him some Ks.

  2. I tend to agree with you re Nova to the pen, but these things always have a way of working themselves out (i.e. someone stops pitching well or someone gets hurt). Too many arms is never a problem for too long. At least there is no urgency for the Yanks to make a trade for the marginal starters that are available.

  3. It’s a problem I’m glad I don’t have to solve.
    I really don’t want to put Nova in the BP because I still don’t think Garcia is going to continue to do as well as he has (as opposed to Colon, who i think will). If he stays any length of time the pen, he may need to be stretched out to return to the rotation.
    On the other hand, I can’t see putting Garcia in the pen. I don’t think he can pitch 2 days in a row very often, and I’m not sure how long it would take him to warm up.

    I agree that these things usually tend to sort themselves out, but somebody isn’t going to be in the rotation for at least a start or two.

  4. I think it would be best to send Nova to SWB so that he can continue to pitch every 5th day. That way he’d be stretched out if anything happened to one of the other starters. With Mitre back, he would probably be the long man, emergency starter in the BP.

  5. I’m just curious (pretty new to baseball), why would a six man rotation be stupid?

    • Because you would be decreasing the number of starts by your better pitchers to give two number five guys regular starts.

      • Also, 5 days of rest appears to be what is best for most pitchers. My evidence: no one has a four man rotation during the regular season. Given the scarcity of good pitching, if a four man rotation worked, there would be plenty of teams using it. No one has a six man rotation. Teams out of contention would regularly shift to a six man rotation if it worked, in order to develop their young pitching faster and figure out who the keepers are. My conclusion is that, physically, a five man rotation is “just right.”

    • A six man rotation would take away starts from CC Sabathia. With a six man rotation also, that takes away a roster spot that could be used for a bullpen arm, or a bench player. A six man rotation will leave very little room for error, as if one of the arms, Freddy Garcia or Ivan Nova struggle in particular, you will have to call up an unproven arm, or trade for a starter to replace them in the rotation. A five man rotation in the Yankees case is more sensible since CC is the only trusted starter on the team, with Ivan Nova’s inexperience, Freddy Garcia’s luck, Bartolo Colon’s injury history, Phil Hughes’s workload, and A.J. Burnett’s inconsistency. Adding another unproven factor would hinder the Yankee’s season and will affect their chances of winning the World Series. With Phil Hughes coming back, along with Bartolo, the Yankee rotation will be strengthened and can make the rotation better, but if you start deviating starts from your best pitchers, it will affect their overall win-loss record affecting their postseason positioning. Ivan Nova or Freddy Garcia have a good chance of faltering, and with a five man rotation it will be much easier to fix the issue by swapping their positions, and not use an extra roster spot for no reason.

      • The move would not strengthen the rotation but it would weaken the bullpen which is a concern with all the injuries.

  6. Chad Jennings at LoHud is quoting Girardi that he is going to think about a 6 man rotation. Hopefully that’s just him being cautious and not wanting his starters thinking too much about who is the odd man out.

  7. I say Nova to the pen. Garcia has pitched to good to be demoted. He’s undoubtably performed better than anyone expected. If Nova explodes than Nova could take his place. Though the best pitcher deserves to pitch and at this point in the year, Garcia is the better option.

  8. I agree Nova would serve the Yanks better in the pen than Garcia but…..I think he has to pitch every fifth day and that means AAA. He’s got to pitch.

  9. I’ll pile on with the Nova-to-the-pen option, but for a reason I’ve not yet seen mentioned. I think he needs more experience in successfully navigating high-leverage situations. Coming out of the pen in close hold and long relief would give him a crash course in this and complete his education. No way is he going to be in our post-season picture in any scenario. Garcia, on the other hand, just may be needed then if the not-altogether-improbable happens and Colon and Hughes can’t go the distance to October. We need to keep him stretched and ready.

  10. What has Phil Hughes done THIS YEAR to warrant him returning to the rotation moreover bumping Garcia or Nova out of it?

    Garcia has a 3.28 ERA while Nova has a 4.26 ERA, pretty damn good for fourth and fifth starters.

    Fuck Phil Hughes, there I said it. 2010 is over. It’s 2011. The rotation of Sabathia/Burnett/Colon/Garcia/Nova is the one to go with. The only way I remove Nova from the rotation is for a trade acquisition.

    It is ludicrous to just hand a rotation spot to Hughes, a guy who has made only three starts all season and posted a 10+ ERA in them, because of his 2010. Again, 2010 is over and it’s 2011.

    The Yankees should trade him in a package for a starter or a premier reliever so the 2012 bullpen is set with Rivera, Robertson, Logan, Soriano, Feliciano, the new guy, and either Ayala re-signed or whoever wins the final bullpen slot in spring training.

  11. or Joe being imaginative: everybody’s not the same. Point above that five days rest is probably optimal, for fit, stable physiques: CC and AJ (who I predict now is going on a roll) sb every 5th day.

    Colon certainly pitches like an ace, but, the hamstrings and other parts were not treated with stem cells. Nova is young, probably within shouting distance of his Verduccied innings limit.

    Garcia showed me a couple starts ago (another brilliant one, profusely sweating) that he could benefit from extra rest. Phil’s shoulder should be treated tenderly.

    Joe can (maybe) work out a mix-and-match approach; or you could send Nova to the pen (since he doesn’t have that many innings left), or Garcia, but his aging weariness, and the touchiness of his complex approach makes me doubt: he needs good feel on several pitches, and that’s usually ironed out in-game.

    So, two spots regular, three spots shifting among four men.

  12. Duh, Innings! forgive me if I have you mixed up with someone else, but were you the person that suggested Nunez should be the everyday shortstop when Jeter gets back? (I could be wrong). Hughes clearly has more upside than both Garcia and Nova. You can’t discount Hughes 2010 campaign for no other reason than Garcia and Nova haven’t matched it. As I said yesterday, Nova needs to pitch and the bullpen is not where he will get innings, its AAA.

  13. I find it funny how so many Yankees fans/commentators just assume Phil Hughes deserves to go back in the rotation, Phil Hughes has a longer track record of ineffectiveness as a starter than he does of effectiveness. Yes, he had a few moments in 2007 and was good the first half of 2009, but he was atrocious in 2008, bad in the second half of 2009, and god awful at the start of this season. Nova, though he may not have the “ceiling” that some project for Hughes, has at least been servicable and seems to be progressing as a starter. I’d hate to upset his advancement to put Hughes back in the rotation. Colon, I wouldn’t take him out either. Of all the Yankees starters besides CC, he was the only one flashing legitimate #1/#2 starter stuff. AJ obviously won’t be taken out. So that leaves Freddy Garcia. He would have to be the one to go, I guess. But I’m reluctant even to give Freddy the hook. Sure, he’s not going to shut down good line-up’s and can get shelled if he doesn’t have his location, but I don’t think the Yankees should take the consistency he provides and his ability to eat innings for granted. This team is on a roll, and I’d hate to see it upset for yet another Phil Hughes development project.