Taking stock of the October rotation

Here’s the basic outline of the situation: The Yankees have six starting pitchers, three available spots, and four candidates for those slots. The math for this is simple; the Yankees will carry a four-man rotation at some point, C.C. Sabathia is already guaranteed one of them, and A.J. Burnett has absolutely no chance at one. That last part may be a bit presumptuous of me, but even if the Yankees had been leaning towards keeping Burnett in the regular season five man rotation, at this point it’s simply not fathomable that they’d consider giving him a postseason start, especially after the Muck-up in Minnesota. So that leaves us with Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Ivan Nova, and Phil Hughes vying for three available positions, with the odd man out probably going to the bullpen for the tournament.

At the moment, I actually think this is pretty much a wide open competition for the rest of the season. Not one of these guys strike me as someone who should have a postseason start guaranteed to them, or even someone with an obvious inside line on one, for that matter. Garcia is probably the closest to that, considering that, if he can come back from his cut finger pitching as well as he was before, he’ll obviously be one the team’s best four starters. But that’s not guaranteed, and Freddy could definitely pitch his way out of an October start yet.

Colon is the other big question mark. Earlier in the season, Colon was clearly the Yankees’ second best starter, and at time looked like a bona fide second ace. He’s still effective today, but a little bit less so than before, and his numbers have been padded to an extent by feasting on weak hitting teams, a luxury he isn’t likely to get in the ALCS, when the opponent would probably be either Boston or Texas. And of course, we’ve all been worried Colon might not hold up over the season, so the team will still have to keep an eye out for fatigue, as Colon could run out of gas in the next month. I know this view of things has a distinct what-have-you-done-for-me-lately feel to it, but that’s basically what management needs to be asking with these guys when they make this decision, at least this year.

Hughes and Nova are very interesting cases in their own right, and probably the two with the most pressure on them over the next month. They’ve both been good, of late, but the results are outpacing the stuff for both of them, and they both need to continue to pitch well to stay in the discussion (assuming Garcia and Colon don’t fall off of a cliff). One of them will have to get a spot, the other one will be at serious risk of being the odd man out.

This is the part where I’m supposed to say, “as of today the Yankees’ playoff rotation would be…,” but obviously I’m of the opinion that what has happened to this point is only a small part of making the decision, and what happens over the next month is just as, if not more, important than how all of these four have pitched as of today. Maybe that’s unfair to Garcia and Colon, but such is life. I will say that, as of now, my prediction for the Yankees’ postseason rotation is, in no particular order, Sabathia-Garcia-Nova-Hughes, with Colon going to the bullpen. I’d be okay going to war with that group, especially considering the remarkably deep bullpen that will be backing them up.


About Brien Jackson

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

7 thoughts on “Taking stock of the October rotation

  1. IMHO, Garcia has no shot against a team like Boston. He has no out pitch and they will use their extreme plate discipline to get into hitters counts and then feast. He has been awful against BOS this season. Colon, if healthy, at least has the stuff to get good hitters out. Right now, I would go with CC, Hughes, Colon and Nova, in that order. Nova would be last because of his lack of post-season experience. I see Hughes redeeming himself in the post-season this year.

  2. I like the S-G-N-H rotation since Hughes has the pen experience to be available in first two games, and Colon's talents suit pen work too. Btw, Yanks won't face Boston in the first round.

    • Yeah, hence why I said ALCS. ;) Obviously I'm assuming the Yankees will only use 3 starters in the ALDS, and turning the decision on the marginal 4th starter.

  3. Hard to believe 20 starts in to the season and Garcia still gets no love. He's got the second best ERA among our starters at 3.16 and ranks just behind David Price in Quality Starts amongst AL pitchers.

    Moreover, Freddy has great postseason numbers historically (6-2 in 9 starts, 3.11 era), including 7K's over 7 shutout innings in the decisive game 4 of the 2005 World Series.

    Yes, his fastball is dead and he's not the same pitcher as then, but his splitter is pretty filthy. Garcia deserves credit for making himself into a pitcher and not just a thrower.

    So, give Freddy the damn ball!

    Also… I agree with Frank S that Phil Hughes is getting back on track. The thing I like about Hughes (as well as CC, Nova and Garcia), is that they all ooze with confidence. Hughes has never gotten down on himself for his regressions – in the past or this season. I love that confidence.

    The opposite is true for Burnett, whose confidence can disappear in the middle of an inning. I also find Colon's confidence shaky at times. He seems as if some days he himself isn't sure if he has anything left. In the end, neither of those guys are dependable enough to warrant a spot IMO.

  4. Frank S., Garcia pitched better than any other Yankee starter at Boston the last time they faced off.

    I can see Hughes making it to the number 2, which I think Girardi and Cashman are rooting for. Right now I'd go: Sabbathia, Garcia, Hughes and Nova. Bart might be having a hiccup right now or he might be declining. If he's dominant against the A's then he'll delay the declining talk.

  5. I wonder how likely it is that they would go with CC in Games 1, 4 and 7, thus making the "fourth" starter actually throw Game 5. Since he is likely to be able to get a little extra rest down the stretch and doesn't seem to be facing any health issues like last October, I think it's an option that New York should strongly consider. Then they could go with something like: CC, Garcia, Hughes, CC, Nova, Garcia, CC. That way, you maximize your clear ace and only have to throw whatever two guys you feel less confident in once each. But you also have whoever starts Game 3 available for potential long relief in Game 7 should Sabathia falter.

    • Your theory is a very likely scenario to be played out. The only stipulation is the idea of how the bullpen interacts with the club from September on. The Yankees will have to carry their two best lefty relievers, be it Logan and either Marte, Laffey, or Feliciano. I seriously doubt the Yankees bring up Banuelos this year, but that is more a matter of personal taste versus any jostling of actual statistics.

      My thought is to put both Colon and Burnett in the postseason bullpen (if room permits) and pitch them in long relief or in spot situations. It seems to me that while both Colon and Burnett are ineffective right now as starters, might actually bode well to put them in the bullpen to throw a limited number of their nastiest pitches, as hard as they dare to throw them. This is only feasible if it doesn't displace our four main relievers: Logan, Robertson, Soriano and Mo. And of course, there must be room on the roster for the best available lefty reliever behind Logan, be it: Marte, Feliciano or Laffey.

      A deeper bullpen affords the Yankees to not be so concerned by the lack of quality in the starting rotation. Remember, the Giants won the world series last year because of three games their bullpen pitched against Texas when they had to pull their starters early. Clearly that must be the Yankees strategy this year if they have any hope whatsoever in winning a world series this year.