For months now, the acrimony over the Yankees playoff rotation has been deafening. Despite the best effort of the sunshine fans, the doom and gloomers have been suspiciously eyeing the playoffs with growing trepidation and outright horror. As far as the rotation goes, I was formerly in the latter camp: I had frightening visions of Freddy Garcia and hanging splitters, Ivan Nova and whole games without strikeouts and Bartolo Colon throwing two seamers that hang over the plate. I was nonplussed, baffled, scared and depressed.
Not any longer though. Looking at the likely AL playoff teams, it’s pretty clear the Yankees are not the only team with serious rotation questions. After moving across the country and dealing with the obligatory internet and cable delays, I wound up missing about 3 weeks worth of baseball. As it so happens and has been covered elsewhere and more extensively, the playoff rotations in the AL are shaping up to be underwhelming all around.
The Red Sox with Jon Lester and Josh Beckett appeared to have the best 1/2 punch in the league. Then yesterday Beckett hurt his ankle. It’s still not certain how serious the injury is but it’s certainly alarming if you’re a Boston fan. Without Beckett, you may be adding Tim Wakefield or Andrew Miller on the back end of that rotation. On top of the Beckett injury, Erik Bedard, who has pitched well, is suffering some sort of knee ailment. It sounds like the Bedard injury is not expected to be serious. If the Red Sox rotation can get healthy over the next 3 weeks, they have the most solid front 3. If not, John Lackey had better figure it out, real fast.
We’ve poured over the Yankees rotation issues for weeks now. Everyone knows CC Sabathia is one of the best pitchers in the game and having a Cy Young type season, again. Behind him it gets a little sketchy. Despite his poor outing yesterday, Freddy Garcia has pitched very well for the Yankees, with a 3.84 FIP to this point in the year. He’s not missing many bats and his HR/FB ratio is the lowest of his career which indicates he’s probably been a bit luckier than expected so far. Still, he’s been very solid for the Yankees. The same goes for Bartolo Colon. Although he’s run into a rough patch for the past month or so, he’s been solid as well. Ivan Nova hasn’t missed many bats. Since the beginning of August however he’s had a FIP below 3 and has kept the ball on the ground all season.
The Tigers may have the best American League pitcher in Justin Verlander at the top of their rotation. Behind him, it’s a little more questionable. Max Scherzer has been inconsistent. With a 4.33 ERA (4.14 FIP) he’s prone to giving up the long ball but as the Yankees have witnessed, he can be overpowering at times too. Doug Fister has been a nice acquisition for the Tigers as well. His 13 K game last night certainly stands out but his overall body of work has been good. He’s posted a 2.68 FIP in his 7 starts with Detroit.
The Rangers have pretty good number 1 option in the rotation as well with CJ Wilson. He’s posted a 3.36 FIP with a K/9 rate above 8 so far this year. Derek Holland and Matt Harrison would likely be the 2nd and 3rd pitchers for the Rangers. They’ve battled some inconsistencies but have been solid all year (3.86 and 3.61 FIP respectively). It sounds like they’ll slide Ogando into the bullpen and go with Colby Lewis as their number 4 although that’s very much up in the air.
Each team has serious concerns about their rotation. The AL doesn’t have a single team that’s miles ahead of any other in terms of rotation depth. Right now I’ve assumed the Rangers will win the west but the Angels are only 2 games back and have Dan Haren and Jared Weaver, two guys with FIPs around 3. The rest of their rotation isn’t formidable, but facing Haren and Weaver in a 5 game set is certainly an unnerving prospect.
With 3 weeks still to go in the regular season, a lot can happen. The Red Sox might get completely healthy. The Yankees could see Phil Hughes or AJ Burnett significantly improve. The Tigers may find Scherzer has regained some consistency. The Rangers might pencil Scott Feldman into their post season plans. Who knows? That’s my new approach in terms of the post season pitching situation. Who the F knows? Considering the league wide issues and the general uncertainty of playoff baseball, it would be foolish to get too worked up over the Yankees rotation at this point. With the offense as good as it is, it may only take a few decent outings for the Yankees to advance in October. I have no idea. And I don’t think anyone else really does either at this point. So instead of worrying over each individual post season rotation slot, I’m just going to sit back try and relax while enjoying these last few weeks of the regular season.