The obligatory postseason rotation speculation post

The fact that the regular season has just about run its course is hard to fathom. The Yankees, in typical Yankee fashion, have blessed us with not only another postseason berth but another AL East crown to boot. There are still a few items on the docket though that need to be tidied up, and that includes the postseason rotation.

Here’s how it seems to be shaping up.

Game 1:  CC Sabathia
Game 2: Cliff Lee Ivan Nova
Game 3: Andy Pettitte Colon / Garcia
Game 4: Phil Hughes Garcia / Colon

Obviously, Sabathia has always been (and still is) a lock at number one. The big fella has been a dominating force all year long. Assuming he doesn’t qualify for his 20th win in his upcoming “tune up” start before the playoffs, he’ll end his season with a 19-8 record along withan ERA hovering around 3.00. His 2.87 FIP and 3.01 xFIP reinforce what we already know; that is to say, his actual results are pretty true to what his abilities indicate they should be. Not only are CC’s 8.72 K/9 and 2.31 BB/9 a rates both very good, but they actually overachieve his career norms (7.68 and 2.76 respectively). In terms of fWAR, his 7.0 is tied for the American League best with Justin Verlander; when considering both leagues, only Roy Halladay ranks higher (8.0). Although bWAR is ever-so-slightly more bearish on Sabathia (6.8), he still ranks in the top 5 of all pitchers trailing only Verlander, Halladay, and Clayton Kershaw. Frankly, if it were possible, I’d just assume pitch CC every game, Brewers-style.

Apparently, Ivan Nova’s already been penciled into the number two slot which poses a rather surprising turn of events (in my eyes). I mean, just take a moment to reflect on how far Nova’s come since his big league debut. That said, the kid’s been solid for the Yankees and has as much claim to the second start as anyone else in the running. Although his 16-4 record and 3.62 ERA will surely garner some RoY votes, his 4.06 FIP and 4.17 xFIP aren’t quite as illuminating. As far as rate stats go (5.38 K/9 and 3.23 BB/9), they too, are not entirely prototypical of a “number two guy.” On the plus side, Nova has done a fine job of keeping the ball in the park (0.74 HR/9). He generally pitches efficiently and his recently discovered slider (3.7 wSL) certainly makes him a much more dynamic presence on the mound. If Nova can manage the strike zone effectively, look to be pleasantly surprised.  If not, the Yankee rotation will feel substantially shallower.

As you’ve probably noticed, the proposed rotation listed above indicates Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon are fairly interchangeable at this point. Sure, both guys have been great additions to the Yankees this year; and sure, they’ve both grossly exceeded our expectations. They’ve also both struggled at times recently. I suppose if I had my druthers, I’d prefer to see Colon take game three and Garcia game four. This basically stems down to the fact that Colon’s 7.56 K/9 rate is more alluring against hard hitting teams than Garcia’s off-speed offerings. Although Garcia has done an unbelievable job of mitigating the long ball in general this year, he’s looked a little shaky in this regard of late (and Bartolo’s 1.10 HR/9 isn’t awful by any means). Between the two pitchers, Colon also tends to generate more ground balls which bodes well for Yankee stadium.  If these two guys ultimately get reversed, no big deal.

Also, thanks to Larry, attached below are some nifty graphs comparing the Yankee hurlers for your viewing pleasure. Obviously, A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes have not been listed as plausible rotation candidates.

One thought on “The obligatory postseason rotation speculation post

  1. Good stuff Matt, and nice graphs! ;)

    While I don’t think either has an airtight case as “Game 3” or “Game 4” starter at this point, Colon probably should get tabbed for Game 3 based on all the reasons stated above. Additionally, as shown in the graphs, he also has by far the second-best xFIP (3.52) of this foursome after CC Sabathia. The other helpful thing about hopefully clinching home field is that both Bart and Freddy have been much, much better on the road, making them ideal Game 3 and 4 starters.

    I’ve seen some speculation on possibly going with a three-man rotation in the ALDS, but that seems counterproductive to me. If you threw CC in Game 4, then he’d be starting ALCS Game 1 on three days’ rest. While we know he can do that, it seems silly to start him on short rest given that the team has four capable starters this year, unless they feel they absolutely have to.