Who Do You Send to the Mound in October, Joe?

Let's say the playoffs start tomorrow and you're Joe Girardi.  Which 4 starters do you send to the mound and in what order? 

Your options are below, with only their stats-as-a-starter included – though all but CC and AJ have also appeared in relief - and with their matchups against likely ALDS foes included (apologies to Chicago and LAA).  My ALDS rotation is at the end.  What's yours??


CC Sabathia: 17-7 in 27 games; 7.1 IP/start; 2.96 ERA; 1.159 WHIP; 8.4 K/9; 2.1 BB/9

    Last 4 starts: 2-2; 7.1 IP/start; 5.28 ERA; 1.413 WHIP; 8.6 K/9; 0.6 BB/9

    vs. Detroit: 2 starts; 0-1; 4.15 ERA; 6.2 IP/start; 1.615 WHIP; 9.0 K/9; 2.5 BB/9

    vs. Texas: 3 starts; 2-0; 5.12 ERA; 6.1 IP/start; 1.397 WHIP; 6.5 K/9; 2.8 BB/9

Ivan Nova: 13-3 in 21 games; 6.0 IP/start; 3.92 ERA; 1.371 WHIP; 5.4 K/9; 3.1 BB/9

    Last 4 starts: 4-0; 6.2 IP/start; 3.81 ERA; 1.154 WHIP; 5.9 K/9; 1.7 BB/9 

    vs. Detroit: 0 starts

    vs. Texas: 3 starts; 2-1; 5.2 IP/start; 4.67 ERA; 1.269 ERA; 3.1 K/9; 4.7 BB/9

Phil Hughes: 4-4 in 10 games; 5.1 IP/start; 5.61 ERA; 1.422 WHIP; 4.9 K/9; 3.0 BB/9

    Last 4 starts: 3-1; 6.1 IP/start; 1.75 ERA; 0.896 WHIP; 5.3 K/9; 1.8 BB/9 — this includes his rain-shortened win at Chicago in which he appeared to have plenty left in the tank – that night he threw just 65 pitches over 6 innings giving up only 3 hits, 0 walks, and 0 ER

    vs. Detroit: 1 start; 4.0 IP/start; 11.25 ERA; 1.750 WHIP; 2.3 K/9; 4.5 BB/9

    vs. Texas: 3 starts; 2-1; 5.2 IP/start; 4.67 ERA; 1.269 ERA; 3.1 K/9; 4.7 BB/9

Freddy Garcia: 10-7 in 20 games; 6.0 IP/start; 3.12 ERA; 1.302 WHIP; 5.9 K/9;2.7 BB/9

    Last 4 starts: 3-0; 6.1 IP/start; 2.13 ERA; 1.26 WHIP; 6.8 K/9; 2.1 BB/9

    vs. Detroit: 1 start; 0-1; 7.0 IP/start; 5.14 ERA; 1.714 WHIP; 4.0 K/9; 2.6 BB/9

    vs. Texas: 1 start; 6.0 IP/start; 0.00 ERA; 0.500 WHIP; 1.5 K/9; 1.5 BB/9 — The .105 BABIP in this game – lowest of any this year for him – is noteworthy.  He kept them off-balance but it seems he was also pretty lucky

Bartolo Colon: 8-6 in 19 games; 6.0 IP/start; 3.49 ERA; 1.262 WHIP; 7.5 K/9; 2.5 BB/9

    Last 4 starts: 1-1; 5.1 IP/start; 4.79 ERA; 1.451 WHIP; 6.5 K/9; 3.0 BB/9

    vs. Detroit: 1 start: 1-0; 7.0 IP/start; 3.85 ERA; 1.00 WHIP; 9.0 K/9; 0.0 BB/9 — He also got shelled for 4 ER in a 3-inning relief appearance vs. Detroit in his first appearance of the year on April 3

    vs. Texas: 1 start: 0-0; 4.1 IP/start; 10.38 ERA; 2.308 WHIP; 8.3 K/9; 2.2 BB/9 — The .467 BABIP in this game – highest of any this year for Colon – is noteworthy.  He may not have had his best stuff, but every ball the Rangers hit seemed to find an open spot to land.

AJ Burnett: 9-10 in 26 games; 6.0 IP/start; 4.96 ERA; 1.417 WHIP; 7.6 K/9; 4.0 BB/9

    Last 4 starts: 1-1; 4.2 IP/start; 10.70 ERA; 2.377 WHIP; 6.12 K/9; 3.6 BB/9 (hide the women & children)

    vs. Detroit: 2 starts; 1-1; 6.0 IP/start; 3.75 ERA; 0.833 WHIP; 8.3 K/9; 1.5 BB/9

    vs. Texas: 0 starts

Both Detroit and Texas fare better vs. finesse pitchers than power pitchers with the difference more marked in Detroit’s case (vs. finesse pitchers they hit as a team .289 BA/.343 OBP/.450 SLG and vs. power pitchers they hit .233/.315/.369) than in Texas’s case: (vs. finesse: .289/.345/.465 and vs. power: .251/.323/.408).

Clearly CC is having a great year and there is no need to discuss whether he gets the ball in Game 1.  He has hit a blip of late – the last 4 games noted above encompass his two worst starts of the year and he has given up at least 9 hits in all four of them – something he only did twice previously this year.  But if you're worried about CC as a YF you might as well give up watching now anyway.

AJ is a trainwreck, no more so than in his last 4 starts.  The glimmer of potential that flashes from time to time is reflected in his relatively strong numbers vs. Detroit.  But at this stage – given both his season numbers and the way his season is trending, there is no way he should be in the top 5, let alone the top 4 of this rotation.  If the playoffs were to start tomorrow, he would simply have no place.

Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes similarly seem to be locks, perhaps Nova even moreso given that he has been doing it more or less all year long while Hughes has really only hit his stride in the past month, though that stride has been exceptional.  Together they've been the Yanks' two best starters over that period (Garcia's impressive 4-game numbers coming earlier as he has been on the DL of late).  Both have impressed in virtually every way – bearing down to get strike-outs in critical situations, working quickly, pounding the strikezone, and mixing in a variety of pitches with an effectiveness that is starting to become expected from them.  The only question would be where they slot in.  Hughes has playoff experience.  Nova does not.  Neither has as much as the two old guys – Colon and Garcia.  But I cannot see placing either Colon or Garcia in front of either of them at this stage.

Now with Garcia and Colon you are dealing with two guys who are already way past what you'd expect in terms of IP this season.  Colon's been trending downward of late and everyone will be watching tonight to see if this continues.  If so, it will increasingly be taken as a sign that he has simply reached his limit (finally!) and may not be able to catch a second (third, fourth??) wind to continue his remarkable season through to its conclusion.  But as a power pitcher, and as a strikeout pitcher, he could be useful in long-relief out of the pen or as insurance should a starter pull up lame in the post-season.  Garcia meanwhile may benefit from the time off he is taking now due to the cut finger.  Or he may come back rusty.  If he comes back pitching the way he has since the All-Star Break, then my ALDS rotation would look like this:

Game 1: CC Sabathia

Game 2: Phil Hughes

Game 3: Ivan Nova

Game 4: Freddy Garcia

To the bullpen: Bartolo Colon

Left on the side of the road: AJ Burnett

But that's just me.  What would you do with these 6 guys?

7 comments… add one

  • I have no problem with that IH…I want to see how Phil and CSN react to the pressure of the playoffs.
    If they pitch well, we have a chance at #28. If not? We don’t but they will gain valuable experience. I cannot see Bart and the Chief leading us to the promise land, as good as they’ve been this year.

    krueg August 23, 2011, 10:59 am
  • Game #1: CC
    Game #2: Nova
    Game #3: Garcia
    Game #4: Hughes
    Here’s my thinking:
    Game #1 is a no brainer.
    Game #2 we are either up one or down one. If you are down one you need a guy that is going to give the offense a shot after being held in check the day prior against the other teams ace. If Nova is anything he’s consistent. He’s going to give you a chance and that’s what you want in game 2 when you don’t have Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt or Cliff Lee as options. If you throw Hughes in game 2 you have no idea what to expect. Could be dominant, could be gone by the 8th batter. Game #2 to me needs someone you can count on and to me that’s Nova.
    Game #3 I’d lean towards a veteran. Garcia, much like Nova is consistent with much less upside of course, but usually will keep you in the game long enough to let the offense make a mark.
    Game #4 is perfect for Hughes. Knowing that CC is behind him (if need be) will certainly ease his sense of needing to do too much.
    Listen, this is a motley crew after CC there’s no 2 ways about it. Some very serviceable options for sure, but certainly no slam dunks.

    John - YF August 23, 2011, 11:58 am
  • Well said John. Your reasoning makes a lot of sense. It’s funny that Bondy’s tagline on the AJ Burnett page he sponsors on BR is “We need AJ if we’re going to get #28″. It seems the consensus here is just the opposite.
    I put Hughes in 2nd in part because I think he’s the best pitcher on the team as of late but you’re right that this has not been a long-term or consistent reality. I also prefer having him in a game that is definitely not an elimination game. But I find your reasoning compelling.
    The good thing for the Yanks is they have an absolutely stellar bullpen. They need someone to give them 6 good innings. How that pen will hold up through the end of the season and with October pressure we will have to find out, but if the Yankees are within 2 runs of anyone come the 6th inning, I feel OK. Texas’ pen is pretty strong as well so I certainly am not cocky, but the combination of the Yanks’ offense and bullpen make me feel good about them coming back in games as long as the starters keep them within striking distance. My sense is that Garcia does exactly that.
    Am curious to see if anyone argues for keeping Colon in the rotation.

    IronHorse (YF) August 23, 2011, 12:36 pm
  • The thing I’ve noticed about Colon is that if he doesn’t get that outside fastball call…he’s screwed. It’s really that simple.

    krueg August 23, 2011, 2:44 pm
  • Let’s hope he gets it tonight krueg!

    IronHorse (YF) August 23, 2011, 5:49 pm
  • He will.
    I expect a bloodbath in the Bronx tonight.

    krueg August 23, 2011, 6:14 pm
  • ARod hurt his thumb. Hopefully nothing serious.

    krueg August 23, 2011, 6:15 pm

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