The rotation was problematic in 2008. Last year, the Yankees suffered injuries to key players, such as Chien-Ming Wang and Joba Chamberlain. Their rotation was a mess as they found poor performances out of Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. Even with many appearances by starters such as Sidney Ponson and Carl Pavano, the Yankees remained a team with above average pitching. For the offseason, however, two big pitchers in Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina have filed for free agency and the rumors are swirling around about Yankee interest in C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. Using CAIRO projection system for the projections and CHONEs for the defensive projections, let's take a look at the various options the Yankees have for their 2009 rotation.
As it stands, here is the Yankees 2009 payroll.
Now, grabbing some things from MLB Trade Rumors Offseason Outlook, here is how the roster adds up.
SP - Chien-Ming Wang - $4MM+ [21.6 RSAR]
SP - Joba Chamberlain - $400K [29.2 RSAR]
SP - Phil Hughes - $407K [13.9 RSAR]
SP - Ian Kennedy - $400K [11.9 RSAR]
SP - Alfredo Aceves - $400K [14.4 RSAR]
RP - Mariano Rivera - $15MM [21 RSAR]
RP - Brian Bruney - $725K+ [1 RSAR]
RP - Jose Veras - $400K [3 RSAR]
RP - Edwar Ramirez - $400K [8 RSAR]
RP - Phil Coke - $400K [CAIRO has no RP data]
RP - David Robertson - $400K [16.5 RSAR]
RP - Dan Giese - $400K [6 RSAR]
Starting with the pitching, it doesn't look especially great as is. If we sub in Chris Britton for Phil Coke, we get 15.1 Wins Above Replacement for the pitching. This bullpen is only 60.5 RSAR, compared to last year's 64 RSAR. That's two losses from simply the bullpen.This rotation looks to be solid for 91 RSAR, compared to last year's 67 RSAR. Considering replacement level to be roughly 945 runs scored, this pitching looks good for 793 runs allowed. Remember, however, in this projection those 5 starters combined for 661 IP, or 132.2 IP per starter, and the rest being filled with replacement level pitching. Hopefully, the real starters would be able to provide more than that.
Overall, this team allow 811 runs when you factor in fielding. With their current lineup, it would be good for a Pythagorean record of 81-81. Given that this team is using replacement level Juan Miranda and near replacement level Brett Gardner in the lineup and has Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, and Alfredo Aceves pitching for less than 400IP in the rotation, things are not that bad if the Yankees strut their money. In the words of FanGraphs, the Evil Empire is preparing to reload. Last year, the payroll was around $210MM. Let's see the starting pitching options for 2009.
CC Sabathia [53 RSAR]Most Yankees fans, however, want C.C. Sabathia. This guy starting pitcher is currently set at 53 runs saved above replacement. Essentially, he's over 40 runs better than one of the Yankees' current starters. Teixeira and Sabathia have virtually the same overall gains for the Yankees. Personally, I'd go with Teixeira simply because I trust Teixeira's attrition rate more than Sabathia's. They're both excellent players who will command over 20 million per year in free agency this year but questions with long term pitching commitments makes me prefer Teix. If the Yankees get Sabathia or Teix (or both), it'll be great for the team. It wouldn't surprise me to see Sabathia get 25 million per year.
AJ Burnett [37 RSAR]CAIRO has placed AJ Burnett at 37 runs above replacement. Burnett has been known for his lack of durability but fantastic stuff. His fastball averaged 94.3 miles per hour last year. He's already proven in the AL East. Other Yankees sites, such as NoMaas, have chosen a standpoint against Burnett because of his injury history. In a nutshell, Burnett will add 2-3 wins to the Yankees if he is healthy, but his health is the question.
Ben Sheets [33 RSAR]Ben Sheets deserved a Cy Young in his career at least once. His control and stuff are both great. Sheets has a plus curve and a plus fastball which averaged at 92.6 mph last year. When he's healthy, this man is an ace. Unfortunately, his injury issues have been hindering across his entire career. CAIRO put Sheets at 33 RSAR -- roughly the same as Jake Peavy out of PETCO. I'm thinking that Sheets doesn't get as much money as Burnett this offseason. Sheets would be a fine addition to the rotation over a Kennedy or a Hughes.
Mike Mussina [27.2 RSAR]Mike Mussina is currently leaning toward retirement, I last heard, but I would love to resign this man. CAIRO believes he'll be 27.2 runs above replacement. He'd be a great 1-1.5 win gain over anyone else in the rotation. He'll be 40 next year, but this future Hall of Famer would be welcome back with open arms.
Andy Pettitte [25.6 RSAR]CAIRO is equally optimistic about Andy Pettitte with 25.6 RSAR predicted. Last year, Andy posted a 3.74 FIP, which means luck (or the terrible defense the Yankees were placing on the field) was against him in 2008. A stable rock in the rotation, Pettitte has posted over 200 IP every year for the past 4 years. He only wants a one-year contract from the Yankees. He most likely won't get 16 million again. Andy Pettitte is a great sign for the Yankees and I would love to have him in the rotation for another year.
Derek Lowe [37 RSAR]Lowe is a supposed bargain of the free agency this year and he has the potential to be a very good pitcher. CAIRO is predicting 37 RSAR for Lowe and Lowe, most likely, will not demand as much money as the other top flight pitchers this year. He mostly throws a sinker, which is dominant when he is on. This, however, is the reason why I believe he may not be the perfect fit for the Yankees. His GB/FB ratio is almost always above 3 and he is amazing when he has a great infield defense. Depending on how Jeter, A-Rod, and Cano play their gloves, he may not be able to perform to his true potential. I really do love Derek Lowe and I do feel that he is a great bargain, but his potential for the Yankees may not be as high as it is with other teams.
Oliver Perez [10.8 RSAR]
CAIRO essentially tells me what I've always thought about Oliver Perez. He's not a very good pitcher. He's only seen as 10.8 runs above replacement. Perez does maintain a great strikeout rate but his control is very erratic. He struck out 180 but walked 105 last year. Looking at SBNation's very own Beyond the Box Score, Perez has a FIP+ of 91. He could potentially rebound, but I don't want to see this guy on the Yankees.
Jon Garland [17.3 RSAR]Like Perez, I don't like Garland, but I prefer Garland to Perez. His FIP+ was 89 last year and CAIRO thinks he'll be 17 runs above replacement. Jon Garland has always been a low K low BB inning eater -- very dependable. He uses a sinker, curve, and change to get outs and has a career 1.29 GB/FB ratio. Overall, Garland is probably worth 9-10 million, but I don't want the Yankees to grab him. He just isn't up to par with the other pitchers.
Jake Peavy [33 RSAR]
Grabbing numbers from Replacement Level Yankees (I suggest checking them out; they've got great stuff), Peavy is only 33 RSAR when you take him out of PETCO. That's 20 runs worse than Sabathia and 4 worse than Burnett. Realistically, Peavy is going to demand a massive amount of talent, a payraise because of the league switch, and his contract isn't exactly a bargain. I, personally, do not want Jake Peavy. His performance is simply not good enough for the Yankees when you consider all of the resources it will take to get him.
Sabathia, Lowe, Sheets, Mussina, and Pettitte are the main free agent pitchers I would love to sign. All of them would improve the Yankees by 1-4 wins and wouldn't require a trade, like Peavy. If the Yankees want to have a payroll around 200 million, they have 54 million in spending. They still have holes in RF and 1B. My personal plan is to sign Sabathia and bring back Pettitte, leaving the 5th rotation spot for everyone to fight over. We have starting pitching depth -- let's use it.
At this point, let's look at the new plan.
|2008 AL Average:||162||1444.43||170.6|
|2009 NY Regressed:||162||1444.43||218||$59,325,000.00||$2,721,294.66|
|RA||RS||Wins||Losses||Payroll||Marginal Win $|
* Chamberlain made only 16 starts in this; Aceves made 28.
Essentially, this team would be a 740 runs allowed team. Together with our current offense, it would be an 88.26 win team. We've used 36-39MM of our 54-64MM payroll reserve, however. With 18-28 million left, we can move to improving our bullpen and/or lineup. Remembering that the Rays won the division with 97 wins, can the Yankees pull 10 more wins out of this offseason and become the favorites for the American League East?