Finally Time to Talk Postseason Rotation

People have been trying to put a postseason rotation together since August, and now many should be realizing how ridiculous that is. I'm willing to bet that people's opinions of who belong in the starting rotation during the postseason at this time has changed at least 20 times if not more over the last month of the year. But it's coming to a time where Joe Girardi and the Yankees staff needs to make a decision on this matter. And while they each have one start left to make an impression, the decision is going to be based a lot on what they've already put together. 

So without further ado, time to look into the options that the Yankees have to start a playoff game. So in no particular order, the Yankees have...









CC Sabathia







A.J. Burnett







Ivan Nova







Freddy Garcia







Bartolo Colon







Phil Hughes








These are the stats that the Yankees six starters have for the season, which no doubt Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman will take some look at. It's clear here that there's two pitchers who have separated themselves from the rest, and they're going to be numbers 1-2 during any playoff series that the Yankees play (hopefully three). The other four are sort of lumped together, and while Colon looks better than the other three that is more of a result of a CC-like first half. He has pitched nothing like those numbers for a good portion of the second half of the season. 

As for what I think the Yankees should look at when they construct their playoff rotation, there's three things I think they should look at. First and foremost it's how they finished the season. Look at September numbers and September performances. See if they looked strong, if their stuff looked good and if they seem fresh and ready for the playoffs. These should be looked at more than the full season numbers, because the full season numbers are greatly impacted by periods in say May or June when they may have been dominant (like Colon). Those months have made Colon's entire season look better, but what good is May and June going to do the Yankees now? The answer is nothing. The playoffs are a new season. Regular season stats are out the window and they need to go with the guys that are pitching well. So I'll go through and evaluate each starter more carefully, and then I'll make the decision I would make based off that.

1. CC Sabathia

He's fat, he's the ace, and he's the Game 1 starter. Nothing will change that. His September numbers are very good. His season numbers are excellent. And even after the innings he's thrown he looks incredibly strong out on the mound and the stuff is clearly there. He has compiled a WAR that is more than double anybody else on the Yankees staff, and there's nobody else I want on the mound during the playoffs. The Yankees should strongly consider pitching him on short rest if possible to get him on the mound, rather than go an extra game with a less reliable guy.

2. Ivan Nova

He's had an excellent rookie year, and he's in the conversation for Rookie of the Year. But thats not the reason I'd place him in the #2 spot. He's the only starter who has improved on his season as it's gone on, rather than dropped off a bit. He's gotten better as the year has gone on, and while the season numbers look solid, he's really pitched like an All-Star caliber starting pitcher in the second half, and thats the guy we're getting right now. 

3. Bartolo Colon

Colon has been an incredibly wise investment by Brian Cashman, and even if he does nothing else he was one of the best signings that Cash could have done. He's been brilliant. But while the season numbers for Bartolo look very good, the second half has simply been a different story. His second half ERA is over 5, the batting average against him is almost .300, and he's gotten worse as the second half has gone on. The ERA has jumped to well over 6 in September. His K/9 is much less in the second half. His stuff doesn't have as much movement and he's not throwing as hard as he did early on, and he's paying for it. There are some positives to him, but by no means is he or should he be a lock for the playoff rotation.

4. Phil Hughes

Let me first say that I'm a fan of Phil Hughes. I like homegrown players and I still believe that Phil has a bright future, and a bright future with the Yankees. But by future, I mean next year. Not 2011. Hughes has been absolutely terrible the season as he's been hurt by both injury and ineffectiveness. After an awful start to the year and a long DL stint, he's come back and while he's been better not nearly good enough to inspire confidence. He's become sort of the new Freddy and getting lucky quite often. He is one of the worst pitchers in the AL as far as missing bats goes, and he spends a good majority of his time pitching up in the strike zone. He can get away with it against lesser teams. But in the playoffs, these are good teams and he's not going to get away with it there. Add in the fact that he hurt himself and will be lucky if he even gets another regular season start, he shouldn't even be considered for a rotation spot at this point. If he is, I'll be unhappy and I'll just hope his string of luck continues.

5. Freddy Garcia

Part 2 of Brian Cashman's scrap collection has also given the Yankees great results, and more than anyone could have hoped for. However, like Colon Garcia's pitching has really wavered in the second half after a brilliant (and arguably very lucky) first half. In the second half, Garcia's ERA is about 5, a Whip of 1.50 and a BAA of just under .290. And in three September starts since his minor DL stint, he has compiled an ERA of over 10 and an inability to get through 5 innings in any of his September starts. In addition to that, Garcia's pitching style, like 2011 Hughes is just one that I hate in playoff matchups. I depends on the team obviously, but Garcia like Hughes has an inability to miss bats, and Garcia's stuff isn't anywhere near Hughes' stuff. If he's not perfect with his command against these playoff teams, then there's a good chance he gets crushed as he has often over the last month. However, he's had a great season so he can't be ruled out quite yet.

6. A.J. Burnett

I've always been incredibly optimistic about him. I supported his signing and I've been on his side from day one and that isn't going to change. AJ has to be the most difficult pitcher to figure out in the major leagues. He's also the guy on this staff where the numbers reflect his season the least. Aside from the month of August, AJ Burnett has had a decent year. He's shown an ability to get strikeouts again (which he lost last year), has been better at limiting jams and has been very reliable at at the very least, getting through at least 5 innings. He has a high ERA because when he goes bad, he really goes bad. And that was pretty much all of August where he had a two week stretch that his entire season numbers won't ever forgive him for.

However, he's righted the ship in September for the most part aside from his last start against the Twins. The stuff has been there, the strikeouts have certainly been there and he's limited damage (which he wasn't able to do the previous month). He even had a great game against Boston that seemed to send them into a tailspin. And looking at his season numbers, his ERA is high, but his xFIP is third best on the staff and his K/9 is second best on the staff. Stuff-wise, he's been much improved since his historically bad August. 

But would that make you want to trust him in a playoff game? I have no idea. He possesses some qualities that I think are very important in the playoffs. The ability and stuff to shut the best lineups down. Swing and miss stuff (which at this point, the only other starter that has that is CC). Out of all the guys in contention for the last two spots, he's the one with the best chance to be dominant. He also has the best chance to blow up, throw three or four balls by Russell Martin in an inning and completely lose it. We've seen it all from AJ this year. He's high risk, high reward. The question is, do the Yankees take that risk? We'll see.

Well, there's my personal evaluation of each pitcher at this point in the season. Garcia, Burnett and Colon each have one more start while Phil Hughes may or may not have one more start (I'm guessing not, but we'll see). None of them have been too inspiring lately. Each have their pluses and minuses, but in an ALDS matchup, one of them is going to pitch. In an ALCS or World Series, two of those guys are going to have to pitch. So the Yankees will need to make that decision.

For me, missing bats is very important in the playoffs, as are September numbers. While neither Colon or AJ have been fantastic in the second half, those two guys have the biggest positives in any particular playoff start. So those are the guys I go with. For an ALDS, depends on the team they play. But for a 7 game set, it's CC-Nova-Colon-AJ for me with Colon and AJ getting just one start each.

Of course, my opinion means nothing but it's fun to speculate. What would you do?

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