Hello, wonderful Pinstripe Alley readers. I apologize for contributing little during spring training. March is never an easy schedule for me, but thankfully it is coming to an end and the Yankees season will soon officially begin! And with that, it's time to improve all of your days with my beautiful writing and opinions!
There's been a lot of storylines in spring so far, and I'll touch on all of them in this post. First about that piece of shit known as Raul Ibanez, who's .070 batting average (or something around there) will be brought with him into the regular season as he gets regular ABs against right handed pitching! I haven't commented much lately, but I have made it a point that I think Ibanez is completely washed up at 40 years old and it ticks me off that the Yankees went out of their way to get this guy and possibly create an NL-type lineup of 8 hitters and one automatic out. The stats have been awful, and while I know it's only spring training, he was pretty bad last year too. And anybody who has watched his ABs can tell that he looks completely lost and overmatched at the plate. Oh, but he hit that home run once! So I guess it's all good right???
In all seriousness, I want Ibanez cut. I wish they'd never signed him in the first place. In all likelihood, he'll be given some time during actual games to work himself out. I wouldn't count on it, but if so I hope for the best. If he doesn't, the sooner he's gone the better.
Now onto the main idea of this post. The Yankees starting rotation is always a big topic during spring training and this year is no different. The difference is that this year, people expect it to be a major strength of this team, as do I. I'm very excited with the pitching this year and the pitching in the system. With the surplus of young arms with high ability, I think it will be a long time before this team has to worry about the rotation. And if they truly are going to get that payroll under 189 million, then I'm excited to see some of those kids get an opportunity in the coming years.
CC Sabathia is obviously guaranteed a spot. He's "thin" again and we all know he's going to get back to his normal status of "more wide than he is tall" by the All-Star break. He's also still amazingly durable, consistent, and one of the best aces in all of baseball. He's on the team for a long time, and we're all lucky to have him. Don't take guys like this for granted people- they don't come around often. The only other long-term deal for a pitcher in recent memory that has worked out for the Yankees was Mike Mussina. It's a shame they couldn't get him a ring, but hopefully Sabathia can get a few more over the next 5-6 years.
Hiroki Kuroda is set to follow CC in the rotation and is likely going to pitch Game 2 of the season against the Rays at the Trop (LOL). Kuroda is very consistent and is kind of like Freddy in a way. He doesn't rely on overpowering stuff, but much more finesse. He's going to throw a variety of pitches at you and outsmart the hitters. He's been very successful with it. Keep in mind though, Kuroda is no sure bet. Yes, he was very good last season. He's also old, and his success came in an enormous ballpark in the weakest division in baseball. I'm expecting him to have success here, but it will be interesting as to how his stuff and ability will translate in a new environment and new competition.
Those are your two "sure things", as Joe Girardi calls them. We all expected a battle for the fifth spot, but Joe made it clear from the beginning that it was a battle for the final three spots. And seeing as two of those guys still have options and how spring training has gone, no decision should shock people. If it were me, Pineda, Nova and Hughes get the nods while they look to trade Garcia to another team for a prospect or bench piece, or someone better than Ibanez. Yes, Garcia was productive last year. But it was an extreme outlier compared to other years he's had recently and therefore it's a big question mark of whether or not he can repeat that success. And most of all, they don't need him. All he'd do is take a spot away from a younger pitcher with far more upside who is going to be with the team for more than just this season. Those last three spots need to go to Nova, Pineda, and Hughes. And here is my quick thoughts on each of them...
Michael Pineda I believe should start the third game of the season. All the talk has been about his fastball velocity and it's laughable to me how people are so concerned at this point. The kid is 23 years old, it's not like he's in bad shape, and he just came off a year where he had the third highest average fastball velocity in all of baseball. That doesn't go away. His velocity has been steadily increasing in each start, he hit 94 on the gun multiple times in his most recent outing, and it's still spring training. Like All-Star catcher Russell Martin said, the velocity should continue to increase as he builds arm strength and gets into more heated competition. To me this is a classic example of making a story out of nothing. Pineda's fastball velocity is the last thing people should be worried about, and I'm excited to see what the hard-throwing righty will bring to the table this season. If it's May 1st and he's still not throwing hard, then I'll start worrying a little bit. But it's not even April 1st.
Ivan Nova had a breakout year last year and based on that I don't see how anyone could keep him from the rotation. It's just not fair to him. A fabulous 16-4 record, an ERA that got better every start and an excellent ground ball rate, Nova has thoroughly earned a rotation spot for 2012. Spring Training has been up and down for him, but nobody goes from pitching in two huge playoff games as the number two starter to sent to the minor leagues the next spring. It just doesn't happen.
And finally, Phil Hughes in my opinion has earned the final rotation spot. He's in great shape, has had a great spring and the velocity problems that hindered him last year seem to be behind him. His problem is still putting people away and hopefully he improves that this year, but Hughes was a #1 prospect for a reason. That also doesn't just go away. If he can stay healthy, he can be very valuable this year. Especially as a back-end arm.
So sorry to Freddy Garcia, and while I'm on Garcia I'd like to talk about someone else who may be giving the Yankees the same type of problem Freddy is. Except this has the potential to be more than just a hindrance. Let me first say that there is no Yankees fan who doesn't appreciate what Andy Pettitte has done for this team. There's also no Yankee fan who wouldn't have taken him back last year, with a rotation with CC, and then the headcase Burnett, the rookie Nova, and two guys north of 35 who hadn't had success in a while. Especially if you'd been told ahead of time what would happen with Hughes' season. He's one of the best starting pitchers this team has ever had. He's started and won countless huge, must-win games, been a consistent starting pitcher for a long time and is a warrior, clubhouse favorite and fan favorite. If you'd ask any Yankees fan who they'd want on the mound in Game 7 of the World Series, I can guarantee plenty of them would say Andy Pettitte. His Yankee legacy will never be replaced and there's a shot he'll be in Monument Park one of these days. And I thank him for every one of those memories. I'll always love Andy Pettitte.
That said, my opinion on him coming back for this season? I don't like it. To be completely honest, I don't like it at all. I know he wants to come back and sure, depth is nice. But Andy is going to do the same thing Garcia might do. Except with Andy it's almost a sure thing. He's going to take a spot away from a young pitcher. This destroys any chance David Phelps or Adam Warren have of seeing the majors before September, first of all. This greatly increases the chance Phil Hughes goes to the bullpen because he "has experience" there. And this also increases the chance that Ivan Nova or Michael Pineda go down to the minors when they may not deserve to. All just so the 40 year old Andy Pettitte can make a comeback.
I love Andy, but it's time to move on. I want to see the young pitchers get an opportunity. These are the guys who are going to be pitching for this organization for the next bunch of years. I want to see them. I want to see Andy Pettitte pitch in Old Timers Day and on Yankees Classics. Otherwise, as a coach, broadcaster, whatever it is. But as a pitcher taking a spot away from a younger player the moment he's ready to throw 100 pitches? That I'm against. If he's going to come back, at least have him earn his spot. Or treat him truly as depth, bringing him up only if there's an injury or someone is ineffective. That still may happen, but it sounds like he's going to get a spot whether it makes sense for him to or not. And I don't think thats fair.
Lets see, what else? Oh right. Alex freaking Rodriguez. The
guy horse looks great. He's in terrific shape, he's hitting the ball squarely, and he's using the whole field. The key for him is always going to be to stay healthy. But he's had a terrific spring so far and hopefully he can carry that into the season and be a lethal threat out of the cleanup spot again. When he goes on one of those ridiculous streaks only he can go on where he hits 6 or 7 home runs in a week, that helps this team and ensures that Cano gets fastballs to hit ahead of him. And it's truly pick your poison.
Granderson and Swisher need to get healthy. I'm not to worried about them though. So long as they're good to go on Opening Day. Same goes with D-Rob.
Joba Chamberlain's injury just sucks. I truly feel bad for the guy. I can't get mad at him for playing with his son. It's a completely natural thing to do. It's not like he was trying to hurt himself. Shit happens. The best result possible came from the surgery and there's still a shot we see him this year. So hopefully he makes a speedy recovery and gets back into the Yankees bullpen.
I think I've touched upon everything important. Hopefully Granderson builds off 2011, Teixeira relearns how to hit and Cano continues to be an MVP candidate. Otherwise, good luck to the Yankees this year. Let the march to #28 begin.