The Yankees pitching staff is considered to be their strength and is likely to help keep their head above water while they wade through mediocrity and injury. At full strength the rotation might still be the strength of the team, with the bullpen, at least the back of the bullpen, holding strong.
Rotation: The Yankees rotation ranks at #5 in baseball and the third best in the American League behind the Tigers and Rangers. Dave Cameron believes that the Yankees will be dependent on their rotation, especially their starting three. Any team with CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Andy Pettitte is going to have a solid team and when you throw in positive seasons from Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and David Phelps the team can be even stronger.
Sabathia is predicted to have a season somewhere between his 2011 and 2012. He'll be back to well over 200 innings, so it doesn't seem he will miss any time from injury, even after missing time last year and having elbow surgery in the offseason. Kuroda is projected to have another big season in the Bronx and Pettitte will pitch an entire season, approaching his old workhorse status. Nova looks to be rebounding in 2013, but it looks like he'll be missing some time throughout the season. Hughes on the other hand looks likely to miss time and be a disappointment. After nearing 200 innings last season he is projected to barely make it over 100 with a decline in production.
David Phelps should be taking up those lost innings, but it looks like he will be sharing that time with Chien-Ming Wang, who will do a decent job as a fill in. It looks like Michael Pineda will only return to action for about a month and will not be the pitcher he was, at least not yet.
My Take - The Yankees are going to be dependent on their rotation, however I did not consider it to be that much better than the rest of the league. They are rated with the best rotation in the AL East by a decent margin. This is all dependent on very strong years from Sabathia, Kuroda and Pettitte, and while 'CC is CC' is a nice thing to say, it first needs proving after a 'down' year in 2012. Pettitte and Kuroda are both toss ups because of their age and incredible performances from last year. These projections believe that they will continue where they left off, even though Pettitte only pitched 75 innings. If Nova and Hughes are going to have such disappointing seasons then the top three are going to need to have big years to make up for it. I doubt Wang sees as much action as he's projected to see and I would hope that Pineda pitches more than 19 innings since he's projected to be back in June. The Yankees can have a great rotation, but it can also go very wrong. High-risk/high-reward, I suppose.
Bullpen: Any bullpen with Mariano Rivera is going to be near the top of the league. Sure enough the Yankees bullpen is ranked #3 in the league and the best in the American League. The Blue Jays and Red Sox are not far behind, but neither have the weapons that the Yankees have. Rivera is projected to be healthy, but have one of the worst seasons of his career. His 3.27 FIP would be the worst of his career and a 1.4 WAR season would liken to his 2002 season when he only pitched in 46 inning. Carson Cistulli believes that the projections are pessimistic towards Rivera because there are no precedents for a 43-year-old closer coming back from injury and being effective.
If Mariano Rivera is going to falter in his last season the rest of the bullpen is going to have to pick him up. David Robertson will have a season somewhere between his great 2012 and ridiculous 2011. Boone Logan looks to be duplicating his 2012 season and could make the most appearances for a reliever for a second straight year. Clay Rapada and David Aardsma have been cut from the team, but a healthy Joba Chamberlain should take over some of those innings.
My Take - If Mo is healthy enough to pitch a full year there's no way he doesn't have anything but a typical Mo season. It's nice to see that Robertson will be keeping his walk rate under 3, which is something he needs to do to ensure he can remain successful. Obviously, he was very successful in 2011 with a 4.73 walk rate, but that was because of a 13.5 strikeout rate. You can't count on being able to strike everyone out all the time, but we can hope. There is no way Logan will see that much time again after his elbow flair up this spring. He'll see less work and Joba will probably take on the grunt work now that he's healthy. Joba is going to have a better season than he's projected to have, but it won't be anything the Yankees will need to bring back next year. I'm also hopeful that Mark Montgomery will make it into the big league bullpen at some point and be successful. Whoever the Yankees bring in will be effective because, if there's one thing the team knows, it's how to put together a strong bullpen.
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