Starting rotation is rounding back into shape during recent run

Mike Stobe

After some bumps in the road earlier in the year, the Yankees' starting pitching has started to right the ship during recent weeks.

The Yankees' starting pitching was supposed to be a strength heading into 2013, and for a while it was. Unfortunately, it became a bit of a weakness when three-fifths of the rotation started to struggle. However, during the Yankees' strong play of late, the starting pitching, to go along with the middle of the order, has done its job of late to get the team back in the playoff race, as shown below:

Starts IP ERA K/9 BB/9 HR/9
Hiroki Kuroda 2 13.2 1.98 8.6 0.6 0
Ivan Nova 3 20.2 3.48 6.5 1.7 0
Andy Pettitte 3 17 1.05 5.8 4.2 0.5
CC Sabathia 3 18.2 5.30 6.2 5.3 1.4
Phil Hughes 3 16.1 4.96 9.4 1.6 1.6
Combined 14 86.1 3.44 7.2 2.7 0.8

Now, although the starting rotation overall has looked solid, there are still a couple holes in the back end, but I'll get to that later. First, let's start with Hiroki Kuroda. What can I say, the guy has been tremendous. No matter how you play with the endpoints (2.41 ERA, .618 OPS against in 2013; 1.34 ERA, .576 OPS against since July; 1.98 ERA, .643 OPS against last two weeks) he has been tremendous. An absolute stud. A true ace.

Next is Ivan Nova. He has been alright in this 11-3 stretch, but that doesn't do him justice. He has been very solid since late-June, pitching to a 2.54 ERA while holding opposing batsmen to a .618 OPS against. After a disastrous 2012 which left most wondering if he could ever go back to being an effective starter, Nova has shown he can and then some. Hopefully he can keep it up.

Although the strikeout and walk numbers for Andy Pettitte haven't been spectacular in his last few starts, he's limiting the long ball, and even the first inning runs in his recent two outings, have played a part in him pitching to a shiny 1.05 ERA these last two weeks. Pettitte looked just about finished from late April to right about now, pitching to a bloated 5.48 ERA and .806 OPS against, so hopefully these last few starts are a sign of things to come for the 41-year-old. It hasn't been talked about too much, but this could very well be Andy's final season and I sure hope he can finish it off on a high note.

Here's where we get to the weak part of the starting staff, starting with CC Sabathia. CC's 2013 has been very tough to watch. You can point to a bunch of things: his declined velocity, his weight loss, coming off of off-season elbow surgery, and him being 33 years old and having more than 2,700 innings under his belt could all be reasons to his struggles. Whatever it is, the team desperately needs him to figure it out. Unless there's an injury (it could be the elbow), the Yankees obviously aren't going to pull him out of the rotation. He needs to turn this nightmare of a year around and fast.

Phil Hughes, although the numbers don't show it in the graph above which include his last three starts, has been alright in his previous two starts, allowing five runs in his last 12 innings (3.75 ERA). Two starts is really nothing, but maybe this could be a start of a turnaround for Phil. In those last two starts, he has thrown his change up (12%) more than he had all season prior (6%), and has really shied away from his curve (5%) and has used his slider (31%) as his main secondary offering. Perhaps this fastball, slider-changeup combo could help Phil finish off his 2013 season which is likely his final one in New York.

Having Kuroda, Nova, and now Pettitte form what could hopefully be a solid front three is nice, but even then the team will probably need one of Sabathia or Hughes to turn it around/keep improving for this team to make the playoffs. The 11-3 start is nice, but that's all it is, a start. They still have a long ways to go if they want to pull this thing off. The rotation will play a big role into this team potentially making the playoffs and hopefully the success will continue.

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