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Thinking About Playoff Caliber Rotations

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The NY papers have been unkind to the Yanks in their preseason predictions.

Tyler Kepner thinks the Yanks will miss the playoffs. The illustrious George A. King III echoes that sentiment. Joel Sherman sees the Yanks second to the Sox. Bill Madden actually picked the Blue Jays to win the division, and the Yanks to fall to third.

The consensus all around is that the Yanks young pitching just won't hold up. Without a Santana, or at least a Joe Blanton, the Yankees have too many "neophytes" to contend.

So what kind of players have built playoff rotations in the last five years? I took the AL playoff teams 2003-2007 and organized their top starters by IP into four tiers, 20 pitchers in each tier. Here's the breakdown:

A quick note: I calculated each stat line individually. So what we're see there is the best K/9 grouped with the best BB/9 even if that wasn't the average real world pairing. I did this because I wasn't willing to pick one stat to use as the sorting key. So, rather than define what it is to be an ace, I'm trying to give us some common reference points that we can value differently.

Now, the analysis:
First off, these numbers don't take offense or defense into account in any way. A 950 run offense like the Yanks could easily make the playoffs without a '1' contribution, if the rotation balances between 2 and 3.

The thing that really strikes me is that IP is the only mark that I'd consider really out of reach for the Trinity. The 1 and 2 marks are all within the range of their minor league stats, and of the various projection systems only CHONE predicts even vaguely 'bad years' for the Trinity.

That said, the chart really underscores the Yankees' weakness in 2008. And, no Mr. King (the Third), it's not that the rotation is inexperienced. The great risk is that the Trinity simply aren't available to pitch more innings than the average 4th starter on a contender. This means opening up more innings to other pitchers. I have total faith in the Trinity, the season will turn on the performance of the pitchers used to start the other 25 or so games.