Baseball Analysts recently looked at the top strikeout and groundball pitchers of 2008, and the Yankees have several of them.
Those two stats are very important for pitchers. Strikeouts mean there's no reliance on fielders (a key for the Yankees sub-par defense), no chance the hitter reaches base, and no chance for runners to advance. Groundballs mean there's no chance for a home-run and very little chance for an extra-base hit.
Anyway, CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett ranked 3rd and 4th (respectively) in the 'Northeast' quadrant, which holds the top K and GB pitchers (and is the best group to be in for reasons stated above). Surprisingly, Mike Mussina (19th) and Andy Pettitte (22nd) also placed in the group.
I would have thought Burnett, after having a career year, might be appearing here for the first time, but that's not the case. He's been (along with Sabathia) in the 'Northeast' group each of the last three years. This is great news. And the fact that Pettitte is on the list should mean a 'bounce back' year from him - his .500 record and inflated ERA were due more to bad luck, as evidenced by this study.
Moving to relievers, we see a similar picture, as Mo Rivera and Joba Chamberlain ranked 4th and 8th (respectively) in the 'Northeast' group. (Quick aside: the only reason Joba places among relievers is that he had more relief appearances than starts, despite having more 'starter innings' than relief innings.)
What this all means is that 80% of our rotation is among the league leaders in two extremely important pitching stats; Wang ain't no slouch either, consistently ranking among the groundball leaders.
So as usual, it will come down to health. If Burnett, Joba and Wang (the most likely injury victims) stay healthy, and produce like they have been, and everyone else performs even close to expectations, the Yankees will make the playoffs.
- A Red Sox website published a preview of the AL East that I contributed to.