I've been thinking about this since almost the moment the Yankees added Pineda and Kuroda to the rotation. It was inspired by the ideas proposed in the comments section of my next-day reaction post, those voices strongly in the corner of Freddy Garcia as not even the #5 starter, but the #2 right behind CC. I don't think that will happen, and truth be told, the order of the rotation is really only important when the season begins and in the last month of the regular through the playoffs. So in constructing my rotation for this season, I envisioned it heading into a 4-game postseason series.
1) CC Sabathia
Every good rotation needs an ace at the top, and CC has been nothing short of that since he first put on the pinstripes. He's big, he's strong, he can give you a ton of innings, he strikes guys out, he limits damage, he's pitched in a ton of big games before, and his performance backs up the big contract he was given this offseason. The Yankees are building the rotation for the future, but CC is still the head of the rotation right now. In a big game, who else would you rather have taking the ball?
2) Michael Pineda
I've heard all the arguments against him- struggled in the 2nd half, doesn't have a 3rd pitch, will get hurt pitching in Yankee Stadium, etc. But I've also seen the stuff he has and how it's worked for him, and I can point to his overall body of work last year, in his rookie season, and say that Pineda has the makings of a top-tier starting pitcher. I don't think the Yankees would trade away their best hitting prospect in a long time for a back-end starter, so why not give the kid this spot? He's got top-of-the-rotation stuff already; let him use it to grow into a top-of-the-rotation role.
3) Hiroki Kuroda
As much as I don't get too concerned with Pineda's negatives, knowing that they are there and could come up to bite him once or twice, I'd like to have a veteran pitcher behind him in the rotation, and that's exactly what Kuroda is. He won't blow anybody away with his stuff, but he knows how to pitch, he isn't going to get rattled by anything, and he can give you innings even when he isn't having his best stuff day. Kuroda would almost be like 2009 Andy Pettitte in this role, there to steady the ship if things in front of him get a little rocky.
4) Ivan Nova
While some have visions of the future #2 or #3 starter in their heads from the way he ended last season, the more likely case is that Nova tops out as a #4 starter. And to be a #4 starter with his potential is nothing to be ashamed of, so I'd like to see Nova down a bit in the order where he can work on improving his offspeed stuff and continue to build on the momentum from his strong finish to 2011. If Nova truly can replicate that success, then his ceiling will raise to that #2-#3 range and we all rejoice. But I'd rather let him see if he can reach that level in a low-stress role as the #4 guy.
Whether the Yankees end up going with Phil Hughes' potential, Freddy Garcia's recent track record, or A.J. Burnett's contract, I think the winner of the last rotation spot will be in exactly that spot. And with what each brings to the table, there really isn't a bad option in the bunch for what the Yankees will need from the 5th spot in the rotation.
It seems pretty cut and dry to me. You put your best in the best spots in the rotation. But maybe not everybody shares my thoughts. So what do you think, Yankee fans? How would your 2012 starting rotation look?