Monday, July 15, 2013

Reassessing The Yankee Rotation At The Break

(Courtesy of the AP)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

The All Star break has officially begun for the Yankees after the conclusion of yesterday afternoon's disaster show.  Rather than sit here and harp on how pathetic that game was, let's just focus on something positive and pick up where we left off last week with the bullpen.  After 95 games, the Yankee rotation is having another solid season.  A group that entered the season pretty much set in stone has collectively lived up to expectations, even if some of the individual performances getting there have been uneven and underwhelming.

At the break, the Yankee rotation sits top 15 in MLB in ERA (3.96), FIP (3.90), and K rates and 4th in fWAR (9.1).  That high WAR value can be attributed to this group's ability to pitch deep into games and limit walks.  They rank 7th in both BB/9 (2.35) and total IP (579.1).  Not surprising for a bunch of veterans who know how to pitch in YS3.  Moving into the second half, this is the one area that definitely doesn't need attention at the deadline.

The 1-2 tandem of CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda have have been rock solid if slightly unspectacular at the top of the rotation.  CC's struggles with diminished velocity are well-documented and the overall results are indicative of a player starting his decline.  His 4.07 ERA/4.05 FIP split are unfamiliar results for a pitcher with CC's reputation, as is the lower K rate and higher number of hard hit balls off him.  One good thing has been the lack of issue with his elbow.  Sabathia has made every start this year an leads the team in IP by a significant margin.  It is worth noting that his IP/start is less than 7 this season, the first time since his 2009 Yankee debut.

While CC has taken a bit of a step back this season, Kuroda has taken one forward.  He's improved slightly on all his key stats from last year and continues to solidify his reputation as one of the most calm, consistent, sneaky dominant starters in the league.  The fact that Chris Tillman and his ERA and FIP that are at least a run higher than Kuroda's got selected as an ASG replacement over Hirok is ridiculous.  Kuroda has slowly become the rock of this rotation, and once again he could be considered a dark horse Cy Young candidate if his offense could have gotten him a few more wins.

The middle of the rotation behind those 2 has been an area of concern all season, be it health or performance-related.  Andy Pettitte has had issues with his back since his first few starts and has already taken one trip on the DL for it.  The limitation of his off-day workload and his recent struggles fielding his position make it seem as though there are still some problems there, and that's before you get to his actual pitching results.  Phil Hughes is going out the same way he came in as a Yankee, inconsistent in everything except his ability to give up home runs.  Interest in him seems to be growing on the market, and if the Yankees can move him for something valuable they should really consider it.

The 5th spot has been its usual carousel of guys, with each actually showing something positive.  David Phelps has gotten burned by a couple of bad starts and walk problems, but he's still had a sub-4.00 FIP in 12 starts.  Ivan Nova has gone from the odd man out in April to the best pitcher on the staff in the last few weeks, and he may have secured the job for himself for the rest of the year.  And even Vidal Nuno, in limited innings, showed that he's got legitimate potential as a back end guy. Between those 3, the Yankees have gotten 2.3 fWAR from their 5 starting spot.  That's pretty damn good.

Looking forward, the question will be whether or not these guys can pitch well enough to carry the team to the playoffs.  If the Yanks are going to make it, that's what it's going to take.  They should listen to any and all offers for Phil Hughes, who figures to generate the most non-Matt Garza action in the next few weeks.  With Michael Pineda now fully recovered from his shoulder surgery and pitching in Triple-A, the replacement/upgrade option is already in-house and 6th starter insurance still exists in Phelps once he returns from his forearm strain.  This year's rotation has been a good group, no doubt about that.  They just might not be good enough to carry the rest of the team over the next 67 games.

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