Let me start by getting this out of the way: Andy Pettite retired. Cliff Lee is Phillie. Everyone get over it. All the Yankees and their fans can focus on is the players they have, not the players that could have been should have been blah blah blah. The players we have are the players we have (until we get King Felix) – so buckle down, get batters outs, and win baseball games.
Let’s dig in.
A grizzly mix of veterans, young arms, and hot-tub-time-machine greats of the past.
#1. C.C. Sabathia, Lefty
Amidst a rotation full of chaos and question marks, C.C. Sabathia is the calm before the storm. He’s Mr. Reliable – has won 17+ games every year since 2006. He’s an absolute mule – he logs 200+ innings year in and year out without even blinking. He strikes out a ton of batters and keeps men off base. Most impressively, he is able to do all of this with ease and aplomb, handling the pressure of the New York media with as care-free an attitude as the lovable character he played in a 1967 Disney movie, the Jungle Book.
C.C. Sabathia with his uniform on.
C.C. Sabathia without his uniform on.
Many experts have C.C. regressing just a bit from his 2010 numbers. I’m going to go out on a short limb and disagree. Sabathia will eclipse his 21 win mark of last season, lower his ERA to just a tick undera 3.00, and finish second in the AL Cy Young voting, behind Justin Verlander and ahead of Jon Lester and King Felix. We all know what C.C. will bring to the table. The bottom line is he needs his supporting cast to step up.
ESPN Projected Stats: 18-11, 3.33 ERA
Laughlin Projected Stats: 23-6, 2.64 ERA
2. AJ Burnett, Righty
Burnett is, without a doubt, one of the most crucial compenents to this team and must prove that he can be a reliable #2 again. Unfortunately, he is also the biggest wild card heading into the 2011 season. New pitching coach Larry Rothschild has worked with Burnett to help simplify his often eratic windup and improve his command. All of the feedback so far has been positive on these adjustments. Burnett had a strong spring, is throwing as hard as he ever has, and has a self proclaimed new, refreshed focus on the game – at least, that’s according AJ. Burnett’s biggest issue in 2010 was his mental toughness, or lack there of, plummeting a once consistent big league pitcher into an unrecognizable image of someone that belonged in the minors (10-15 record, 5.26 ERA). No coach can help a pitcher from getting in his own way.s That is all up to AJ. The way I see it, Burnett tasted the bottom (set the franchise record for highest ERA in a season with 180+ IP), and hated hit. For Burnett, the only way is up…or out.
ESPN Projected Stats: 12-10, 4.23 ERA
Laughlin Projected Stats: 14-8, 4.04 ERA
3. Phil Hughes, Righty
Hughes looks to build upon a strong 2010 where he won 18 games and, for the first half of the season, showed everyone what all the fuss was about him. I doubt that he will be able to reach that win total again this season (his run support was ridiculous last year), but I do expect a slightly more mature Hughes to drop his ERA and more importantly, straighten out an otherwise forgettable second half of last season and be a bit more consistent.
ESPN Projected Stats: 13-9, 3.90 ERA
Laughlin Projected Stats: 15-9, 3.65 ERA
4. Ivan Nova, Righty
Nova is still unrefined but has great potential. According to many scouts (and I agree), he could be considered a legit #3 starter by the end of the season. Nova throws hard (93-95mph fastball, can hit 97mph), but lacks a strong enough off-speed pitch to log the amount of strikeouts that a pitcher with his arm should be notching. He’s still very young though and has a steep upside given some time to mature and develop his pitch mix. The thing with Nova is, and our #5 starter for that matter, he just needs to keep us in a game for five to six innings – no one is expecting him to go out and throw seven innings of one run ball every game. Our bullpen is solid and deep enough and our offense is down right scary. Just keep us in the game youngster, the big boys will do the rest.
ESPN Projected Stats: 9-8, 4.46 ERA
Laughlin Projected Stats: 8-8, 4.39 ERA
5. Freddy Garcia, Righty
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on Freddy Garcia because I don’t think he’ll make it past May as a starter. He was outpitched by Bartolo Colon in Spring Training, but given the #5 spot because he actually started major league games last season. All I can say is a mid 80’s fastball in the AL East is like Rosanne in an Old Country Buffet.
Hoagies and grinders!
ESPN Projected Stats: 4-6, 5.12 ERA
Laughlin Projected Stats: 3-6, 5.88 ERA
5b. Bartolo Colon, Righty
To be honest, I was a bit surprised that Colon got snubbed for the last spot in the rotation in favor of Freddy Garcia. Colon pitched well in the spring and showed command of good pitches. This will inherently shorten Garcia’s leash to start the season, and will be quickly replaced if he shits the bed early on. I have a hunch that 2011 will be a Renaissance for Colon – no where close to resembling his Cy Young year in 2005 – but solid enough to keep games close while throwing strikes and managing a game like a veteran pitcher should. If this doesn’t happen, my fear is that a Garcia/Colon #5 carousel will swing ’round-and-’round long enough for the Yankees to become so fed up, that they rush Manny Banuelos up to the majors (that is, of course, before they trade for King Felix).
ESPN Projected Stats: NA
Laughlin Projected Stats: 11-7, 4.19 ERA
“I’ve come to the conclusion that the two most important things in life are good friends and a good bullpen.” – Bob Lemon (NYY Manager 1978-1979)
They also forget the luxury that is on your middle relievers and starters to have your 8th and 9th inning completely taken care of. Despite the uncertainty in the starters, it’s nice to know that if you only get 5 innings out of a starter, you only need 2 innings out of your middle relievers and the rest is, well, taken care of.
Middle Relievers – Overall, I am confident in this group to be able to scrap together 2 innings of solid work. I am not going to comment on all of them, only one.
– Joba Chamberlain, Righty – Joba claims his added weight in the off season is all muscle. He claims he built a gym in his basement. I’m convinced that the equipment he had installed was a kegerator.
– Bartolo Colon/Freddy Garcia, Righties
– David Robertson, Righty
– Boone Logan, Lefty
– Luis Ayala, Righty
– Pedro Feliciano, Lefty (DL)
– Damaso Marte, Lefty (DL)
(Set-Up) Rafael Soriano, Righty
Fans of baseball and the media have been focusing so much on the question marks surrounding the starting five that they forget that the Yanks signed one of the most electric, young relievers in the game, Rafael Soriano. Basically, we have one of the top 5 closers in the league as our set-up man. Yup.
(Closer) Mariano Rivera, Righty
Will Mariano Rivera continue to be the best closer in the history of baseball at age 41? You bet your ass!
Cutter #1, Cutter #2, Cutter #3. You’re out. Game over.
Here’s one not-so-bold prediction to close out the pitching preview.
– Andy Pettite will toy with the idea of coming out of retirement. When he doesn’t, the Yankees…
– ….will acquire King Felix at the trade deadline for Dellin Betances, Ivan Nova, an unnamed prospect, and a shit load of cash.
Yanks over Braves in 6 for their 28th!