Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Starting Pitching For The Win (no, really)

The Yankees, at the present moment, easily have the best offense in all of baseball. They lead in home runs, OBP, total bases, OPS and walks, and are on pace to score over 100 more runs than last year. Scoring 1000 runs looks unlikely at this point, but it is not entirely out of the question.

For all that the offense has done, however, it's not the reason that Yankee fans are getting excited about this autumn.

A great offense can help you get to October, but, as the Yankees have seen first hand in recent years, it won't help you stay there.

The difference this year, as it is in any year in which a team is a serious contender, is the pitching.

Just think about this:

In 2008, the Yankees had games started by Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte, sure, but then also Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Chien Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain, Dan Giese, Darrell Rasner, Sidney Ponson, Alfredo Aceves, Kei Igawa and Carl Pavano (and probably others I can't remember).

In 2009, thus far, the Yankees have had games started by CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain, and then, only in the fifth spot do you see the variation of Chien Ming Wang, Phil Hughes and Sergio Mitre.

It's not just that the quality of pitching has been better this season, but it's also been more consistent. With the exception of Wang, starters are making start after start and, even if they struggle, still manage to find a way to keep the Yankees in the game.''

Since the All Star break, every Yankee starter has gone at least five innings, and every starter not named Sergio Mitre has gone six. Most have gone seven innings, and while the Yankees are 10-1, they are probably one 0-2 pitch away from 11-0.

It's not a coincidence.

Sure, the Yankee bullpen has been pretty solid, especially at the back end, but the caveat here is that the bullpen doesn't really matter if the starting pitcher can't do his job.