Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Is it too early to start talking about the postseason rotation?

Ask someone what the Yankees' biggest concerns are at the moment, and he or she might be hard pressed to answer. After all, when your team has the best record in the league and a 6.5 game lead in the division race, it's hard to find areas to complain.

Still, there will be those who say that AJ Burnett and Joba Chamberlain are worrisome, and that certain relievers in the bullpen can utterly not be trusted.

So, the questions will inevitably arise, how will the Yankees construct their postseason rotation?

No, the Yankees have not made the postseason yet, but we are fast approaching a point where if the Yankees do not make the playoffs, even as a wild card team, it would be a collapse of historic proportions. Thus, it does not seem a stretch to address this issue.

Right now, the Yankees' rotation comprises of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain and Sergio Mitre.

In the postseason, barring injury, you need four starters--so we can drop mighty mighty Mitre off the list for right now.

Thus, the question becomes, how do you organize the remaining four, and here the issue isn't so much the game one starter (Sabathia) or the game four starter (if needed) (Chamberlain). The issue is, as it was in 2007, who starts game two.

For most of this season, AJ Burnett has easily been the Yankees' #2 starter, but of late he has a couple of things working against him: he hasn't won in a month, and he's never pitched in a postseason game.

For me, at least, the second issue is more pressing than the first. Yes, Burnett hasn't won in a month, but he has been unlucky in some of those starts--like the fifteen inning game against Beckett, and the game he pitched in Oakland where he surrendered only three runs but the Yankees couldn't muster anything against Brett Tomko. His ERA for this time is over 6.00, but two absolutley horrid starts--in Chicago and Boston--are perhaps inflating it further. Of course, Burnett had a poor outing last night, so that doesn't do him any favors.

Still, the lack of postseason experience is a concern, especially if it follows Sabathia immediately--Sabathia's postseason number in 2007 and 2008 are not very good (though 2008 may perhaps be attributed to his pitching on three days' rest multiple times that September).

Pettitte as the number two starter would give the Yankees someone with a lot of postseason experience, and, since the All Star break, no pitcher has been better for the Yankees. Well, no starter, anyway (I'm looking at you, Mo Rivera). Last season, Pettitte pitched the second half hurt and put up some not very good numbers, but this season, well, on Monday Pettitte came within 7 outs of a perfect game.

A lot, however, can change between September 2nd and October 1st. In that time, Burnett could put it all together and Pettitte could fall apart, and in that case the decision would become even harder.

Still, if constructing your postseason rotation is your biggest concern, you're probably in a pretty good place.


On another note entirely, make sure you check out some great baseball travel posts from WFAN's Mike McCann. He's gone and visited numerous stadia at all levels--worth a gander if you like doing ballpark tours/trips.