Thursday, October 14, 2010

Questioning the Yankee Rotation

Both managers, Girardi and Ron Washington, have released their ALCS rotations. Here's how the teams stack up, with the perceived advantage listed after each match-up:

Game 1: CC Sabathia vs. CJ Wilson - Advantage Yankees
Game 2: Phil Hughes vs. Colby Lewis - Slight Advantage Yankees
Game 3: Andy Pettitte vs. Cliff Lee - Advantage Texas
Game 4: AJ Burnett vs. Tommy Hunter - Slight Advantage Texas
Game 5: CC Sabathia vs. CJ Wilson - Advantage Yankees
Game 6: Phil Hughes vs. Colby Lewis - Slight Advantage Yankees
Game 7: Andy Pettitte vs. Cliff Lee - Advantage Texas

Scattered Thoughts:

1) That gives the Yankees a 4-3 advantage in starting pitching match-ups. Texas decided not to push Cliff Lee on short rest, just like we expected. He'll pitch Game 3 and a theoretical Game 7 that usually does not transpire. Based on Cliff Lee's past, it's unlikely this will change regardless of what happens in the series.

2) The Yanks are going with the 4-man rotation, which is fine. Part of me thinks that if we're down 2-1 or 3-0 going into Game 4, CC will take the mound, but let's proceed as though that's not the case.

3) A headline this morning on ESPN: A.J. Burnett Throws Simulated Game, Hits Two Batters.

4) Andy Pettitte is a great postseason pitcher. As we saw against Minnesota, he's capable of finding another gear even after regular season struggles. He's a guy who can win baseball games under pressure. He's a gamer, he's clever, and he's experienced beyond belief.

5) We're not going to beat Cliff Lee. Maybe these are famous last words, and maybe I'm being too extreme, but I really, really don't believe the evidence supports a potential win. As I said yesterday, his teams are 7-0 when he takes the mound in the playoffs. His ERA is 1.44. He proved last year that the Yankee Stadium environment doesn't faze him a bit. So why, why, why are we throwing Andy Pettitte against him in Game 3? Why are we sacrificing a guy who can earn a win against the unbeatable force, the modern Koufax?

6) Why not, instead, sacrifice AJ Burnett? Girardi has already decided that Andy, Hughes, and CC will all pitch just twice. With that in mind, check out the rotation and advantages if he throws AJ to the wolves and lets him face Lee in Game 3:

Game 1: CC Sabathia vs. CJ Wilson - Advantage Yankees
Game 2: Phil Hughes vs. Colby Lewis - Slight Advantage Yankees
Game 3: AJ Burnett vs. Cliff Lee - Advantage Texas
Game 4: Andy Pettitte vs. Tommy Hunter - Advantage Yankees
Game 5: CC Sabathia vs. CJ Wilson - Advantage Yankees
Game 6: Phil Hughes vs. Colby Lewis - Slight Advantage Yankees
Game 7: Andy/CC/AJ vs. Cliff Lee - Advantage Texas

7) Remember how in the last scenario, the Yank had a 4-3 advantage? In the match-ups above, that advantage goes to 5-2, and one of the two is a Game 7 that probably won't happen. In scenario number one, the first four games are a 2-2 split. In scenario number two, it's now 3-1 for the Yankees.

8) Granted, starting pitching is not the only factor influencing wins and losses, but it is the most important. Look at that Game 4 match-up. Andy Pettitte vs. Tommy Hunter. Is there any way in hell Texas wins that game? With a young, struggling pitcher in the lion's den at Yankee Stadium against the winningest post-season pitcher ever? No chance. No fucking chance.

9) In fact, the only way Tommy Hunter can win a game in Yankee Stadium is he faces a pitcher capable of dropping a true stink bomb. Someone, you see, like AJ Burnett.

10) I'll shut up now, but I want to conclude by saying we're giving away games. For God's sake, let Cliff Lee do his worst. Don't worry about Game 7: if it gets there, we're fucked anyway and will need a lot of luck. Give yourself the match-up advantage early and take this thing in 5 or 6, before Lee can come back. Sacrifice AJ in Game 3; maybe he's stellar and gives Lee a run for his money. Maybe he's terrible, and we get blown out of the water- fine, we were going to lose anyway. Nothing lost, and something very important gained: Andy Pettitte against a scrub in Game 4.

It makes no sense to me why Girardi isn't going this way. Does it leave us in a tough spot for a potential Game 7? Yeah. But we're already in a tough spot with Lee on the mound at home. And Game 7 probably won't happen. It's well worth the risk to give ourselves a stronger edge in the first 6 games.

With all the amazing advancements in how baseball is thought about and perceived over the last two decades, it's crazy to me that managers don't jockey for these types of starting pitching advantages. I mean, look at Girardi: the guy lives and dies by the stat book in the dugout, obsessively poring over past history, crunching the numbers, trying like hell to gain even a slight leg up on the other guy. And I think it's great. But still, nobody's thinking outside the box with starting rotations.

I kinda get it: it's partly an ego thing. If we start AJ in Game 3, we're telling Andy that we don't think he can beat Cliff Lee. And we're telling AJ that we think he stinks, and we don't want to waste him in a game we should win. But why pull any punches? You're telling these players that kind of thing in a million different ways anyway, throughout the season, so why not do what's best for the team?

Anyway, all that aside, I still think we're going to win. And with that in mind, it's time for some...


I went 3-for-4 in the last round, missing the difficult Giants-Braves series. I predicted that Lincecum would take Game On, and the Braves would eke out the next three. Games 2 through 4 were all decided by one run, but the Giants took the last two, including Game 3 on an error. It happens.

I managed to nail Philly in 3 and Rangers in 5, and I picked the Yankees correctly, though I thought it would take one more game. Let's see if I can keep the good times rolling:


Giants vs. Phillies

This one is going to be much closer than everyone thinks. The baseball cognoscenti want to anoint the Phils already, but the solid Giants pitching could keep them in this one.

Here's how I see it going, briefly: Halladay and Lincecum will be an absolute pleasure in Game 1, and Halladay will squeak out a 2-1 win at home. The Giants will beat Oswalt with Sanchez in a low-scoring Game 2, but Hamels will take Game 3 with ease. I think both teams will use their fourth starters after that, and the superior Phillies offense will put them a game away from the Series. Then it's Halladay-Lincecum parte deux, and this time The Freak electrifies the home crowd and brings San Fran back to 3-2. But the fairytale ends back in Philly when the defending pennant-winners find their bats against Sanchez and take Game 6 by a 7-5 score with two home runs by Utley. In the end, the pitching match-up is nearly even, but Philly will have more firepower at the plate.

The Pick: Phils in 6.


Yankees vs. Rangers

My thoughts on this are basically known. We're going to have a hell of a time keeping guys like Andrus and Hamilton from wreaking havoc on the basepaths, so the starting pitching will have to be stellar. The good news is, I think it can be. After that, we just have to keep hitting. The only guy who hasn't really found his stroke so far is Brett Gardner, but he's still found his way on base at times. As a team, we're batting .314. The CC-Wilson match-up in Game 1 looks a lot like the CC-Liriano duel from the last series. I think we'll get to him eventually, and I think Texas will be surprised to find that the Rays were not a good representation of playoff offense. I'm predicting two wins on the road, a loss to Crazy Cliff at home, a wild chaotic win in Game 4, and a clincher by CC at the Stadium next Wednesday. It should be a blast.

The Pick: Yanks in 5

Tomorrow marks the final week of the first ever Pick Six! Tune in to watch your favorite players take it down to the wire. Carrie's in the lead by 3 points, but no lead is safe in the final week.

Speaking of pick sixes: The call from Vikings announcer Paul Allen after Favre's interception Monday night is an absolute classic. Listen here. His tone for the last two sentences is just pitch-perfect. "Right between the old two and the six." Thanks to Justin for the link.

Also, to any Dukies reading this: please let me know how the hell I can get into tomorrow's Midnight Madness bonanza. Thanks!


  1. I don't understand why on the road in Texas, Hughes is an advantage over Colby Lewis. Other than the Yankee bias that seeps through your veins and drips onto your blog with every keystroke.

    Ya gotta at least split em, Lewis wins game 2, Hughes Game 6.

    Yankees in 6, Phillies in 5.

  2. Upon further review, I'd be willing to concede a draw on the Hughes/Lewis debate. Doesn't matter for the larger point about pitching AJ in Game 3, since either way Hughes and Lewish face off in Games 2 and 6.


  3. Yes that's true - your point about giving up the game 3 is def still valid.