Grading 2011 and Looking Ahead: Rotation
This is Part 3 of 4 in our season wrap-up of the 2011 team. The Yankees pitching staff was a major concern coming into the year but performed well as a whole finishing 4th in the A.L. with a 3.72 ERA. They were unable to find the ever elusive #2 starter to take pressure off of C.C. the way Andy Pettitte used to. Freddy Garcia and rookie Ivan Nova did their best to fill that role but neither is quite equipped at the moment to be that 2nd horse on the staff.
CC had off-season knee surgery but came into ST in good shape, even 25 pounds slimmer than usual. He got off to a decent start and got stronger as the season went on. There was a stretch from late June to early August where he went 7+ IP & allowed 2 R or less in 8 consecutive starts, upping his record to 16-5 with a 2.55 ERA. He was right there with Verlander in the Cy Young discussion but that is when things changed. Girardi started going to a 6-man rotation and CC began to have some problems. Overall, he had a 2.68 ERA, 1.13 WHIP & .600 OPS against in 137 ip on regular 4 days rest. With 5 days or more rest, he had a 3.46 ERA, 1.37 WHIP & .757 OPS against in 100 IP.
All told, CC had another great yr going 19-8, 3.00. By all indicators it was actually his best season in pinstripes as his K/9 (8.7), BB/9 (2.3), HR/9 (0.64) & FIP (2.88) were all his best since 08′. Sabathia continued to be a workhorse as a Yankee with his 3rd straight season with at least 230 IP, 19 W’s & an ERA < 3.37. Grade: A
2012 Outlook: Everyone knows CC can opt-out of the remaining 4 yrs – $92M left on his deal. The Big Man has been a smashing success in his 3 years going 59-23 and being a true ace. He must be brought back and hopefully Cashman will be proactive to give CC a raise with some added yrs to get this thing done before he hits the open market. To me, 6 yrs @ $150 seems logical.
Garcia was everything the Yanks could have hoped for, pitching consistently start after start. He never posted an ERA over 3.96 in any one month from April through August, posting an impressive 11-7 record and 3.09 ERA. However after missing 3 weeks in August with a sliced finger, he got roughed up in 3 straight Sept starts to finish the season 12-8, 3.62 ERA/ 4.12 FIP/4.36xFIP.
He didn’t miss many bats (5.9 K/9) and allowed a lot of baserunners (1.34 WHIP) but he had a knack for pitching out of trouble and getting key strikeouts when he needed them. With a fastball that averaged 87.2 MPH, he was successful by mixing his pitches and getting outs with 3 quality off-speed pitches – Splitter, Change Up & Curveball. Often these pitches wound up in the dirt where they were smothered by Russell Martin. I believe Martin’s presence was a big factor in Garcia having his best season since 2005. Grade: B+
2012 Outlook: Garcia is a Free Agent and will attract some attention after his success. The team is definitely looking to get a strong workhorse to pair with CC at the top of the rotation but if things don’t work out, Garcia could be in play. However, I think he’ll likely be overpaid based on his 2011 #s and he’ll likely regress some so he wouldn’t be a priority for me.
Nova got off to a rough start in his rookie campaign going 4-3 with a 4.59 ERA & 1.59 WHIP in April & May. He looked ordinary and was dead last among MLB starters with a 4.2% Swing and Miss rate. However, starting with his June 10th start vs CLE, things began to click. He started to throw his Slider and saw a slight velocity increase on his Fastball. These improvements led him to finish the season a perfect 12-0 with a 3.25 ERA, 1.18 WHIP & .665 OPS against.
By the end of the year, he was the team’s #2 starter finishing 16-4, 3.70 ERA/4.01 FIP/4.16xFIP. Despite just a 5.3 K/9, he was successful by limiting HRs (7th in AL with 0.71 HR/9) and inducing plenty of ground balls. Nova was 5th among AL starters with a 52.7% Ground Ball rate. Grade: B+
2012 Outlook: Nova finished very strong until he had forearm issues in the playoffs. Assuming he is healthy he will definitely be a part of the rotation at the bargain basement price of about $400,000. Hopefully, he can continue to progress and improve and not take a step back like Phil Hughes did after his 2010 breakthrough.
Colon was the surprise of the Spring training. His Fastball seemed to get stronger every outing and he earned a spot in the bullpen to start the season. By the end of April he was in the starting rotation baffling hitters with his nasty 93-95 MPH moving fastball. Through July 30th, Bartolo was 8-6 with a 3.30 ERA. However, he started to lose a little giddy up on his FB and teams were getting used to his 2-pitch arsenal. As expected from an overweight, 38-yr old who hadn’t pitched a full-season since 2005, he ran out of gas and went 0-4, 5.84 over his final 8 starts.
Overall, the team had to be happy what they got out of him on a minor-lg contract. He finished 8-10, 4.00 ERA/3.83 FiP/ 3.57 xFip with 7.4 K/9 & 2.2 BB/9. Grade: B-
2012 Outlook: Bartolo was a true success story and a big contributor. However, at 39 yrs old and having faded down the stretch I don’t see a role for Colon on the 2012 team.
AJ got off to another good start, going 4-1 3.96 in April and was still a respectable 8-7, 4.19 through mid-July. But as we have seen too many times, he went through a stretch of 11 terrible starts with a 2-4 record, 7.65 ERA and an obscene .963 OPS against. So basically, he turned every hitter into Albert Pujols! He did show some signs of life at the end finishing the regular season with 7.2 strong IP in a win vs BOS and victory against DET in the ALDS.
Burnett has been consistently inconsistent during his 3 years in NY. Overall, he was 11-11 with a 3rd worst in MLB, 5.15 ERA. However, his FiP (4.77) and xFiP (3.86) point to a pitcher that had some bad luck. He had a strong 8.2 K/9 and respectable 49% GB rate which was his best since 2007. His biggest problem was his league leading 25 Wild pitches and sky-high 1.47 HR/9 (2nd worst in Majors). And as anyone who watches him pitch can attest to, he seems to always fold up like a cheap suit at the first sign of trouble and tends to give up back-breaking HRs at the worst times. Grade: D
2012 Outlook: AJ still has 2 yrs and $33 Million left on his contract. In order to get someone to take him, the Yanks would likely need to eat $20+M and/or take on another bad contract like Carlos Zambrano, Barry Zito, Derek Lowe, Jason Bay, Chone Figgins, etc. IMO, I would eat any amount of money to get AJ off the team. Overall, he has been a detriment for the last 2 seasons pitching to a 5.20 ERA and losing more games than he wins. Any money another team could assume would be a bonus as the true value of the deal would be to replace him in the rotation with a better pitcher. Unfortunately he’ll likely be back so hopefully Rothschild can get him to throw the way he did the final 2 starts of the yr which he is capable of.
Coming off a strong 2010, expectations were high for Hughes in 2011. However, he showed up to ST overweight and looked terrible in 3 April starts. He had no arm strength and complained of mysterious pain in his arm that the team’s doctors could find no reason for. After 2+ months on the DL, he returned in July and was mediocre. He regained some velocity in Sept averaging in the 93-94 range when shifted back to the pen. Overall he finished at 5-5, 5.79 ERA with a poor 5.7 K/9.
Hughes has been an enigma in his MLB career with his velocity changing all the time. Since early 2009, his velocity has fluctuated from the upper 80′s to the mid 90′s. His velo has been the highest when pitching out of the bullpen and that may be the role he is best suited if he cannot maintain a 92-93 MPH average FB that he needs to succeed as a starter. Grade: D
2012 Outlook: What to do with Hughes? He is in his 2nd yr of Arbitration so will be getting around $3M next yr. He was great in the pen in 09 and great in the rotation in the 1st half of 2010. But since then he’s been mediocre at best. Hughes seems to hold his velocity best in the pen, however the Yankees pen is loaded with arms. I’d like to trade Hughes but his value is down so I would likely give him another shot as a starter next yr. If he looks good, he can be dealt next yr and if he struggles he can always be moved back to relief.
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