Rotation has been glaring weakness thus far

Freddy has stunk up the joint

The Yanks are off to a solid start at 9-6 but they still have much to be concerned about.  Their offense continues to be a bit streaky but they still lead MLB averaging 6.0 runs per game. Mariano blew the Save on Opening Day but the bullpen has been lights out otherwise, leading all of baseball with a 2.14 ERA.  Defense you ask? The Yanks have a MLB-low 4 errors through 15 games for a league best .993 Fielding %.

So with a League-best Offense, Bullpen & Defense, why is the team only 9-6? Well, the starting pitching has not done the job.  They have the 2nd worst ERA in all of baseball – even worse than the brutal Red Sox staff.   The Yankee starters have a combined ERA of 5.84, allowing Hits and Baserunners more than any staff in baseball. They’ve allowed a WHIP of 1.59, allowing 107 Hits in 81.2 IP.  The starting rotation was the main focus of the offseason and was supposed to be a team strength.  Obviously, it’s too early to draw any conclusions as we are not even 10% into the long season yet.  However, let’s take a look at where each starter is after 3 turns through the rotation.

CC Sabathia

1-0 5.59 ERA – 1.34 WHIP – 19.1 ip – 10.3 k/9 – 2.8 bb/9 – 9.3 h/9 – 1.4 HR/9 – .716 OPS against

CC has had trouble with his Fastball command in the early going which has led to more hits and runs.  However, all of his supporting numbers are strong – his Strikeout & BB rates are fine which point towards a 3.02 xFIP which is exactly the same as 2011.  His last start vs MIN was his best as he pitched into the 8th inning and got his 1st win.  Stuff-wise, his Velocity is down.  CC has always been a slow starter and takes a while for his velocity to build to his peak levels.  However, he is a little bit lower than where he usually starts averaging a mere 91.5 MPH.  I’m not concerned but it is something to keep an eye on to see if it climbs to his standard 93-95. So overall, I’d say CC is fine and just off to his annual slow start.

Hiroki Kuroda

1-2 5.00 ERA – 1.61 WHIP – 18.0 ip – 6.0 k/9 – 3.0 bb/9 – 11.5 h/9 – 1.5 HR/9 – .876 OPS against

Kuroda has been an enigma with 1 absolute gem and 2 terrible outings. Obviously the real Kuroda will fall somewhere in between. Thus far, he’s been getting hit much harder than usual but it looks like he has enough stuff to be successful in the tougher AL lineups.  I imagine it will take him a while to find out what works best for him.  As a veteran pitcher with multiple pitches, I believe Kuroda will eventually find the right mix to be a successful mid-rotation starter for the team,

Phil Hughes

1-2 6.75 ERA – 1.88 WHIP – 13.1 ip – 10.1 k/9 – 4.1 bb/9 – 12.8 h/9 – 2.7 HR/9 – 1.012 OPS against

Hughes has shown a better Fastball than all of last year but continues to throw too many pitches as he just can’t seem to put batters away without max effort.  He doesn’t have a pitch to get easy outs and it’s led to him averaging 21.5 pitchers per inning.  Phil needs to conserve pitches so he can go deeper into games otherwise he won’t last as a starter. None of his secondary pitches have been successful as he tends to leave them all up and in the hitting zone. His FB is hard to hit when he commands it and moves it around but without a good secondary pitch he may be best served in the pen where he can let loose for 1 or 2 IP.

Ivan Nova

3-0 3.79 ERA – 1.42 WHIP – 19 ip – 9.5 k/9 –  0.9 bb/9 – 11.8 h/9 – 1.9 HR/9 – .987 OPS against

Nova has won all 3 of his starts and 15 in a row dating back to last yr.  He has also gotten great run support in each of his 3 outings which helps.  With the exception of Nova’s sterling Walk rates, his supporting numbers are not too far different from Hughes’. Nova has allowed a lot of hits but he gets away with it by getting double plays and Strikeouts when he needs to and  by limiting walks.  He usually limits HRs too but this yr has been an exception so far. Nova does a fine job of pitching deep into games and has 4 solid pitches to go through a lineup multiple times. He’s a strong #3 starter.

Freddy Garcia

0-1 9.75 ERA – 1.92 WHIP – 12ip – 6.0 k/9 – 2.3 bb/9 – 15.0 h/9 – 1.5 HR/9 – 1.094 OPS against

Garcia has been downright awful.  All of his rates are in line with last year but he has gotten hit much harder.  36% of his batted balls have been hit for line drives as he has left a lot of Splitters and Curveballs up and in the middle of the plate.  One has to think that Garcia can adjust and pitch better but can the Yankees afford to keep throwing him out there to get beat up and eat up the bullpen?

Help on the Way?

Andy Pettitte is only a few weeks away as he’s scheduled to throw 80-85 pitches in Double A Trenton this week. Michael Pineda had a setback and is nowhere near returning.  David Phelps has been excellent in long relief for the Yanks while DJ Mitchell and Adam Warren are ready and able in AAA.  Right now, I would make no immediate moves.  Obviously Hughes and Garcia are on the hot seat but no move needs to be made just yet. When Andy is ready I’d make my moves. If Hughes cannot show improvement, Andy & Phelps go in the rotation with Hughes to the pen.  If Garcia is still struggling, I’d like to send him to AAA but he’d likely request his release.

About fishjam25

Was a 4-yr Pitcher and Communications Major at Seton Hall University in the 90s. His knowledge & opinion of the game comes from his background as a player and ardent lifetime Yankee fan. However, Fishjam also incorporates sabermetrics and statistical support to form a well-rounded view of the game.

Posted on April 22, 2012, in Personal Opinion, Player Analysis, Statistical Analysis and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. great analysis and thoughts Fish. So looking forward to when Pettitte comes back.

  2. It really is amazing that something that was improved so much on paper, has not worked out that way. But it is still way early.

    • Definitely too early to make a conclusion. But its funny how Pettitte went from a luxury that we’d have to force someone out to make room for…….to a needed ,almost savior for our rotation woes.

      • Pitching is the hardest thing in sports to predict, but the Yanks are lucky to have some back ups at this point; with the strongest relief they can still salvage games. Texas is hot right now and is not going to make it easy on this rotation. The Yanks may need to shoot all their bullets this year to stay on top. Garcia might be the first man out when Pettite is ready.

  3. Very true Fish. Yanks are still winning games but the rotation is doing horrible. Andy is no longer a nice extra to this rotation, but possibly a neccessity with one more bad go-around with these 5 guys.

  4. Great article Fishjam,
    I think Freddy will be the odd man out. He’s had 3 horrid starts back to back to back. CC is beginning to get it together, Hughes just has to figure out how he can get outs without throwing too many pitches and so far Kuroda is looking like Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (like A.J). The only one in the rotation whose showing consistency is Ivan Nova. Yes, he gives up a lot of hits but as John Sterling says, “you can give up hits or you can give up walks. You can’t give up both.” As long as the runs don’t score, I don’t care how many hits he gives up. But the rest of the rotation needs to pitch like the bullpen; strong and effective.

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