Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What Have You Done For Me Lately, (or Can A.J. Burnett still make the Yankees' postseason rotation)?

Since, in hindsight, I was a little off in my recent assessment of the Yankees' postseason rotation situation, I thought I'd take another crack at it. Except, this time I'm going to look at each pitcher's average game score* over the course of their last four—or, in the case of Freddy Garcia, three—starts.

For an explanation of game score, see Baseball-Reference's Play Index Glossary.

Why am I looking only at their most recent outings? Because when a battle is as wide open as the Yankees' situation is, what's happened most recently tends to be weighted more heavily.

Why am I only considering Freddy Garcia's most recent three starts, while looking at the latest four for the other candidates? Because he's only pitched three times since returning from the disabled list on August 29.

What is the meaning of the sub-title of this post? Most blogs I've read recently on the subject—including this one—have already written off A.J. Burnett's chances of making the Yankees' postseason rotation. But, let's face it, the team's management has to be pulling for him, and if he's still being given the opportunity to start games in mid-September, they're not ruling him out yet.

So, let's cut to the chase and size them up based on average game score since August 21:
  1. Ivan Nova - 59.3
  2. C.C. Sabathia - 57.5
  3. Bartolo Colon - 54.8
  4. A.J. Burnett - 44.5
  5. Phil Hughes - 43.0
  6. Freddy Garcia - 37.7 (actually, even if we throw Garcia's August 7 start into the mix, he still ranks last at 41.0)
So, what does this tell us? Well, first of all, we all know Sabathia is the #1 starter regardless of what happens the rest of the way, so this exercise is really to try and size up the 2-4 slots.

Nova is looking as close to a lock for one of the remaining three spots as anyone. Will he be the #2 starter come playoff time? Not necessarily, but at this point, it's looking unlikely that he'll fall to #5.

That leaves two spots up for grabs. Colon seems to have the inside track on one of them, but take a look at #4 on this list. While I'm not trying to say that Burnett has pitched his way back into the team's postseason plans, is there any real reason to give Hughes the benefit of the doubt over him? I don't think so, although I'm not ruling him out yet either.

So, unless Garcia can turn things back around after scuffling of late, we could very well be looking at a postseason rotation of Sabathia-Nova-Colon-Burnett.

Of course, this is all speculation, but at this point I still think the competition is wide open and the much-maligned Burnett has at least as good a chance as Hughes and Garcia to earn a couple October starts.


  1. Good assessment. I agree with your conclusions. But that doesn't mean I'm sold on anyone other than C.C. and Nova.

  2. I agree with you too William, except my confidence in Nova is tempered by a liitle realistic anxiety as well.

  3. Great post! I agree with you, as well, but I am still only sold on Sabathia being a solid option in the playoffs. Novs has pitched well above his means. The lack of K's worries me.

  4. Thanks Jonathan! I think most Yankees fans would agree with you that CC is the only guy they can count on.