CC Sabathia serves as an organic counter-argument to the notion that a three-man rotation, reliant upon four possible short-rest performances from its three starters, does not work in the World Series. In Game 1 against the Phillies, Sabathia pitched well and, in Game 4, to everyone’s surprise (well, not really), he also pitched well. Basically, despite performing on short-rest, Sabathia pitched as he normally does, rewarding Joe Girardi’s confidence in an abbreviated rotation.
However, thanks to A.J. Burnett’s memorable Game 5 implosion (6 ER over 2 IP), the three-man rotation, which seemed like a good idea after Sabathia’s outing, has suddenly become a bleak proposition. Pitchers are often billed as creatures of habit, therefore, to break that habit’s particulars and start a pitcher on short-rest seems like an outwardly destructive decision. Yet, I ask, in the end, isn’t effective pitching the simple result, not necessarily of an extra day’s rest, but of individual execution, as CC Sabathia demonstrated in Game 4 (and, as he had done during the ALCS)? If all starters are doomed to fail on short-rest, then how, exactly, did Sabathia buck a fixed trend and perform so admirably?
Those who disagree with the three-man plan will argue that Sabathia is an altogether different animal. With a massive 290 lb. frame, he is, according to them, built for extra work on short-rest. He is nothing like the unpredictable arm of A.J. Burnett or the aged and often fatigued arm of Andy Pettitte. To the dejected detractors of the three-man rotation, Sabathia’s body is an outlier that explains everything. However, when you truly reflect upon that notion, that Sabathia’s buxom body is somehow behind his short-rested success, you quickly come to the realization that such an argument is entirely nonsensical. Sabathia pushes the 300 lb. envelope. In essence, he defies the logic of physicality with his remarkable endurance. He shouldn’t be as good as he is on short-rest (both Burnett and Pettitte appear to be in better shape), however, he is and will likely be that good in a potential Game 7. Now, why is that the case?
In one word—execution, plain and simple. Pitchers either execute or they don’t. A.J. Burnett simply failed to execute in Game 5. It was something we have seen him do (or not do) throughout the year. He wasn’t the unfortunate victim of rest deprivation. If Andy Pettitte pitches well tonight, or if he pulls a Kevin Brown, it will be because of pitch execution. Ultimately, an extra day of rest will have little do with it.
Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
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