As it stands right now, the Yankees have a pretty damn good starting rotation. All three of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Javier Vasquez could easily head the rotations of just about any team in baseball. While I think we’d all agree that Sabathia is the ace and leader of the staff, I think there is room for debate as to who is the Yankees’ second best starter.
Because of how it lined up this past year–and the success the rotation had in 2009–it seems that everyone assumes Burnett will be the second starter, followed by Andy Pettitte, followed by Vasquez, followed by Jophil Chamberhughes. By the end of the season, though, I think we’ll all see that Vasquez is a fourth starter in “number” only.
Both the CHONE and CAIRO systems project the incredibly durable Vazquez (no fewer than 198 innings since 1999) to throw more innings than Burnett, walk fewer than Burnett, and strike more batters out than Burnett. We could be cautious about this because of the limited success Vazquez had in the A.L. East in 2004, but that’s a one year sample that was heavily swayed by one awful half of a baseball season.
Combining the two projection systems, we can expect the Burnett/Vazquez combo to post an ERA of about 3.91 which, in the A.L. East would be great.
Both pitchers have their upsides and their flaws. Vazquez always puts up great peripherals, but somehow, the ERA doesn’t quite follow. He pitches massive amounts of innings and truly racks up strikeouts, but he also gives up his fair share of gopher balls. Burnett is similar in many ways. His stuff is arguably the best stuff in baseball, but his control can be an issue at times. And, while he’s gotten through the last two season without injury issues, I think we’re all holding our breath for something to happen to A.J.
Regardless of how you line the five Yankee starters up, their rotation will be a strength in 2010.
In CC Sabathia, they have what everyone wants in a pitcher: he eats innings and performs at a high level during all those innings. In A.J. Burnett, they have a guy who can be flat-out nasty for extended periods of time, despite some periods of frustration. In Andy Pettitte, they have a time-tested veteran who will always give you innings. In Javier Vazquez, they have a hybrid of Sabathia and Burnett: a workhorse who can also be a little frustrating. In either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes, they have a youngster with almost unlimited potential who could explode onto the scene at any second.
The Yankee rotation is far from perfect, just like every rotation in baseball, but it still looks like it’s going to be one of the better ones in the American League. Pairing that rotation with the already potent offense gives the Yankees a very bright outlook for 2010, one that could potentially outshine 2009.
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