Yesterday when I got done teaching 9th graders about Chapters 18-20 of the second book of “A Tale of Two Cities,” I hopped in my car and started my drive up to my second job (one I actually get paid for!) tutoring kids for their SATs at Huntington Learning Center (many of my students are taking the SAT on Saturday the 12th, so send them good vibes). Anyway, while entering my car (155K + and still kicking!) I realized I’d forgotten my iPod at home. I was forced to turn on the (gulp) radio. I was given a quick refresher on how much FM radio sucks before switching over to AM; it’s not much better, but crappy sports talk I don’t necessarily agree with is better than crappy music I don’t like at all. After I skipping over WFAN because of the time of day (2:35ish), I went to ESPN to catch the tail end of Brandon Tierny and Jody McDonald’s show. When I tuned in, they were talking about the Yankees rotation, and specifically A.J. Burnett.
They were discussing what kind of record he’d have to have for the Yankees to be happy and what kind of ERA he would have to pitch to and all that kind of stuff. I was only half listening because of the W/L stuff (and not wanting to hit kids criss-crossing the parking lot to go to rugby tryouts) and then they trailed into something about Ivan Nova. I was still not listening intently, now focused on not bottoming out going into the road (stupid parking lot exit!). Finally, when stopped at a red light, I started to listen to the hosts. They were doing a hypothetical about what the rotation would look like if you combined the Yankees and Mets into one rotation, excluding Johan Santana since he’ll be out for a while. Tierny went first (and his is the only complete rotation I remember) and he said he’d have it like this:
He mentioned he liked Nova, but he would let he and Mike Pelfrey fight it out for the long man’s spot. I have no problems with the first two, and the inclusion of A.J. Burnett, but I can’t get behind Dickey being on the list at all. Last year was only the second time he’s had an FIP under 5.00, and the first time was way back in 2003 with the Rangers. His xFIP last year was 3.88, though, so it’s not like 2010 was crazy fluky, in the isolated sense. In terms of his career, though, it’s ridiculously fluky. Is it possible he could repeat 2010 or come close to it? Sure. Is that likely? No way.
I’d consider replacing Dickey with Pelfrey and dropping him down while moving Burnett up. The lack of strikeouts is worrisome, though. Still, the point remains that he pitches a lot of innings, doesn’t walk a lot of guys, and doesn’t give up many home runs (0.45 career home HR/9, 0.93 away HR/9). He’s also a solid ground ball guy and no matter where your home games are, that’s a plus. I’m not super high on Pelfrey, but I think he’s better than R.A. Dickey. I’d feel comfortable slotting him into the bottom of my hypothetical rotation.
So far, I’ve got:
Do I go Niese or Nova here? The biggest sample we have from either pitcher comes from the minor leagues. Here’s Nova’s page and here’s Niese’s. They pitched almost the same amount of innings to almost the exact same stats, with small edges going to Niese. Combined, the two have pitched fewer than 300 innings in the Majors, and most of that is taken up by Niese’s 173.2 in 2010. Going on upside may not be too helpful, since we’re just concerned about 2011, but it’s worth nothing that Niese has a (small) edge here. From Jan. 2010:
5) Jon Niese, LHP, Grade B: Assuming the hamstring is OK, I see him as a slightly above average starting pitcher, classic number three guy.
Here’s the brief capsule about Nova from December 2010:
7) Ivan Nova, RHP, Grade B-: Looks like a competent fourth starter to me.
There is essentially no difference between these two guys. They have similar track records and project as middle of the rotation guys. Despite that, I’d go with Niese for 2011. He was able to be successful in the Majors for a more extended period of time in 2010 and also showed the ability to miss some bats (7.67 K/9) while also getting a good amount of grounders (47.7%). Nova did have a better GB% (51.4) and give up fewer HR/9 (0.86 to Niese’s 1.04), but Niese still managed a lower FIP (4.10 to 4.36). Their circumstances were different, which obviously led to more innings for Niese. However, that still counts for something. Since he was able to show that he could be successful for a relatively long stretch of innings in the Majors, I’d choose Jonathon Niese as my fifth starter. Oh and it also helps a bit that he’s left-handed. Having a second lefty hurler in the rotation is always a plus.
So my theoretical New York rotation would be, finally…
What would you guys do? A more interesting question, perhaps, is how would you structure a combined NYY/NYM lineup? Discuss that (and the rotations, obviously!) in the comments (yes, DH is included).
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