I’m going to start this off with a message of hope: OPENING DAY IS THIS WEEK. We were just in the darkest stretch of the tunnel, but ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, we can see the light. There are just two more Spring Training games, an off day, and then the big trip up north to open the season at home against Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Austin Jackson, and the rest of the Detroit Tigers.
We know who’s going to start the first three games for the Yankees, but with an off day between game one and two, there are a few different ways the rotation could shake out. Let’s run through the first month of the season a few times and look at the advantages and disadvantages of each one. In the first scenario, we’ll just assume everyone gets four games of rest, not four calender days.
Thursday, March 31: CC Sabathia, 1
Saturday, April 2: A.J. Burnett, 1
Sunday, April 3: Phil Hughes, 1
Monday, April 4: Ivan Nova, 1
Tuesday, April 5: Freddy Garcia,1
Wednesday, April 6: CC Sabathia ,2
Thursday, April 7: A.J. Burnett, 2
Friday, April 8: Phil Hughes, 2
Saturday, April 9: Ivan Nova, 2
Sunday, April 10: Freddy Garcia, 2
Tuesday, April 12: CC Sabathia, 3
Wednesday, April 13: A.J. Burnett, 3
Thursday, April 14: Phil Hughes, 3
Friday, April 15: Ivan Nova, 3
Saturday, April 16: Freddy Garcia, 3
Sunday, April 17: CC Sabathia, 4
Tuesday, April 19: A.J. Burnett, 4
Wednesday, April 20: Phil Hughes, 4
Friday, April 22: Ivan Nova, 4
Saturday, April 23: Freddy Garcia, 4
Sunday, April 24: CC Sabathia, 5
Monday, April 25: A.J. Burnett, 5
Tuesday, April 26: Phil Hughes: 5
Wednesday, April 27: Ivan Nova, 5
Thursday, April 28: Freddy Garcia, 5
Friday, April 29: CC Sabathia, 6
Saturday, April 30: A.J. Burnett, 6
So with this regular shake out, CC and A.J. both get six starts, while everyone else will get five. The advantage here is that your two best pitchers (theoretically) are getting the most starts, which is obviously what you want. The disadvantage is that your number five starter is throwing five times in the month. If he’s pitching well, then it doesn’t matter much. If he doesn’t pitch well, though, you’re in a bit of a bind. Is there a way we can get CC some more starts? Yes, there is. By starting him every four calender days rather than every four game days. If that’s what the Yankees decide to do, Sabathia would start on the following days:
March 31 vs. Detroit
April 5 vs. Minnesota
April 10 vs. Boston
April 15 vs. Texas
April 20 vs. Toronto
April 25 vs. Chicago
April 30 vs. Toronto
That’s seven total starts for Sabathia, one more than in the previous scenario. The advantage here is clear: the best pitcher is pitching the most innings, by far. This keeps him on normal rest, allows his rhythm to establish itself. How does this shake out the rest of the rotation? The simplest way I found to do this was just to keep the rotation more or less in order, and push Freddy Garcia‘s start date back to the seventh of the month. Doing this, and keeping everyone else on four calender day’s worth of rest would give Sabathia, Burnett, and Hughes six starts each in April (seven for CC if we count March 31). It gives Ivan Nova five starts, one of which would be on extended rest. Freddy Garcia would get the short end of the stick, starting just three times and on extended rest every time. To review, here’s the start dates for each pitcher (* denotes more than four calender days of rest):
CC Sabathia: 4/5; 4/10; 4/15; 4/20; 4/25; 4/30
A.J. Burnett: 4/2; 4/6; 4/12*; 4/17; 4/22; 4/27.
Phil Hughes: 4/3; 4/8; 4/13; 4/19*; 4/24; 4/29.
Ivan Nova: 4/4; 4/9; 4/14; 4/23*; 4/28
Freddy Garcia: 4/7; 4/16*; 4/26*
The big disadvantage here is to Freddy Garcia, who may not exactly be in rhythm come May if this plan is enacted. But, I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. The three best pitchers on the staff get six April starts each and Nova is only skipped once. There is something to be said for keeping every pitcher on a set schedule, but I think the Yankees should go with the plan that gets their best starters the most time on the mound. It’s nothing personal, Freddy, just business.
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