I want to take a moment to compare the numbers of three different pitchers so far this year. I’ll reveal who they are momentarily. Pitcher A has spent some time on the DL this year, but he has also logged 141.0 innings of 3.32 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 1.23 WHIP baseball, for a 2.3 fWAR. The injury bug also bit Pitcher B this season, but he has still managed to accumulate 119.2 innings of 3.31 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 1.24 WHIP baseball, good for a 2.2 fWAR. Finally, Pitcher C is known to be fragile, but has held up well this season. He’s the only one of the three who hasn’t gone on the DL this year. He’s managed to put up 122.1 innings of 3.16 ERA, 3.62 FIP, 1.31 WHIP baseball, for a 2.3 fWAR.
The table below compares these three side by side:
These three pitchers have been more or less identical this year. Pitcher A has gone deeper into games, but he hasn’t pitched as well as Pitchers B or C over all. Apart from that mild difference, these pitchers have put forward nearly identical performances. Pitcher A is Jon Lester. Pitcher B is Bartolo Colon. Pitcher C is Freddy Garcia. All of three of them have had similar seasons, but as far as the baseball media is concerned only Lester is that all important second playoff starter, while the Yankees are supposed to have a huge problem because the two pitchers they have who are pitching as well as Jon Lester can’t be counted upon in the playoffs the way Lester can, even though they are pitching slightly better than he is.
The argument that the Yankees don’t have a clear number two starter for the playoffs after CC Sabathia is entirely false. The argument is based on two premises. First, Colon, Garcia and Ivan Nova are all exceeding expectations, which is taken to mean that the wheels may come off the band wagon at any point in time, probably in October. Second, Colon and Garcia are old. They can get injured at any point in time, probably before October. Neither of these arguments stands up. Pitchers are volatile, regardless of their track records. Just ask CC about the week he’s having for evidence. Pitchers are also prone to injury, regardless of age. Jon Lester is a young pitcher, but he’s spent about as much time on the DL this season as Colon, and more time on it than Garcia.
The claim that the Yankees have a problem because they lack a clear number two starter for the playoffs is a case of a predetermined conclusion in search of facts to support it, not the other way around. The narrative this entire season has been that the Yankees have a thin rotation. The Yankees’ starters’ ERA of 3.71 is fifth best in the American League, and overwhelming evidence that the rotation is fine, if not a source of strength for the team. The only reason analysts say the Yankees don’t have rotation depth is because they weren’t supposed to get it from Colon and Garcia. Instead, they are getting depth from those two pitchers and no one wants to admit it. The reality is that the Yankees right now have not one, but two, suitable options to back up CC in October. Provided everyone can stay healthy (a risk for the young as well as the old), the Yankees will have excellent rotation options for the post season, even if no one wants to admit it.
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