(The following is being syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)
For once, it looked like the Yankees were in a position to prove the old adage of “you can never have too much pitching” wrong. It was late in Spring Training and they had no less than 10 guys who could make a legitimate claim to being worthy of a spot in their 2012 starting rotation. Some were younger, some were old, some threw harder than others, and some were just plain better than others, but this season certainly appeared as though it was going to be one, the first one in a while, where the struggles and question marks in the rotation were not going to dominate the headlines in the local press. 4 weeks into the season and all of that depth and talent has been wiped away, replaced by the same concerns over guys not pitching up to the level they were expected to and the same questions surrounding the depth of the group moving forward. The Yankee rotation has a 5.89/4.65/3.74 slash line right now, the ERA ranking 2nd to last in Major League Baseball and the FIP ranking 26th, and have only 6 games where they’ve pitched 7 innings or more combined. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
CC Sabathia, outside of a few misplaced fastballs up in the zone in his first 2 starts, has been the CC Sabathia we’ve seen over the past 3 seasons, and a look at his peripherals makes one very confident that he could become even better than his usual self as the weather continues to warm up. But beyond him and his spot at the top, the rest of the rotation is once again a sea of unknowns.
Hiroki Kuroda was supposed to be the Anakin Skywalker of this rotation, the pitcher who would bring balance to it. His plus command and track record of consistency made him an ideal candidate to take over Andy’s former role of veteran stopper, but he’s had 2 really ugly outings in his first 5 and the ugly ones have been bad enough to be a cause for concern moving forward on days when he doesn’t have his command and is pitching at The Stadium. Michael Pineda was supposed to be a right-handed Sabathia 2.0, a young, big, power pitcher with a live arm who could be molded into an ace-caliber pitcher. He ended up being a pudgy guy with low-90s heat and a bum shoulder and now he’s out of commish until 2013.
Phil Hughes was supposed to have his big comeback tour this year. He got himself back into shape, flashed some of the velocity on his fastball and life on his curveball that made him a top prospect in Spring Training, and earned himself the #3 spot in the rotation. To date, that’s probably been the crowning achievement of his 2012 season, as it’s been back to business as usual for Phil the Starter- no ability to put guys away with 2 strikes or innings away with 2 outs, a flat out refusal to throw more of his secondary pitches, and no real improvement on his fastball-curveball command or sequencing. He’s had just a month’s worth of starts and already the talks have shifted from “how good can Phil be this year?” to “should Phil even be in the rotation this year?”
Ivan Nova was supposed to prove that his finish to 2011 was no fluke. With improved fastball velocity and continued development of his offspeed offerings, Nova was going to continue to elevate his ceiling and become a secret weapon for the Yankees, providing #2-#3-type production from the #4 spot in the rotation. Instead, he’s allowed 56 unintentional baserunners in 30.2 IP, and his problems up in the zone have him looking more like the back-end starter he was projected to be. Freddy Garcia, without any expectations, has pretty much proven that his 2011 WAS a fluke, and has been so bad in 4 starts (12.51/5.54/3.99 in 13.2 IP) that he’s already been banished to late-game mop-up duty in the bullpen.
Even the guys in the Minors, the extreme desperation depth options, have been spitting the bit. Dellin Betances continues to be consistently good at only one thing, walking the yard. Manny Banuelos started off the season walking the yard, hit the DL with back problems, and lost more much-needed time to develop and work up his innings count. And Adam Warren‘s body has apparently been taken over by the lost soul of Andrew Brackman because he’s getting shellacked by opposing hitters and giving up more walks than he ever has.
Within the unflattering overall statistical portrait, there are some signs of hope. The rotation’s 8.12 K/9 is 3rd best in baseball, their 2.64 BB/9 is just outside the top 10, their BABIP against is an unsustainably high .338 and aided by some poor defense. This crew could rattle off a week’s worth of solid starts, have a few more balls find gloves in the field, and have a few less balls go over the fence, and be looking much better. But that doesn’t change the fact that things have gone unexpectedly bad very quickly, and even the help that’s on the way wasn’t supposed to be coming. Andy Pettitte was supposed to be showing up at camp, shaking a few hands, offering a few tips, maybe coming back to throw out the first pitch of a Yanks-Sawx series, and clicking down the days until his #46 was retired out to Monument Park. Instead, he’s maybe a week or so away from becoming the team’s de factor #3 starter.
The great philosopher John Sterling often reminds us that you just can’t predict baseball, and those words of wisdom ring most true when talking about the developments in the rotation this season. The season is still very young, and there’s plenty of time to fix things, but this was supposed to be a year where there weren’t as many things to fix. It just wasn’t supposed to be like this.
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TagsA.J. Burnett Alex Rodriguez Andy Pettitte Austin Romine Baltimore Orioles Bartolo Colon Boston Red Sox Brett Gardner Brian Cashman Bullpen CC Sabathia Chien-Ming Wang Cliff Lee Curtis Granderson David Robertson Dellin Betances Derek Jeter Francisco Cervelli Freddy Garcia Game Recap Hiroki Kuroda Ivan Nova Javier Vazquez Jesus Montero Joba Chamberlain Joe Girardi Johnny Damon Jorge Posada Manny Banuelos Mariano Rivera Mark Teixeira Melky Cabrera Michael Pineda New York New York Yankees Nick Johnson Nick Swisher Phil Hughes Prospects Rafael Soriano Red Sox Robinson Cano Russell Martin Tampa Bay Rays Yankees