How many starts will they make?

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I was thinking aloud on this one this morning, so I thought I’d bring it to you guys for a public review. Keep in mind that this is a best case scenario. It’s assuming that no one completely bombs or gets injured for more than two weeks or so. So let’s break this down:

Andy & CMW: 33 or 34 — so we’ll say Andy with 33 and CMW with 34.
Mussina: 28 — could be more if he’s effective, but he does have a tendency to wear down.
IPK: 28 — at 7 innings a start, that brings him to 196, right around his projected goal number.
Hughes: 22 — at 7 innings a pop, he’d be at 154, or right around his goal.
Joba: 8 — could be 10, could be none.

Add ’em all up, and we’re looking at 153 starts, so that’s nine that have to be filled by the likes of Igawa, Karstens, Rasner, Wright, White, Marquez, and Horne. Not too shabby.

Of course, there are a couple of further caveats to the above list, foremost being Joba. Going back to the 2003 Johan Santana parallel, he could make as many as 18 starts, but I think the Yanks will use him a bit more liberally out of the pen early on than the Twins did, and will transition him to starting later on. As I’ve said, even if he opens in the pen, the team would be wise to give him a spot start in each of the season’s first three months, so he’s not completely unused to starting.

Hughes is a tough call. He threw 146 innings in 2006, so he could probably go decently over the 150 cap we’re hearing about. I probably wouldn’t go more than 160 with him in any event, though 165, 170 shouldn’t be out of the question.

And, of course, Mussina’s 28 starts depend wholly on his effectiveness. Hell, if he could hit 30 starts, that would be amazing. Even at a 4.40 or 4.50 ERA, he could carry value.

Playoffs are another concern. This is why I see the Yanks keeping Hughes to around 145 innings during the regular season. It’s also why I don’t see Joba making more than eight starts, 10 tops. They want these guys to be able to pitch in the playoffs. This is why Mussina is that much more important. If he can eat 30 starts, he takes the pressure off the younger guys, allowing the Yanks to free up innings for playoff time.

Then again, in this year’s AL, the playoffs aren’t any kind of guarantee. The Yanks will be fighting with Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Anaheim, and Seattle for four spots. And even then you don’t know if a dark horse like the Rangers will emerge as competitive.

The overall message, though, is to not listen to the mainstream media. The Yanks look fine in terms of starters as of this moment. If something changes along the way, I’m sure we’ll discuss it. But it need not be met with panic.

Heyman ranks Cashman as game's fifth best GM
Project Prospect's Top 150 List
  • TurnTwo

    i think assuming Hughes would pitch 7 innings a start too is also kind of optimistic… i would imagine the young guys are more likely to average closer to 6 innings a start than 7 when you come to the end of the season, so you could save a handful of innings taking that into consideration.

    but then again, my mind is warped my Joe Torre’s quick hook, so what do i know.

    • TurnTwo

      thats not to say i’m panicking by any stretch… i’m confident in the arms we have in the rotation to be able to remain effective for 162+.

    • Joseph P.

      At that point, though, you could stretch 25, 26 starts out of Hughes. But then the questions shift to the bullpen.

  • Ben K.

    I’m more concerned about giving 27-28 starts to Mike Mussina than I am about the number of starts Joba is or isn’t getting in this scenario. I know that’s just my skepticism of Mike Mussina, age 39, coming through, but his 27 starts of 5.15 ERA baseball didn’t do much to help the team last season. His 5.5 IP per start average isn’t too comforting either.

    • Mike A.

      Steve Lombari : Brian Cashman


      Ben : Mike Mussina


      • Ben K.


        • Ron

          Steve Lombari : Brian Cashman


          RAB : Melky

      • Count Zero


        I don’t know why I’m laughing though, as I’m in complete agreement with him. My first thought when I read it: Moose won’t start that many games.

    • steve (different one)

      but his 27 starts of 5.15 ERA baseball didn’t do much to help the team last season.

      i don’t know.

      he had 3 awful starts. in those 3 starts, he had an ERA of about 18.

      in his other 24 starts, his ERA was 4.30 and he averaged about 5 3/4 IP per start.

      for a large chunk of the season, Moose DID help the team.

      the yankees are basically looking for just a slight improvement on that

      something like 150-160 IP at an ERA around 4.5-4.75.

      that would take a lot of pressure off the kids and it also seems fairly reasonable.

  • samiamsports

    ben, that last comment was bigger than most of your

  • NYFan50

    You are also assuming no playoff innings. One has to assume the Yankees will expect to fill (hopefully) 10+ innings in the playoffs for the young guys.

    • NYFan50

      I should read the whole post before commenting. My bad.

  • Spike

    I hope I’m wrong, but I really think Moose is done. His stuff was bad last year, and I can’t see him improving at his age. I think he’s gonna be hit hard this year and taken out of the rotation. That means a youngster will have to step up…..Maybe Moose can get some HGH or roids? I mean, c’mon, what’s the worst that could happen? (said tongue-in-cheek)

  • My Pet Goat

    Battling for a playoff spot? You should check out the new PECOTA standings. 1) Don’t sweat the dark horse, the Rangers are projected to be the worst team in the AL. 2) Don’t sweat the Mariners, an awful team in mediocre clothing. They’ll be just ahead of the Rangers in the standings. and 3) The Yankees project to have the best record in the AL. A lot of energy is misspent fretting over the decline of the Yankees.

    • Joseph P.

      PECOTA means nil in my book. You can project all you want. It means nothing in the end, except coincidences like the White Sox and Dustin Pedroia.

      (Though it’s no surprise that the White Sox were bad last year, they weren’t bad just because PECOTA said they would be.)

      • Sciorsci

        The White Sox weren’t bad because PECOTA said they would be, but they were bad for the exact same reasons that PECOTA predicted they would be.

  • Tripp

    It’s mind boggling how a pitcher like Mussina who throws so much junk up there can’t pitch on deception and adjust. Moyer, Maddux, Glavine, and Kenny Rogers all are able to get away with mediocre stuff and pitch at league average.

    • Ben K.

      Despite my thoughts on Mussina, I think we’ll see him adjust this year. Last year seemed to be the first year he couldn’t get outs on his fastball, and he’s got the stuff to thrive on the corners.

    • Greg C.

      Mussina is judged by a different standard. I guess he has earned it based on his salary, past performance, and demeanor.

      However, I find it laughable when he is compared unfavorably to people like Kenny Rogers and Jamie Moyer ( who has 5.00+ ERAs 2 out of the last 4 seasons). His worst seasons are comparable to their career averages. The same goes for guys like Hughes ( who for much of last season was similar or worse than Mussina and has yet to prove anything at this level) and Wang. In 2006 ( not THAT long ago) Mussina was the best starter on the team by every objective standard- while Wang led in Wins only. And in Wang’s “great”‘ 19 win 2007 his ERA was exactly Mussina’s career average ( after being brought down a lot in the last few seasons).

      It can also be argued that Mussina was better than Clemens ( who barely averaged 6 innings a start years ago) or at least pretty much the same in 2001 and 2003. He was definitely better than the beloved Pettitte, Wells, and others.

      When guys like Moyer at age 40+ have league average or worse seasons, they sign multi- year contracts. There is never a second thought about a team re-signing Kenny Rogers at 40+ after injury and ineffective pitching. Yet Mussina has 1 really BAD year ( which was mostly 1 bad month) after a very good year (2006) and 2 average seasons ( 2004-2005)- yet people want to say he’s DONE and should never be allowed to pitch again.

      The difference isnt that Mussina doesnt really adjust, it’s that Moyer, Rogers, Wells ( who was never half the pitcher Mussina is yet inexplicably some Yankee bloggers even wanted to bring him back at age 44), and all those other old pitchers are allowed to be old average pitchers and are rewarded for it.

      As another poster mentioned, a 5.15 ERA isnt that bad for a # 5 starter. I don’t think even Mussina’s biggest fans think he is an ace or anything more than a #5 at this point in his career, but for a #5 guy he’s not that bad. In his worst season he was better than most.

  • Barry

    I read an article the other day that Girardi and Cashman want to give Igawa another shot as well, wouldn’t surprise me because he probably could be a good 5 starter if he could settle down and not walk every other man.

    • Count Zero

      I agree with that. However, I would caveat and say — it’s not just the walks; it’s his complete inability to throw anything but a fastball for a strike when he’s behind in the count. In order to be effective in the majors, he has to gain command of another pitch.

  • Geno

    I’d rather give 15 starts to Horne and 15 to White and see what they can do than hand the ball to Mussina anymore. It’s not like they’re going to do worse than the Moose, plus they’d be getting ML starts under their belts. Run Mussina out to mop up blowouts and as a long man out of the pen.

  • sabernar

    Mussina: 5.15 ERA from a #5 starter is actually way better than league average for a #5. I think the average ERA for a #5 was well over 6.00.

  • ceciguante

    barring any surprise performances, i bet the yanks 2008 success will be closely correlated with how many starts are made by the 6 projected starters listed above. penciling in 153 starts from those guys sounds optimistic to me, mostly b/c it doesn’t much account for the chance of injuries, even not-so-severe ones. i’d be real happy to see those 6 starters make 145 starts.

    hopefully, the 2d tier group of igawa, etc. wouldn’t put us in a huge hole trying to handle 17 starts or so. anyone know about how many starts were made by that second group last year? i’m talking about desalvo/clippard/rasner/karstens/igawa/wright/henn/irabu etc. just curious.

  • Sciorsci

    I don’t understand why Hughes would be capped anywhere near 150, aside from maybe a concern about the playoffs. If he threw 146 innings last season, he can throw up to 175 this year without entering the danger zone. And to not try to stretch him to somewhere near there seems foolish – he’s got to get his innings limit stretched at some point; might as well take him up the 30 innings per year that has shown to be safe and effective.

    If Hughes is the #3 starter, you’re looking at three, maybe four postseason starts. That translates to 20-25 innings, so maybe that’s where the 150 cap is coming from. But if presumptively planning for the postseason costs the Yankees the chance to stretch out Hughes’ innings limits, we’ll just be having this same discussion a year from now – or worse, they’ll push his limits too far in 2009.

    I suppose this is the difficult part of developing a young rotation on a playoff-ready team. If you knew, without question, that the Yankees were not going to make the playoffs, you could much more easily chart the path for getting to the desired number of innings. But that’s not the case on a playoff contender. The playoffs are a significant consideration not only because they add an element of uncertainty to figuring out how to get the proper number of innings to the young pitchers, but also because the young pitchers will almost certainly be needed in the playoffs if the Yankees are to have any success. They don’t have the luxury of shutting them down late in the year or in the postseason, like Boston did with Bucholtz.

  • Ron

    He pitched 146 inning in 2006. Because of injuries, he only pitched 109 innings last year, and 37 of those were in the minors. That’s why he’s on such a short leash this year.

    • Sciorsci

      Thanks for clarifying that. I couldn’t understand why the Yankees wouldn’t stretch Hughes out to more than 150, but that does make sense. I must admit, I couldn’t remember Hughes possibly throwing that many innings last year (as you said, due to injury), but figured it must have included some rehab innings.

  • Rob_in_CT

    6 innings/start is reasonable (heck, maybe even a tad optimistic) for the young guys, I think. That’s 25 starts for Hughes (150 IP). More like 30 starts for IPK.

    There will be some strain on the ‘pen again this year, and the team will need spot starts from some assortment of Igawa, Horne, Karstens, Rasner… I myself would prefer Rasner first, then Horne if he looks ready. Scary fly ball guy (Karstens) and the (new) Run Fairy (Igawa) scare me.

    As for Mussina… I think he will be better than a 5.15 ERA. Not much better, but some. And, if Hughes and Kennedy (and Joba, whatever role he’s in) are pitching well, Moose will be an asset. If he’s the 3rd starter… eek.