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.