Much depends on consistent pitching

Random A-Rod musings
Stop fooling yourself, Phil

I was all set to write a post about how the Yankees’ season hinges on pitching, but Rob Neyer apparently beat me to it. Well, tough luck, Rob. I’m writing mine anyway.

Earlier today, David Pinto released his New York Yankees Rotation Evaluation. Using the Marcel Projections, Pinto estimates that the Yanks’ top five starters — omitted the bound-for-the-bullpen Joba Chamberlain — will pull down an ERA of around 4.14 in 689 innings.

This is of course wildly optimistic and leaves a lot of starting pitching innings to be filled by hurlers who are not one of the Yanks’ top five pitchers. It also relies on the assumption that Mike Mussina will throw to a 4.59 ERA, an improvement approximately 0.66 runs over his 2007 effort. Stranger things have happened.

And here is where Rob Neyer takes over. After reading Pinto’s post, he and I had the same idea. Take it away, Rob:

Aside from Pettitte and Wang both being good, though, I find it essentially impossible to predict what’s going to happen here. In fact, that’s my prediction: Every prediction will fail. Too many moving parts. Between Mussina’s recent struggles and the young starters’ lack of experience and non-history of durability, how can anyone know, really?

…For all the talk about the Yankees’ six starters, would anybody like to bet they’ll get by with only six? Last year nine Yankees started more than five games. The year before that, seven; the year before that, nine. We may guess that in addition to the six guys we’ve heard so much about, at least two others will play significant roles in the rotation.

The Yankees have done a real good job of accumulating talent. They’ve got six starting pitchers who have demonstrated — some for many years, some for a few months — abilities that sometimes lead to Hall of Fame careers. But if the Yankees wind up winning 95 games (again), we’ll look back with admiration for Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman‘s ability to take advantage of all those talents through six months of twists and turns and sprains and tender elbows.

Neyer, of course, nails this analysis. But beyond Neyer’s “twists and turns and sprains and tender elbows” comes the fact of Major League life for young pitchers: the specter of inconsistency. While Phil Hughes struggled with a return to form last year following his leg injuries, he’s been utterly dominant this Spring. Meanwhile, in their brief Major League careers, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy have yet to falter.

But they will, and it won’t portend the end of the world. We’ve seen it during Spring Training, a fine time indeed to see struggles. While Phil has been mowing them down and reminding everyone, albeit in limited time, why the organization has long loved his stuff, Joba and IPK had rough early outings followed by better second outings. The two will only get stronger as time wears on, but at some point during the season, they will turn in clunkers.

It is quite possible that the Yanks end up with two candidates for Rookie of the Year in 2008. Joba and Kennedy could be battling out with Evan Longoria when September rolls around. But can the Yanks at the same time expect perfection each outing? No, and that’s why predictions are dicey.

In the end, the kids will be all right, and for years to come, they should remain that way. But Yankee success in 2008 will depend entirely on the consistency of the pitching. In baseball, this is always true, but with three young guns on the way up, this lesson will be on display for all to see. It will be a great ride, but it could get a little bumpy. Now, let’s just get to Opening Day all ready.

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Random A-Rod musings
Stop fooling yourself, Phil
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  • http://mvn.com/milb-yankees Eric Schultz

    The Yankees will always depend on pitching for their success, as the offense should again lead the league in runs (or be in the top 3, at least). The pitching depth is much better this year, and I am much more comfortable with the idea of Marquez and Horne possibly filling in for injured pitchers than I was with DeSalvo, Chase Wright and Clippard.

  • Jim L.

    Sorry to burst your bubble guys but over on Hughes blog he said that the “Big Three,” have choose “The Three Amigos” as the offical nickname for there group.

  • RollignWave

    haha.

    anyway, a average team usually go through a season with like 10 guys making starts. last year the Yankees had 14! the guy with the 5th most IP was Igawa! 4th was Hughes ! kinda summed up how bad they were hurting last year.

    so would the Yankees “likely” make it through the year with only 6 guys starting? ummmm if they do i’m predicting a 120 win season.

  • RollignWave

    woops i mean Hughes and Igawa as 5th and 6th.. obviously Clemens* was 4th.

  • Drew

    The Yanks will likely go through ~8 guys. Thing is this year AAA is stocked. Horne, Marquez, yes Igawa, Wright among many others have huge potential. This is ignoring whoever doesn’t make the team Rasner/Karstens.

    The Yanks can absorb a lot of innings with other guys. The thing i found interesting about this “projection” is that while it has a nice overall ERA its basically Hughes and Kennedy either won’t stay in the majors [unlikely] or both of them are going to be out for 75% of the season. 1 that seems like a nightmare, and 2 it seems awfully unlikely. Granted hughes has an injury history, although not w/ his arm recently and as far as i know the last time anything was wrong with Kennedy was 4 years ago in early college.

  • bummy

    That Mets projection is absolutely ridiculous IMO

  • http://breakingballs.riveraveblues.com Tommy

    “…and the young starters’ lack of experience and non-history of durability…”

    Is that the same thing as a history of non-durability?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      In Rob Neyer’s universe, indeed it is. I think.

      • pete

        no it isn’t. a non-history of durability means the durability is entirely unpredictable because there is no history.

  • nick blasioli

    it would be a nice fit for the yankees to snag up joe blanton….to solidify the rotation and back up the big three…mussina in the bp…its great and joe could be a real life saver for the kids to rest more and keep them at their innings total…

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

      It would provide some Mussina insurance. But I can’t fathom a situation where Billy Beane trades us Blanton without one of the Big Three, Tabata, or Jackson. And I’m sorry, the trade isn’t worth it at that point. Might as well stick with what you’ve got.

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  • http://rivaveblues Brian C

    A 4.14 ERA for these 5 starters does not sound that great to me. I’m certainly hoping for better than that!

  • http://rivaveblues Brian C

    Sorry, there is no way Phil has an ERA over 4.00 this year. Last year (omitting his first major league appearance, and his first start back from the DL) his ERA was 3.50.

    Maybe moose’s projection is a bit of a stretch, but if he pitches to a close to 5 era as suggested, he also probably won’t last in the rotation.

  • dm31078

    Are scott patterson and albaldejo going to get a legit shot to be in the bullpen? We know they wouldnt if Torre was still around.