Over at LoHud, Peter Abraham hit upon a topic yesterday weighing on the minds of the Yankee Front Office and the team’s fans. In light of all of the spending on two front-line starters and an All Star first baseman, do the Yankees have enough pitching depth? His answer, when the Yanks are compared to the Red Sox, is no. I disagree.
Here’s what Pete had to say on the topic, and the emphasis is clearly mine:
Penny, Smoltz, Masterson and Buchholz are much, much better options than Hughes, Kennedy, Aceves and the assorted dreck the Yankees have lined up.
The LoHud Yankees Blog charter states “We believe Phil Hughes will stay healthy and realize his vast potential as a starting pitcher.” But facts are facts. He has a 5.15 ERA and a 1.416 WHIP in 21 starts.
It’s not acceptable for a contending team to go into the season with four good starters and hold a contest for the fifth spot. You need to have a good No. 5 and decent options beyond that. Or do you believe that Sabathia, Burnett, Wang and Chamberlain will all stay healthy for six months?
Now, I have a few problems with this argument. First, “much, much better” is rather hyperbolic. While Brad Penny and John Smoltz certainly are, career-wise, much, much better than anyone the Yankees are throwing out there right now, will they be in 2009? Penny is a soon-to-be 31-year-old career NLer with unimpressive Interleague numbers. He is also coming off a shoulder injury but could wind up being a decent low-risk pick up for the Sox.
John Smoltz will turn 42 in May, a few weeks before he is set to return to game action after a major arm surgery. There are questions surrounding his health, and he has never pitched in the AL either. While the Red Sox don’t need much from Smoltz to get their guaranteed $5.5 million out of him, he, like Penny, is not a slam dunk.
Then, we get to the Hughes/Buchholz issue that any astute fan would recognize right away. Of course, we’re huge fans of Hughes around here, but you can’t dispute 106 innings of a 5.15 ERA and a 1.416 WHIP. There’s only one problem. Do you know who’s been worse in his career than Hughes? That’s right; it’s Mr. Laptop Lover himself, Clay Buchholz. In 98.7 innings, Buchholz — who, by the way, is two years older than Hughes — sports a 5.56 ERA and a 1.601 WHIP. In no way should be Buchholz be considered much, much better than Hughes. The jury is still out on Masterson, but he certainly has more upside than Giese. (Ed. Note: Originally, I had Bowden over Masterson. That was a mistake. Bowden is ninth on the Sox’s starting depth chart.)
Now, in a way, I’m being too hard on Pete’s argument. When you line up the two rotations, as things stand right now without Andy Pettitte or a similar starter, it breaks down something like this:
CC Sabathia – Josh Beckett
Chien-Ming Wang – Jon Lester
A.J. Burnett – Daisuke Matsuzaka
Joba Chamberlain – Tim Wakefield
Phil Hughes – Brad Penny
Al Aceves – John Smoltz
Ian Kennedy – Clay Buchholz
Dan Giese –
Michael Bowden Justin Masterson
In that sense, you can see how the Red Sox, on the right, seem to have some more reliable names at the bottom of the order than the Yankees do, and those names do give the Red Sox the edge in that all-important depth category. Those pitchers, however, have question marks just as the Yanks’ bottom four do. Andy Pettitte would go a long way toward improving the Yanks’ rotation depth, but the Red Sox’s depth isn’t “much, much better” than the Yanks’ right now.