CC Sabathia is, in the old baseball sense of the word, a horse. With two starts remaining, he has thrown 220 innings for the Yanks after throwing 253 last year and 241 the year before. Tack on the postseason, and his innings total climbs by another 19 frames.
Somewhat unfairly and somewhat not, Sabathia carries around with him a reputation for postseason struggles. While he beat the Yanks in the ALDS in 2007, he wasn’t effective, giving up three earned runs on four hits and six walks in just five innings. Chien-Ming Wang was worse, and the Indians grabbed the Game 1 win. His ALCS starts against the Red Sox were worse. Last year, Sabathia’s numbers were ugly against the Phillies. He managed just 3.2 innings in his Game 2 start, surrendering five runs on six hits and four walks. Those results are not good.
Last year, though, Sabathia was pitching under some tough circumstances. Beginning with his start on September 16, Sabathia pitched with three days’ rest for five consecutive starts. During the four regular season starts, he went 2-2 but with a 1.88 ERA anda 26:4 K:BB ratio in 28.2 innings. In his last two starts for the Brewers — do or die games for Milwaukee’s playoff hopes — he gave up one earned run over 16 innings while fanning 18 and issuing just three free passes. Those games carried with them the pressures of the playoffs, and after 16 days of it, Sabathia was hosed.
Because the Yankees have wrapped up a playoff spot, because they have a six-game lead with nine games left to play, the Yankees won’t need to lean on the rubber arm of CC Sabathia. In fact, they can do something the Brewers could not do: They will rest CC.
After their nail-biter against the Angels yesterday afternoon, the Yankees announced the pitching match-ups for the series against the Red Sox, and the team did some shuffling. Joba Chamberlain will face Jon Lester in the Friday evening affair; CC Sabathia will square off against Daisuke Matsuzaka on Saturday afternoon; and Andy Pettitte will meet Paul Byrd in the Sunday afternoon match-up. While Joba will be going on their normal rest, CC and Andy will get a sixth day.
“It’s just giving CC a little extra rest and trying to give him a couple of extra days here. He’ll get an extra day the next time and then he’ll be on regular rest,” Joe Girardi said to reporters on Wednesday.
So while ten days ago, I set up the playoff rotation, let’s reset it.
Except for the final game of the season, we can see how the rotation shakes down. Not only are the Yankees giving CC an extra day off this week, but due to next Thursday’s off-day, he’ll enjoy another extra day of rest next week. As an added bonus, if the Yankees pick the short playoff series, he’ll get yet another extra day off. If they pick the longer series — the one that requires just three starters — the Big Man will be lined up on normal rest to pitch Game 1 in the Bronx against Detroit or Minnesota.
The only real remaining question mark of the season concerns A.J. Burnett. With the power pitching throwing well of late, the Yanks will probably line him up for a Game 2 start. He is, however, schedule to make just one start this year and could be pitching in the playoffs after a 10- or 12-day layoff. That idea scares me.
To that end, the Yankees could opt for Burnett to make an abbreviated start on the final day of the season with any number of relievers ready to step in after three or four innings. While Gaudin is the projected starter for that day, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Burnett draw the ball to give him on a regular schedule.
So that’s that. It is hard to believe the Yanks have just nine days left. It is comforting though to see the rotation shake down so nicely.