With the Rangers’ loss to the Mariners last night, the Yanks’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot dropped to nine and their Magic Percentage hit 23.7. No longer are we worried that the Yanks won’t make the playoffs.
To that end, the Yankees can begin to set their postseason rotation. While their top three pitchers all have the ability to throw gems, the Yankees have to ensure that their pitchers are both ready for the postseason and well-rested for the postseason. We’ve seen A.J. Burnett struggle lately, and while Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia are rolling, keeping these two horses fresh and feeling good are of utmost importance right now.
If we take a look at the Yanks’ final 18 games and the way the pitching rotation shapes down, it appears as though the Yanks won’t have to juggle the starts. Take a look:
What jumps out at me is the number of off-days the Yanks have until the playoffs begin. This is, in reality, one of their hidden advantages right now. While the Yankees have 18 games left until the ALDS, the Red Sox, Angels and Tigers all have 20 each to play. A well-rested pitching staff can be a big weapon in the postseason, and by taking advantage of the days off and a comfortable lead, the Yanks stand to have just that.
So if the Yankees keep their pitchers on the current rotation, the team doesn’t have to change a thing to line everyone up for the postseason. Should we be worried, though, about pitchers getting too much rest? While last year, CC Sabathia threw three straight starts, including his NLDS Game 1 start, on three days of rest, this year, CC could be starting game 1 on six or even seven day’s rest. If Pettitte gets the Game 2 ball, he’ll have a full four days and Burnett will have 11 days off. If Burnett gets the Game 2 ball, he’ll have eight days off and Pettitte six.
The Yankees will probably want to go with Pettitte in Game 2 if the game is at Yankee Stadium because lefties enjoy a bit of advantage at the new park as they did the old. With that in mind, the team could juggle the rotation later in the season. Sergio Mitre or even Alfredo Aceves could take a spot start to make sure Burnett and Sabathia aren’t throwing in the playoffs after an extended layoff.
I, though, would rather see the team gives these guys some rest. With three starts left, Sabathia won’t approach his 250 innings he threw last year, but he should reach 230 IP. Burnett will probably top 200 innings for the second year in a row, and it will be the first time in his career he has reached the double century mark in back-to-back season. Rest at the end of the year can only help them.
Of course, if these are the Yanks’ most pressing concerns, they’re in good shape for the stretch drive. They will live and die by their pitching in October, and keeping everyone feeling good now will pay off next month.