Early season schedule works in Yanks’ favor

Open Thread: John Flaherty
Fan Confidence Poll: January 17th, 2011
We might not have to see too much of this guy in April. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

There’s nothing quite as exciting as Opening Day, not after five long and cold winter months without any actual baseball. Rumors and signings and trades are fun, but nothing compares to the games. Yet once the season starts, everyone has the same complaint: what’s up with all the days off? As you know, it has to do with the weather. April showers bring May flowers lots of off days because baseball doesn’t want there to be an overload of doubleheaders early in the season. As annoying as it is, the logic is sound.

All those days off are a nuisance to us fans after the long offseason, but they can benefit the 2011 Yankees quite a bit. You may or may not have heard, but the Yanks have a bit of a fifth starter problem. Actually, it’s more like a fourth and fifth starter problem, though I’m down with giving Ivan Nova a chance given the lack of alternatives. Sergio Mitre is another story all together. No one has any faith in him being even a slightly below average big league starter, especially in the AL East, but that’s where the schedule comes into play. The off days in April give the Yankees ample opportunity skip him.

Pictures are worth a thousand words, so I grabbed the early season schedule off the official site and laid out the starting pitching plan. The identities of SP1 through SP4 are irrelevant as long as SP5 is the guy we’re trying to avoid, which in this case is Mitre. The number in parenthesis is the number of days the pitcher has had off, so (4) is normal rest. Here’s March/April…

As you can see, the Yankees will only need their fifth starter three times in the season’s first month, a span of 27 games. The front four also gets a nice little break during the week of the 17th in the form of an extra day of rest. SP5 and SP1 could be flip-flopped on the 15th and 16th, but doing so will give SP1 one start with two extra days of rest (on the 22nd) rather than two starts  with one extra day of rest each (16th and 22nd)  I just spread the rest around a bit, but in the end it doesn’t really matter. An added benefit is that the fifth starter will be available out of the bullpen for at least a few days in between starts, taking the load off the regular cast of relievers in early going.

There’s not much to see during the first few weeks of May since the Yankees will have to stay on rotation through the ninth, their first off day of the month. If they stay on rotation after the day off, they’ll be able to trot out their top three starters against the Red Sox on the 13th through 15th. All told, the Yankees will have to use their fifth starter just six times in the season’s first 42 games. The less Mitre the better, but if they have to start the season with him in the rotation, at least they can spread out the damage, so to speak.

Of course all of this is academic and so, so much can change between now and then. The weather could decide not to play nice, maybe someone gets hurt, maybe Mitre comes out and dominates one or two guys surprise and get a little more responsibility, who knows. As it stands, the Yankees can avoid their fifth starter quite a bit in the early going, and it could give them enough time to find a better solution than what they have right now.

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Open Thread: John Flaherty
Fan Confidence Poll: January 17th, 2011
  • http://www.123blawg.blogspot.com LawStudent

    Yeah I’m fine with giving Nova a shot. I’m cautiously optimistic. Mitre though… ugh. If our rotation was CC, AJ, Phil, Nova, and Joba, it’d look sooooo much better.

    • Jess

      You know Joba has to be in shape. Just penciling Joba into the rotation isn’t going to accomplish anything.

  • PaulF

    This is good as it might allow the Yankees to limit the Mitre in the early going and hope that Pettitte comes back midseason or they can trade for a starter.

  • Poopy Pants

    Excellent news. Looking forward to Pettitte coming back later in the season to solidify things.

    • mbonzo

      I’d love to see Joba and Nova make the last 2 spots and IF Pettitte comes back replace the weaker one.

      • Poopy Pants

        Me too!

  • LGY

    These off days don’t benefit me at all

  • Chris

    The early season schedule gives the Yanks AAA starters 5-6 weeks for someone to get off to a hot start and replace Mitre in the rotation since no one is gonna be trading away quality starting pitching that early.

  • Chris

    I guess any day now they’ll be signing the reclamation project du jour like Bonderman, Garcia or Duchscherer to compete with Mitre for the 5th spot in the rotation. Hopefully the Knicks will be playing on those nights

    • mbonzo

      Duchscherer please.

    • Ted Nelson

      I would not call those guys reclamation projects. Just mediocre pitchers at this point who might beat out Mitre and/or Nova in spring training. Also, guys who are going to come cheap. They don’t have to bounce back and reclaim past glory, just eat some innings without getting totally shellacked.

      Everyone would love to have Cliff Lee, but guess what? He signed with the Phillies.

  • Icxe

    Still don’t believe for a second that Mitre will be starting next season.
    Joba will start over Mitre, no matter what Cashman or anyone else says.

  • jim p

    Why does Girardi have such love for Mitre? He seems to think the guy can be a success, though I’m not sure what in his Yankees experience would lead him to think that. If he still does.

    • http://historyandfutility.wordpress.com The Oberamtmann

      Because he’s been recovering from TJ and we actually don’t know how well or poorly he will perform over a year? He’s not a top flight starter, of course, but people need to stop automatically assuming he’s as bad as Ponson or the like. He actually was very good last year.

      • FIPster Doofus

        His good results last season were fueled by an obscenely low BABIP (.226). Mitre in the rotation is going to be a train wreck.

  • aRX

    If MLB is so worried about April rainouts causing scheduling headaches later on, then I don’t understand why they have teams make their only trip to a particular city in April. The series vs Texas is OK, since they come back in June. But that 4 game set vs the Chisox? One inopportune rainout, and they can probably kiss a July/August/September off day goodbye (with CHI probably having to hit 3 cities in 3 days), when they can least afford it.

    Anyway, it’s nice to minimize any damage from Mitre for a month, though it might also be nice to find out sooner rather than later whether he can be league-average for long enough to avoid having to make a costly trade for pitching help.

  • Wil Nieves #1 Fan

    FAN CONFIDENCE POLL RIGHT NOW I VOTE 11!!!

  • Monteroisdinero

    Last year at this time (approximately) we were discussing our 5th starter Phil Hughes after saying we were solid with CC, Andy, AJ and Javy. We were all worried about Phil and I remember saying how we had lots of off days and Phil wouldn’t pitch that much the first 2 months of the season. Things surprise and things change.

    • Louis

      Yea but now we have 2 spots that were worried about and Phil hughes is a completely different case the. Sergio mitre. It’s hard to argue that mitre has Hughes- esque upside. I agree that things change in the season but the whole thing looked a lot less bleak last offseason.

  • Ted Nelson

    I think this is a good point, and one reason why everyone needs to chill a little with the Mitre hysteria.

    The other reason is that I sincerely doubt Mitre is going to open the season as the 5th starter, unless maybe he beats out Nova in Spring Training or an injury occurs. I think it’s pretty likely that between Garcia, Bonderman, Duchscherer, Blanton, etc. the Yankees will find a veteran 4th starter candidate via free agency or trade.

  • Lluisergi

    AJ is the key.
    If he comes out of the gate pitching good enough then the yankees would be just fine even with Mitre in the rotation…

    CC, Hughes, “Good” AJ, Nova, plus the great offense and bullpen is, since my point of view, enough to fight at the top of the division with the Sox.

    I repeat; It comes down to AJ, the guy is making the big bucks he HAS to deliver this time.

    • Professor Longnose

      There’s a good chance Burnett is through. Guys his age who fall off a cliff don’t come back.

  • Scout

    I’m going to defend Mitre, not as a starter but as the object of the fans’ unfair wrath. He is who he is — roughly a seventh starter option on a good team. We all know he belongs in long relief. It is not and won’t be his fault if he is asked to do more than he’s able to do. Blame rests with an organization and GM who failed to secure the better talent needed for the rotation.

    • Ted Nelson

      When something hasn’t happened yet, there’s no need to blame anyone.

      If it gets to be October and the Yankees aren’t in the playoffs, you can start blaming people. When it’s January and not one pitch has been thrown, there’s nothing to blame anyone for.

      • http://danielslifka.wordpress.com Jerome S.

        Precisely; and who’s to say that Mitre’s not roiding up as we speak to prep for his new role? I bet he comes into Spring Training throwing 105.

        • Louis

          guys as good as mitre dont throw 105 when they juice up, they throw 120.

        • Ted Nelson

          What hasn’t happened yet is Mitre spending the season as the Yankees’ 5th starter. You don’t have to blame the organization for Mitre being penciled in as their 5th starter in January, but you can blame them if he actually spends the season as their 5th starter (and it’s not because of a rash of injuries).

    • Professor Longnose

      Of course. I don’t think anyone here is saying that it’s Mitre’s fault. And if they are, then you can sneer at them as much as they sneer at Mitre.

  • dalelama

    Spahn then Sain and pray for rain.

  • Jamie G.

    I would rather have Swisher in the rotation than Meatray