Building A Postseason Pitching Staff


(Photo Credit: Flickr user Snap Man via Creative Commons license)

We’ve wasted countless words here talking about specific players the Yankees may or may not target at the trade deadline, and the majority of the time we’ve written about pitchers. The one point we keep missing or just ignoring is the goal of a trade. Yes, it’s to make the team better (duh), but for when? Given the Yankees and their perpetual pursuit of World Championships, the goal is too build a better postseason team, specifically a better postseason pitching staff. That’s a different animal than a regular season staff, very much so.

Right now, at the end of June, the pitching staff is a dozen guys deep because they’re playing everyday and they don’t want to overworking certain players, yadda yadda yadda. Come playoff time, that all changes. There’s no screwing around, you’ll see clubs rely heavily on their three best starters and three or four top relievers. That’s pretty much it. Just look back at 2009, the Yankees used just three starters in the playoffs and the relief quartet of Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, and Phil Hughes threw 34 of 46.1 total relief innings (73.3%). Those seven guys combined to throw 92.5% of the team’s total innings that postseason.

If anyone beyond the six or seven top pitchers gets into a postseason game, it’s either a) an emergency (short start or extra innings), b) a blowout, or c) overmanaging. This is nothing new, and it’s not something unique to the Yankees. As much as we don’t want to see them on the roster, the Brian Gordons and Buddy Carlyles of the world are only here to help navigate this current stretch of the 162 game regular season. The beauty of the postseason is that we get to see who the manager really trusts because he’s in “win at all costs” mode.

At the moment, I see just three guys on the Yankees’ staff that are absolute locks for the postseason roster: Mo, Robertson, and CC Sabathia. I don’t think anyone else’s spot is guaranteed. Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia have done a bang-up job at the back of the rotation so far, but will they start a playoff game for the Yankees this year*? Who knows if Bartolo Colon will return from the hamstring injury and pitch the way he did earlier in the year. Furthermore, who knows if he’ll hold up all year? It’s a roll of a dice every time he goes out there. How effective will Rafael Soriano be? Phil Hughes? A.J. Burnett was not used out of the bullpen in last year’s ALDS, he’s certainly not guaranteed to pitch. Obviously some guys will step up and seize jobs between now and then, but others will make it by default.

The clear needs right now for a potential Yankees’ postseason pitching staff are a legitimate number two starter behind Sabathia, two reliable right-handers out of the bullpen, and a lefty specialist that can actually get lefties out. It’s entirely possible that all four needs will be filled from within, but the smart money is on some outside help being needed. The Yankees have another month to really evaluate their internal options before the trade deadline, and beyond that they can sort out the rest of the staff and ride the hot hands into October. Just remember, the pitching staff at the end of the season will look little the one the Yankees have now, and with good reason.

* Assuming they get that far, of course. The playoffs are far from a given.

Categories : Pitching


  1. John Kruk's belly says:

    Easy solution. Just trade for Clayton Kershaw or Felix Hernandez.

  2. JGS says:

    I’d say AJ is a lock for a roster spot too. Whether or not he will pitch is a different question but unless he is hurt, he will be there.

  3. dean says:


  4. Jimmy McNulty says:

    This is something that has me pretty damn concerned about the team’s future.

    • jon says:

      its a big if but IF colon and hughes come back the team should match up to any big league rotation not named philly

      • Jimmy McNulty says:

        If Colon comes back and throws just like he did during his first few starts of the year and Hughes performs to the same level around his 2010, I won’t have very many concerns about the team’s playoff pitching. My only concern about Bart is his health…after I saw the stuff he was throwing that’s about all I was worried about. Hughes’ flyball concerns and that’s about it.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          First you say it’s got you “pretty damn concerned” then in the second comment act like it’s not that big a concern…

          I still think you need to use some context in terms of what gets you “pretty damn concerned.”

      • Will says:

        You’re overrating Hughes big time. If he starts ahead of AJ in the playoffs, expect the same results as last year.

        I think a playoff rotation of CC, Colon, AJ, Garcia (when a 4th is needed) is more than enough for #28 if all continue to pitch as they have thus far in 2011.

        On a related note, assuming Colon comes back and pitches like he did before his injury, the Yankees would have to be utterly insane to let Phil Hughes start another game for them this year

    • CS Yankee says:

      My thoughts on pitching being a concern;
      Short term future (2011)…yes (only in postseason though)
      mid-term (2012)…maybe.
      long-term (2013)…no.

      Short term…BFB (big fat Bart) shouldn’t lose his game, Garcia is a junk master, & Hughes/AJ/Nova aren’t anything to write home about.

      Mid-term…lots of decent starters are developing, plus a possible ace or three.

      Long-term…no, great place to play with endless cash to get almost anyone they desire.

      • Clay Bellinger says:

        Pretty good breakdown.

      • JobaWockeeZ says:

        We’re going to wait until 2013 for the ‘endless money’ plan to work and that’s if Hamels, Danks, Liriano and Jonathan Sanchez aren’t resigned. There are a few people with club options though but they’re probably going to be picked up.

        • John Kruk's belly says:

          Hamels will be re-signed. No way the Phillies let him go.

          • CS Yankee says:

            Not for sure…

            they are tight on money now, they are overpaying on Howard (for a long term too), Rollins is a FA this year and those other three pitchers don’t start coming off the books until after 2014 (me thinks).

            Hamels will likely get a 120-150M$ deal, Philly might not be where it will be as the are aging.


            • John Kruk's belly says:

              Oswalt could be gone after this season, Polanco is a FA after 2012 and Ibanez is definitely gone this year. I think that’s enough payroll to re-sign the kid. Amaro loves him some aces.

    • John Kruk's belly says:

      No kidding. That’s why I vote no higher than 6 in the weekly fan confidence poll. Sure, we may get to the playoffs. But what will we do from there? Our starting rotation can’t compete with the Phil’s one and Boston absolutely owns us right now.

      • Colombo says:

        Remember 2009. Early season success against a team is not indicative of future success.

        • John Kruk's belly says:

          I do remember 2009. I also remember that we had a clutch southpaw named Andy Pettitte that won us a bunch of key games on the way to the championship. This team is void of anything that resembles a #2 or #3 starter. Colon is the closest thing but will he stay healthy?

      • CS Yankee says:

        As Boston did as well as of June 2009.

        Ever had a red hot dog in beantown in October?…its a very rare thing they say.

        Boston almost lost 6 straight to the Padres & Pirates, They say you can’t predict baseball. What they don’t say is that winners usually win. 6 outta 109, or 27 outta 100?

  5. Andrew says:

    AJ Burnett is a lock for the postseason roster, I find it hard to believe he would slip anywhere below #3 in the pitching pecking order in October. The skepticism around Colon and Hughes’ returns is justified and when you combine that with the relatively scarce trade market, it is very hard to see how AJ is not a lock for playing a big role if the Yankees are in the playoffs, regardless of his 2010 playoffs role as the 4 starter.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Eh… I think he’ll be on the playoff roster, but it is very, very easy to see him not being the #3 starter. CC, Colon, Garcia are all better then him so far this season, Hughes was better last season than AJ has been this season… heck Nova is neck-and-neck with AJ. Any trade acquisition most likely pushes him to at least #4.

  6. Hester Prynne says:

    Current playoff rotation is CC-Bartolo-AJ-Phil in that order. If Phil pitches well he’ll move up. If we can’t get a solid #2 starter like Kershaw or better then we shouldn’t trade for a starter at all. What do we need Dumpster or Edwin Jackson for when they won’t start a playoff game? Freddy and Nova have pitched well enough to get us through the regular season, they won’t be starting postseason ballgames. Our offense can carry average pitchers. Once Bartolo and Phil get back we’ll have 3 above average starters and that got us through the 09 playoffs.

    • Clay Bellinger says:

      “If we can’t get a solid #2 starter like Kershaw or better then we shouldn’t trade for a starter at all.”

      I understand the idea that many of the marginal SPs available may not help us much, but Kershaw is a top 10 pitcher in the game. They don’t have to be at his level to help us.

      Oh, and we’re def not getting him.

      • Hester Prynne says:

        Pitchers at that level will help us in the postseason. If they’re just #5 pitchers to get us through the regular season what’s the point? Those guys don’t have numbers better than Nova or Freddy who are pitching against better offenses.

        • Clay Bellinger says:

          Of course they’d help us. I get what you’re saying, I’m just saying that they don’t have to be at Kershaw level to help us. That’s limiting yourself to about the best nine or ten arms in the game. Liriano, for example, would help.

        • Sayid J says:

          There are A LOT of pitchers who are neither #5 starters nor #1 starters who could help the Yankees rotation in the playoffs.

          • CS Yankee says:

            Would they be called number two, number three or number four staters?

            As I wouldn’t want another number six or seven starter.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          The point is that there’s a whole, whole lot of of room between Kershaw and #5 starters.

          Another point is that you often get what you pay for. Kershaw is going to cost out the butt to get. His teammate Kuroda, for example, might be available for 1/5 the prospect cost.

  7. James says:

    http://www.baseball-reference......1998.shtml now this… is a lineup built for the post season.

  8. Johnny O says:

    Give me Liriano. He’s like AJ Burnett in that he seems to have good/bad personas, but he can be more dominating. Sure he can throw up a few clunkers but there is immense potential. Plus I’d like another LHP to throw up against the Sawx (assuming Boston gets that far).

  9. Dan says:

    If Logan continues to pitch better and Soriano comes back and pitches like he did last year, I would not have a problem with the current team as it is constructed. Granted I would feel much stronger about their chances to win against the Phillies and Red Sox if Felix or Kershaw are in the rotation, but those are extreme long shots. However, with Hughes returning I would be happy with a rotation of CC, AJ, Hughes, and if Bart can stay healthy having him in there would be a tough rotation to beat and should match up well against most other teams. The Sox would be the only team that would worry me in the AL with Lester, Beckett, and Bucholz.

    • Colombo says:

      Felix and Kershaw are not “extreme long shots”, they are, for all intents and purposes, impossibilities.

  10. Favrest says:

    I would not trade any of Montero/Banuelos/Betances unless we were able to haul a legit ace in return. Keyshaw and maybe a Ethier along with a salary dump or two would be worth Gardner/Montero/Warren but who knows if they have any interest in trading a young ace under team control. Kuroda is more likely, but he wouldn’t command a front line prospect. Maybe an Austin Romine or a Corbin Joseph.

  11. JobaWockeeZ says:

    Hiroki Kuroda please.

  12. Jorge says:

    One of the positives as to Eduardo Nunez looking good at bat at the MLB level is that, if other teams believe the defense will come with time, he’s now become the kind of “MLB-ready” piece teams wants back in trades. In that hypothetical trade for the “elite ace,” he may allow the team to keep another piece they would have been likely to lose.

    I also thought the only reason the Brian Gordons and Buddy Carlyles of this world were on the roster was because Cashman failed.


  13. Crime Dog says:

    The Yankees are not getting Kershaw or Hernandez. Please, please, please, realize this everyone

  14. An somewhat important note to mention:

    With Joba Chamberlain, Pedro Feliciano, and Damaso Marte all probably still on the 60-day DL by season’s end, we’ll have a handful of roster exemption slots to use on minor leaguers, so guys like Betances, Banuelos, Phelps, Warren, Mitchell, or even Carlos Silva, etc. who could be September callups will have the chance to pitch their way into the postseason bullpen if they look good against big leaguers in September.

  15. nsalem says:

    I would stick with what we have, We would have to empty out our farm system to get someone who would make a big difference in our starting rotation. If Colon returns to form, he is a legit number 2. I think he will return to form and it’s not worth mortgaging the future because you are assuming he will get hurt.
    There is now way our SP matchups against the Phillies would be favorable to us anyway, but there is more needed than SP matchups to win a short series.

  16. UncleArgyle says:

    Banuelos would be the easy answer for a lefty specialist out of the pen. I doubt it will fuck with his developement to face 10-15 left handed batters in September as sort of a tryout for the post season. I know his numbers against lefties are great this year, but I think he has the talent to pull it off. It would probably actually be a good thing for his long term developement.

  17. Dario says:

    We miss you Andy!!

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