Innings innings innings (and it’s not just CC)

When in doubt, pull A.J. out
Yankees demote Pendleton, outright Carlyle, release Texeira
(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

Not to beat that old drum again, but it’s amazing how strong the Yankees’ starting rotation has been despite all the questions coming into the season. Their 3.63 ERA is fifth best in the American League and tenth best among all teams, and their 3.84 FIP is fifth and 13th best, respectively. If you prefer xFIP to adjust some of the homerun stuff, they’re second and tenth best, respectively. No matter how you slice it, the Yankees rotation has been one of the ten or so best in baseball during the first half of the season. I don’t think many of us saw that coming.

Aside from the overall performance, the other thing that really stands out is how deep the starters are pitching into games. It all starts with CC Sabathia obviously, who completed seven innings for the fifth straight start last night and 13th time in 19 starts this year. He hasn’t thrown fewer than five innings in a start since May 8th of last year, a stretch of 46 straight starts. Furthermore, that game was the game in Fenway when they called for the tarp with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, when Sabathia had two strikes on the hitter. He had to be lifted at just 85 pitches due to the lengthy delay, so it’s safe to say he would have finished the fifth in that game too. The last time he failed to complete five innings in a start because of something other than rain was his final start of 2009, when the Rays rocked him for nine runs in 2.2 IP.

Joe wrote about A.J. Burnett‘s performance in the late innings earlier today, mentioning that he’s completed at least five innings in all 18 starts this year. That’s noteworthy because he finished five innings only 21 times last year, so he’s definitely improved in that regard. Bartolo Colon has thrown at least six innings in nine of his 11 starts, with the two exceptions being the beating he took in Texas and a 5.1 IP start against the Angels. Freddy Garcia got rocked by the Red Sox a few starts ago, but otherwise he’s lasted at least five innings in his other 14 starts. Twelve times he’s completed six innings, six times he’s completed seven, including three times in his last four starts. Ivan Nova had gone at least five innings in all but five of his 16 starts before being demoted, and two of those five came in his first three starts of the season.

Overall, Yankees starters have thrown 526 IP on the season, the eighth most in the AL and 14th most in baseball. Every single team ahead of them has played at least 86 games while the Yankees are only at 84 because of the April rain outs. On a rate basis, it’s an average of 6.26 IP/start, the fifth best in the AL and sixth best in all of baseball. Already 60 times this year they’ve gotten at least six innings from their starter, more than seven out of every ten times. Compare that to 2009 and 2010 (table to the right), and you’ll see that they’re actually above the league average in percent of starts with at least six innings for the first time in the Sabathia-Burnett era.

The more innings the starters throw the better, because the back-end of the bullpen has been hit pretty hard with all kinds of injuries: short-term (Mariano Rivera‘s triceps), medium-term (Rafael Soriano‘s elbow), and long-term (Joba Chamberlain‘s elbow, Pedro Feliciano’s shoulder). Whether or not Burnett can keep pitching deep into games or Garcia and Colon can hold up all year remains to be seen, but their early season impact on the pitching staff in terms of soaking up innings and sparing the bullpen is something that’s already done and in the bank.

When in doubt, pull A.J. out
Yankees demote Pendleton, outright Carlyle, release Texeira
  • Rob

    What can we honestly expect from Hughes the rest of the year? Disregarding April, it would be awesome if he could get 7-9 wins and a 4 ERA or so, think that is a legit prediction?

    • boogie down

      Agreed. I think the best case scenario would be if he returned to the pitcher he was over the course of 2010 (4.19/4.25/4.13 E/F/x). However, with the encouragement he gave us in his final rehab start, there may be a remote possibility that he can actually improve on those numbers.

      Very eager to see how his first few starts go, as he gets re-acclimated to pitching in the big leagues.

      • Ted Nelson

        Optimistically I hope he can return to the pitcher he was early in 2010, hoping the late season problem were a result of already being injured. Or even build on that as he’s still a young thrower with plenty of room for growth into a real pitcher.

  • Josh

    Nice stuff. What tool did you use to find your data?

    • Mike Axisa

      Play Index.

      Pitching Game Finder > Teams with Player Games

  • Bob Michaels

    The starting staff has indeed performed above the Yankee pundits expectations.Cashman was wise in signing Colon, Garcia, evidentally he`s still looking to add a starter, he has one in Nova, if Hughes shows us that he`s back. They have enough to beat the hated Red Sox in August and Sept as well as the playoffs.

  • dkidd

    amazing how quickly the game has changed (back)

    a bunch of american league rotations with under-4 ERAs

    • jsbrendog

      and soooo many everyday player ba’s under 250-275

      • CMP

        It reminds me of the late 70s and early 80s when there were guys who hit home runs and batted around .260-.280 and there were guys who batted in the .300s but without much power unlike the “steroid” era when you saw guys with high batting averages and huge power numbers.

        • Clay Bellinger

          Gives you more of an appreciation for those few guys that can hit for average and power.

          • jsbrendog

            exactly. agree wholeheartedly

  • Cuso

    You just cemented it. Hughes won’t make it through the 3rd tonight.


    • boogie down

      Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I so anxiously awaited the start of a ballgame, Opening Days/Playoffs excluded. Hoping against all hope that Hughes can give us six strong tonight.

      • CMP

        Give me 5 innings, 2 runs or less, decent velocity and a few strikeouts and I’ll be happy for his first start back.

  • Gonzo

    The world is coming to an end. I just heard Gammons praise CC on the radio for going into the 7th inning in 87%(not sure if it was that exact number) for the Yankees. He said that he was able to live up to the contract which many players cannot.

    I thought we had until December 2012.

    • Theo the Boy Genius

      Peter is just greasing the skids for me so that we can make a play at CC. We all know he wants to join Lil’ Dusty and the Gritty Boys come next season. Who wouldn’t?

  • jayd808

    Yesterday when CC pitched Michael Whatshisface said that Garcia led CC in some pitching stat. Was it in number of 3runs allowed till the 7th? Something quite impressive 11 – to CC’s 10. I know how you hate “Sweaty Freddie” and want him off the rotation, but he has done well.

    • 28 this year

      yea, it was quality starts. Though, when CC doesn’t have good stuff, he seems to go 7 innings anyway while giving up exactly 4 runs. That isn’t the case for Freddy but without a doubt, to even say that we can compare Freddy to CC in any way says a lot about how well Freddy is doing. For a back of the rotation starter, pitching well against every team except the Red Sox is fine by me.

  • Ted Nelson

    I know it’s pretty intangible/hard to measure, but Larry Rothschild could deserve some credit for the good results. Don’t really hear much about that compared to the praise Long gets.

  • pat

    Steady Freddy?

    • jayd808

      Steady Freddy? Excellent. I buy that. Sweaty was Aceves. Freddy sweats no more nor less than any other pitcher I’ve seen out there.