What Went Right: Postseason Pitching

Jones blames second half on finger injury, wants to play four more years
Cashman on Pineda: "We're talking June of next year"

Over the next few weeks we’re going to spend some time reviewing the entire 2012 season, which featured another division title and unfortunately another disappointing playoff exit.

(Elsa/Getty)

As we discussed earlier today, the Yankees as a team basically hit like a pitcher in the postseason. They put together a collective .188/.254/.303 batting line in their nine postseason games and scored just two runs in the final three games of the ALCS. It was tough to watch and just flat out pathetic, there’s really no other way to describe it.

The pitching staff, on the other hand, was absolutely stellar up until ALCS Game Four. The starters churned out quality start after quality start, and the bullpen did all it could to preserve leads and keep deficits close. After posting a 3.86 ERA (3.98 FIP) during the regular season, the Yankees received a 2.76 ERA (~3.45 FIP) in 88 postseason innings from the pitching staff.

CC Sabathia
Unfortunately, Sabathia’s season will be remembered for ending on a sour note as the Tigers battered him for six runs on eleven hits (!) in just 3.2 innings in ALCS Game Four. It was an ugly start in a generally ugly postseason showing by the Yankees as whole, but it was also the exception rather than the rule for the pitching staff.

Sabathia, of course, helped get the Yankees to the ALCS with a pair of dominant outings against the Orioles in the ALDS. He allowed two runs in 8.2 innings in Game One against Baltimore, then followed it up by allowing just one run in the decisive Game Five win. All told, Sabathia struck out 19 batters and walked just five in 21.1 playoff innings including the ALCS disaster. He set a new ALDS record with 17.2 innings pitches, nearly two full innings more than the previous record.

Andy Pettitte
A year ago Pettitte was retired back home, but he got the itch to pitch and came back to the Yankees early in the season. He slotted in as their number two starter in the postseason due in large part to the schedule, as the club tried to optimize the amount of rest for each of their starters. Pettitte made two playoff starts, one in each round, and he tossed up a quality start in each. He held the Orioles to three runs in seven innings in ALDS Game Two and the Tigers to two runs in 6.2 innings in ALCS Game One. As per his norm, Andy did allow a lot of baserunners but continually pitched out of jams. For a guy who was out of baseball a year ago, allowing five runs in 13.2 postseason innings is a minor miracle.

(Elsa/Getty)

Hiroki Kuroda
Kuroda was New York’s best starting pitcher from Opening Day through the end of the season, and he turned in a pair of gems in the postseason. Following Sabathia and Pettitte, the first-year Yankee held the Orioles to two runs in 8.1 innings in ALDS Game One before allowing three runs in 7.2 innings in ALCS Game Two. That second start came on three days’ rest, the first time he’d ever done that in his career. Kuroda struck out a season-high eleven in that game, and it would have been eight innings of one-run ball had second base ump Jeff Nelson not blown an obvious out call on Omar Infante at second base. The bullpen allowed two inherited runners to score (charged to Kuroda) after the error. Sixteen innings (really 16.1) of five-run (really three-run) ball from the number three starter? Sign me up for that every day of the week.

Phil Hughes
Like Sabathia, Hughes ended his season on a down note as a stiff back forced him out of ALCS Game Three after just three innings of work. That shouldn’t erase his ALDS effort however, as he held the Orioles to one run in 6.2 innings while striking out eight in Game Four. Hughes only allowed one run in the ALCS start before exiting with the injury as well, so all told his postseason performance featured just two runs in 9.2 inning of work. As far as number four starters go, you can’t do much better.

The Bullpen
Eight of the nine postseason games were very close into the late innings, and the bullpen stepped up in support of the starters in a big way. They allowed just eight runs (seven earned) in 27.1 total innings (2.30 ERA) while walking just four (!), including one intentionally. The late-inning duo of Rafael Soriano and David Robertson allowed just one run in 9.2 combined innings, striking out seven against zero walks and five hits. The lone run was a solo homer off Robertson in ALCS Game Five, when the game was already out of reach. Boone Logan and Clay Rapada combined to retire 11 of 12 left-handed batters faced, with the one exception being a walk by Prince Fielder. David Phelps, who allowed four runs (three earned) in 3.1 total innings, was the only clear negative on a pitching staff who was absolutely dynamite overall in the postseason.

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Jones blames second half on finger injury, wants to play four more years
Cashman on Pineda: "We're talking June of next year"
  • Blake

    Pitching was fine….

  • http://none Ton Lon ton

    Who cares. We want that trophy and nothing else matters

  • Eddard

    One person who should definitely be retained is Larry Rothschild. He had his pitchers ready to go and didn’t use injuries as an excuse. CC pitched through the elbow. Andy came back from the ankle. Kuroda pitched more innings than he ever has before. Hughes went as long as he could with a bum back. The hitters could learn a lot from watching the preparation and toughness of the pitching staff.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    I personally thought our starting pitching was nothing short of heroic. Major props to them.

    I thought Phelps was put into a role he wasn’t necessarily best suited for, and it showed. He was expected to be a shutdown guy in extra innings when I see him more as the mid-back-end guy who gives you every chance to win, but is going to give up runs. Unfortunate for him.

    • I Live In My Mom’s Basement

      I know a lot of people here believe that there are some pitchers who do worse in short appearances than in long ones; but I’m highly skeptical that the times this appears to happen are more than normal statistical variance. In other words, any pitcher who can start, can relieve.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Agreed, although what I’m saying here is that he’s not the guy I’d want out there when there’s zero room for error.

      • Mister D

        Eh, I think there are back-end type guys (Phelps could be one) who give value in volume but have no real ability to play it up in the short burst. Basically the anti-Hughes. So while that 4.00 is playable as a starter, not having a bump would just make the guy a bad 4.00 reliever.

    • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

      I think “Heroic” is a bit much but the pitching staff did do their job and a very good one at that.

      This postseason, we saw pitching like we did in the days when the Yankees were winning championships in the late 90s from pitchers like Cone, Pettitte, Wells, Duque, Stanton, Nelson, Lloyd, Mendoza, Rivera, etc.

  • LarryM., Fl.

    I don’t know if you can rely on Kuroda and Pettitte to be fixtures in the Yankee rotation. The chances of Kuroda duplicating the year are iffy. Andy how healthy can he stay at age 41. Cashman has to go out and see if he can find a quality starter to fill-in the rotation of CC, Pettitte, Hughes. Some suspects maybe Phelps and Nova. Nova could be the best choice with alleged stuff with Phelps headed for the bullpen and long relief. Now throw in your quality pickup.

    Just some thoughts it should be interesting in the winter especially on who will sign Swisher and possible trades.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I actually am a bit hesitant with bringing both back as well because of the age factor, but I wouldn’t complain too much if that’s what wound up happening. I believe both can pull it off for another year. It just puts the team in the same position, plus figuring out what Phil Hughes is and how much he’s worth, after 2013. My preference would be to keep one (which would be Andy because, well, duh….) and try to think a bit more long-term with the other rotation spot.

      I trust Phelps more than I trust Nova right now, but I also agree that Nova could potentially be a MUCH better pitcher in the long run.

      • Winter

        I say when you have a pitcher coming of the best season of his career (Kuroda) and another coming of the best in more than 5 years (Pettitte) you give them the benefit of the doubt. Until they prove that they’re too old, assume that they’re capable, not the other way around.

        • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

          I agree. Do what you can to retain both of them. If one falters, or deals with injury, they can have someone like Phelps waiting to step in. Keeping both should be a priority though.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Like I said, guys, not opposed in the least if that’s the way things wind up.

            • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

              No Robby. You implied that you hated the notion of both returning.

              • Robinson Tilapia

                With every breath in my system….. ;)

    • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

      I agree with your concerns but if you can get each guy on a 1 year $10-12 million deal, I’d jump all over it.

      Other than Greinke, I’d take these 2 guys over pretty much every other starter on the market for 1 season only and I think Greinke is out of the Yankees price range.

  • Darren

    Among all the deserved accolades for the starting pitching, let’s not forget that CC dropped an absolute stink bomb in Game 4, ok? It doesn’t make me forget about the two great games he pitched against Baltimore, but those games also shouldn’t excuse this one. He was atrocious.

    • gc

      Who, exactly, is denying that CC put up a stinker in game 4 in the ALCS??

      • Mike HC

        The very first sentence of CC’s analysis was, “Sabathia’s season will be remembered for ending on a sour note as the Tigers battered him for six runs on eleven hits (!) in just 3.2 innings in ALCS Game Four.” Maybe he didn’t read the article, I don’t know?

        • gc

          I think we may be looking at Darrenopolis. It’s that little plot of dirt between EddardWorld and YooBooLand.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Yes, he put up a stinker. I’m also not going to suggest we hang him for it. He’s won a ton of must-win games. He didn’t win the last one this season. It stings.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      And because of this, what do you suggest? That they trade him LA now?

      • Darren

        I thought we were playing The Blame Game, not Jump to Conclusions. I never said they should trade him. My comment is more for everyone here who loves to act like CC is the second coming of Cy Young, when he has some obvious flaws.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          What would we be saying about Cy Young in the turn-of-the-century version of this site?

          “He’s won 511 games!”
          “But wins and losses don’t matter.”

        • jjyank

          Who says he’s the second coming of Cy? I really only see ace vs. not ace debates. I’ve never even seen someone argue that he’s the best pitcher in the league. I’m not sure where this is coming from.

          • Darren

            a little hyper-bowl.

    • Jose M. Vazquez

      Maybe, just maybe, he pitched with an inflamed elbow. After all, he’s had a bone spur in it and those cause pain.

      • JLC 776

        Especially given the drop in velocity.

  • David

    iirc, didn’t Phelps usually have trouble in the first inning of games he started?

  • Massparking

    The part of George Frazier will be played by David Phelps.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      That hurts. BIG GAME Dave Phelps surely doesn’t deserve that comp.

      • Massparking

        I actually don’t mean to be negative on Phelps. Like Frazier, he was kind of a “victim” of circumstance.

    • Darren

      When i was a kid I used to get George Frazier and Joe Frazier mixed up.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Hilarious.

        I remember George Frazier as the one I knew wasn’t very good in the bullpen when I was, uh, seven or so. When the seven year-old doesn’t have much confidence in you…

  • Mike HC

    The pitching was a joy to watch. Hope we can bring everyone back next year again.

    • Darren

      “The pitching was a joy to watch. Except for Game 4, which made me vomit.”

      Fixed!

      (Yes, I read the article. But thanks for playing.)

      • Mike HC

        ha, quite true.

        Personally, I’m not all that hung up on the only poorly pitched game of the postseason. CC set records for how great he pitched in the ALCS, and the pitching as a whole was excellent. You can’t win games without scoring runs. Looking back at this year, I’m going to remember the offense going all time cold, and probably barely even register that CC had one bad game that postseason.

        • Mike HC

          how great he pitched in the ALDS, not ALCS

        • Darren

          Without a doubt, CC’s game will probably be mostly forgotten amid the historically bad offense.

  • Barbara Booey

    Gee, thanks Axisa.

    Two long-winded posts today. One saying the offense failed, and the other saying the pitching was really good. Understandably, there is very little to write at this point, at least until the postseason is over, but does drivel like this really need to be written?

    I mean, think of the wasted internet bandwidth. And the amount of man-hours collectively spent by die hard fans reading these posts (and comments). If all that electricity, time, and effort had instead been spent trying to raise money for charity, we could have provided clean drinking water to a family in sub-saharan africa for at least a month.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      This is why I’m glad my site ownership duties are on a much smaller scale. I’d be banning IPs left and right on a site like this.

      Trollofuckinglo.

    • jjyank

      Then don’t read them.

      To quote a wise fish I once knew, “Trollofuckinglo.”

      • Barbara Booey

        Often it’s necessary to read the whole post before realizing what drivel it truly is. Troll ;)

        • jjyank

          What else is there to do this early in the (Yankee) offseason but right about the various things that went wrong or right?

          • Mike HC

            How boring of Axisa to accurately analyze the season. He must make things up like sports talk radio!

  • Robinson Tilapia

    “What Went Wrong” gets triple the comments this does. “Andrew Jones blames shitty season on his finger” gets double. Half of that is probably us making fun of Eddard, but still.

    • Barbara Booey

      And why wouldn’t it, Fish Fingers?

      It’s the hitting that prevented us from winning a World Series. Not the pitching. The pitching did what it is paid to do. We don’t owe a debt of gratitude to it. It is like a good car which runs well. It shouldn’t be any other way. The offense, however, is like a Mercedes that runs like a Pinto. I think that’s why people respond more to it.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        The hitting prevented us from getting the World Series. What would have happened once we got there…..ah, fuck it.

      • Rocky Road Redemption

        The pitching was NEVER expected to be this good, and frankly the 90s Braves should never COUNT on this type of postseason dominance.

  • Rocky Road Redemption

    The fact that we somehow manged to hold Detroit to two runs after Hughes went out in game 3 is a minor miracle. Shame we couldn’t capitalize.