Shaky rotation and disappearing depth could be the final nail in the playoff race coffin

No Surprise: A-Rod's return nets season-high ratings for YES Network
Cano, Mo, Pettitte, Gardner make Baseball America's Best Tools survey
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

For the first few weeks of the season, the pitching staff carried the Yankees and kept them in nearly every single game. They were getting a strong start day after day and once the bullpen settled into place (thanks to Shawn Kelley and Preston Claiborne), the late innings became much less cumbersome. All of the position player injuries made that strong pitching a necessity, and it kept the club in the division race and atop the AL East as late as May 26th.

Things have changed rather dramatically in recent weeks, and suddenly that pitching staff has become a weakness. The rotation in particular has become a major concern. The Yankees have won just two games not started by Hiroki Kuroda or Ivan Nova over the last four weeks, and both were miraculous late-inning wins. The first was the comeback against Joe Nathan and the Rangers, the second was the walk-off win in Derek Jeter‘s return against the Rays. That’s it, and neither win was all that convincing.

Not only is three-fifths of the rotation pitching very poorly — seriously, the non-Kuroda/Nova starters have a 5.88 ERA (~4.85 FIP) in 111.2 innings since July 1st — but the team’s rotation depth has suddenly disappeared. Vidal Nuno has been on the Triple-A DL since early-June with the groin injury from hell, and more recently David Phelps (elbow) and Michael Pineda (shoulder) have suffered setbacks during their rehab. We’re still awaiting the latest test results, but obviously fingers are crossed hoping nothing is seriously wrong.

With those three guys hurt and not particularly close to being available, the Yankees only realistically available rotation alternative is long man Adam Warren. He’s been pretty good (3.51 ERA and 4.60 FIP) in that role despite very sporadic appearances and often lengthy outings. It’s a tough gig and Warren has done it well so far. Giving him a start should the need arise would not be entirely undeserved. It wouldn’t be ideal, but it wouldn’t be undeserved.

Point is, the Yankees don’t have much rotation depth right now. With Pineda hurt, the Triple-A Scranton rotation is the disappointing Brett Marshall (5.45 ERA and 5.09 FIP), a non-prospect in Caleb Cotham, and two journeymen in David Huff and Chris Bootcheck. Huff (2.41 ERA and 2.84 FIP) and Bootcheck (3.70 ERA and 4.35 FIP) have actually pitched well, but there’s a reason both guys were designated for assignment and slipped through waivers unclaimed this summer. They are emergency options at best, invoking (bad) memories of Tim Redding and Darrell May.

If the Yankees wanted to take Phil Hughes out of the rotation or put CC Sabathia on the phantom DL so he could head to Tampa for two-week David Cone-esque mechanics crash course, they can’t do it right now. The rotation depth just isn’t there and that’s a huge problem. They’ll have to scour the waiver market (the recently released Ted Lilly? ew ew ew) for any serviceable arm who comes along just to make sure they have some options in case a need arises. It’s amazing how quickly a team can go from having six starters for five spots to mining the scrap heap.

The Yankees have not won a series in a month and they haven’t won back-to-back games in more than three weeks. The current rotation isn’t giving them a chance to string wins together — three of four, seven of ten, ten of 14, a solid run like that — and they continue to slide in the standings because of it. Having to overcome a bottom five offense is bad enough, but now New York is having to overcome a shaky start three times each turn through the rotation. It’s too much to take, and if the staff doesn’t right the ship soon, the Yankees will be completely out of the playoff race before the calendar flips to September.

No Surprise: A-Rod's return nets season-high ratings for YES Network
Cano, Mo, Pettitte, Gardner make Baseball America's Best Tools survey
  • Pat D

    This is honestly what I was afraid of when the season began the way it did. I was afraid that if the offense didn’t improve (which of course it has not), the team would fall apart if the pitching did.

    Right now, that’s where we are.

    • CS Yankee

      So you predicted that if they did both A & B, whereas;
      A) Didn’t improve the offense
      B) If the pitching fell apart.

      that it would be a bad thing?

      Hmmm, I agree!

      • Pat D

        No, I didn’t predict anything.

        Maybe I should have worded that better to say I didn’t expect that pitching to remain as good as it was the first several weeks.

        Don’t put words in my mouth.

        • CS Yankee

          Just trying to have some fun in this dreadful season.

          Ichiro for two years made little sense…no power.
          Pronk & Youk made some sense…clearly didn’t work out.
          Understood passing on Swish’s…ended with too much $.
          Passing on Martin was a big mistake.
          Getting Wells, even at the steep discount, was a poor choice.

          2014 doesn’t look to good either with little/no help from AAA and the OF trio at AA hasn’t resulted in a meaningful way.

          • Lukaszek

            Martin’s failure to sign looks terrible in retrospect, but remember, there is no way that they could’ve predicted that Francisco Cervelli and his .271 career average would’ve gotten injured. For all the knew, Cervelli would be the starting catcher, and Austin Romine would be a major league-caliber hitter.

          • Pat D

            OK. I couldn’t tell if you were trying to belittle me or not and that always frustrates me.


  • Chris in Durham

    I love my team, but this is a train wreck. Pettitte’s and CC’s starts have been very painful to watch. There’s no legitimate playoff hope here. A .375 record the rest of the way is what I envision. And although it will be painful, perhaps that isn’t the worst thing that can happen.

    • Lukaszek

      Hey, we’ll get a good draft pick out of this at least

  • joe

    And we dont even have our backups anymore to give them a chance again. They’re all hurt. Pineda, Nuno, Phelps. This team is screwed for this year.

  • Pseudoyanks

    Many people saw this coming (with a very high degree of liklihood) about 4-6 weeks ago, and started wishing in these comments threads that the Yanks would see it too and Sell at the deadline. I was among them. Many others enjoyed directing ad hominem attacks toward us at the time (hell, it’s the internet, if you can’t stand a few ad hominem attacks coming at you then go read a newspaper.) Would have been the smart thing to do. Don’t tell me hindsight is 20/20 because many of us were actually showing foresight.

    • ialien

      the yanks can never be sellers, even if its the right move. their fanbase pays outrageous prices for tickets & that brings an expectation to always be competing. in any case, there was very little to sell. nobody wanted hughes or joba. to sell off cano or robertson or mariano, the only real value, simply was not going to happen.

      Just IMO but they made their bed with overpriced free agents & being unable to grow talent out of the farm. Why is oakland st louis & tampa able to create great pitchers but the yanks can’t?

      • The Real Greg

        Because they have better people in drafting and developing.

        Especially the Cardinals who have drafted well and have consistently won for awhile.

        • CS Yankee

          …they (Cards) also haven’t lost too many top draft choices like the Yankees…in fact, they netted a few top choices by stars leaving their employ.

    • The Real Greg

      The problem with that is who are they going to sell?

      Kuroda has a full no trade,

      If they traded Cano, they would no legitimate star players the rest of the year and probably next year and the beating the organization would get from fans would be tremendous.

      Hughes is not going to get back anything substantial, as the Braves inquiry showed.

      In a way, the Yankees were caught in a perfect storm, but the organization allowed them to be set up.

      • Pat D

        Totally agree. Kuroda likely won’t waive his no-trade clause, Hughes has next to no value and they’re not going to get a substantial package for Cano. Not to mention that trading Cano would be highly problematic.

      • Oy

        Please give me links to 2 reliable sources which show hat Kuroda has a NTC.

        Half the fan base criticizes Cano for not hassling, being a streaky hitter and appearing to be lazy.

        You are right, Hughes would give no return back. But Gardner, Logan, Preston and Kelly would.

        • The Real Greg

          It’s common knowledge. Kuroda has a full no trade clause. It’s been noted on this site several times.

          Gardner and Logan would not bring up good returns. Gardner is a 9 hitter at best.

          Logan sucks against lefties.

          Don’t trade Claiborne or Kelley because you need to have people in your bullpen.

          • Oy

            It’s not common knowledge. There is absolutely no proof of Kuroda’s NTC besides a mention from Sherman from a very old article. Hell, I remember Mike stating that there’s no mention of NTC anywhere.

            Gardner is a sub 4 WAR player who has posted 5 and 6 WAR seasons.

            Logan has a 2.08 ERA. A reliver with a similar ERA was worth a top 5-7 prospect from the Orioles.

            Not trading bullpen pieces while rebuilding is idiotic. Middle relief bullpen arms have short life spans, besides they hold no value for a team that is not contending.

            • nickswishahisastahtingpitchah

              It’s right on Cot’s Baseball contracts which is a pretty well know site I thought. Unless it’s been proven to provide false information or something


              • Oy

                Yes, Cot’s is very reliable. Which is why I trust it when in does NOT mention a NTC.

                “1 year/$15M (2013)
                re-signed by NY Yankees as a free agent 11/20/12”

                Now, where is the “common knowledge” no trade clause?

                • nickswishahisastahtingpitchah

                  Ah you’re right. I was looking at the 2012 contract. Apparently my eyes are not as reliable as Cot’s baseball contracts.

                  Luckily I’m wrong cause Kuroda could be a solid trade chip if he can get through waivers to the right team.

      • Coolerking101

        Cano was the only piece the Yanks had to sell. Considering how few hitters there were on the market, he would have brought in a massive haul. Fair to say they could have received the top prospect on almost any team, plus two other high end guys…AND still re-signed Cano at the end of the season.

        You’re right, half the fans would have killed them for trading Cano, but it would have been the right baseball decision. The free agent market will be thin this winter and the Yanks won’t have a single young prospect ready by 2014. It’s going to get ugly.

  • LarryM Fl

    The Yankees have fallen into the Perfect Storm of circumstances that has this organization on the verge of raising the white flag on the 2013 season.

    The injuries to every key player has crippled the 25 man roster. The signings and trades to bolster the 25 roster have fallen into this injury scenario or have failed to produce.

    As mentioned 60% starting rotation has crumpled. The AAA depth is non existent to assist the big club. If it could go wrong it has. With two months remaining in the season I dare not think it could not get any worse.

    To indicate that the Yanks have hit bottom. The group of players assigned to play third base for the Yankees have hit 4 home runs, 4 home runs. The Chicago Cubs pitchers have hit 5 home runs. Can it get any worse. I believe it can. We will all remember the storm of 2013 season

    This season is over, IMHO. I hope the Yanks will use this time to play Nunez, Adams and Romine as much as possible to see if they have some potential to help the club. Chris Stewart is starting to look horrible behind the plate and he is labeled a defensive catcher. he is bordering on awful. Maybe Pettitte can’t throw to Romine because of pitch calling but if Stewart makes Pettitte better we are in a world of hurt.

    Really think long and hard before signing Cano to an outrageous contract. He is not going to start running to first when he signs that big contract. I’d say “pass.”

    • jim p

      I wonder if Joe running Stewart out there, poor as he is, is based on pitcher’s stats (maybe complaints?) about Romine.

      I’d love to see what each pitcher has done with each of the catchers.

      Even if that’s the case, at this point, I’d still make Romine the main catcher to a) improve his catching/calling game through experience, and b) his bat seems to be coming around.

      There’s really only the future to think about now, and that future clearly doesn’t include October baseball.

      • forensic

        Hughes and Nova have better numbers with Romine than Stewart. Sabathia, Kuroda, and Pettitte have worse numbers with Romine than Stewart.

        Sample size issues abound here because of Romine’s sporadic play. Also, a bigger issue with the timing of Romine’s play, which has been the last couple of months when the pitchers started struggling, while Stewart caught a lot early on when they were great.

        I guess a chicken or the egg argument could be made, but I personally wouldn’t agree with that since Sabathia’s and Pettitte’s numbers with Stewart, though better than with Romine, are still bad numbers.

        • forensic

          I guess a chicken or the egg argument could be made, but I personally wouldn’t agree with that since Sabathia’s and Pettitte’s numbers with Stewart, though better than with Romine, are still bad numbers.

          I should also add that though Kuroda’s numbers with Romine are worse than with Stewart, they are still good numbers.

      • LarryM Fl

        60% of the staff has no complaint about Romine. If they do then they should check their stats. Reality check!

  • RetroRob

    I would like to disagree with this article, but I can’t. It is unfortunately spot on.

    The Yankees chances at any type of run depend on CC and Andy rediscovering their former selves. This is something I would not have predicted. A decline, yes, a collapse from these two, no. Have to hope there is something mechanical going on and that in their next starts they’ll step on the mound and give a solid performance. Yet that has been the hope for a couple months now.

  • mustang (The Has Beens & Wannabes Bunch 2013)

    I think this and most of the threads symbolize what we as Yankees fan seem to going through:

    The 5 Stages of Loss and Grief

    1. Denial and Isolation
    2. Anger
    3. Bargaining
    4. Depression
    5. Acceptance

    If you read the comment section in the thread leading up to this you would know what I mean. Who can blame us an amazing run that most us will probably never see again is coming to an end. For some all they have known is that amazing run so losing and uncertainty is all new.

    I think I’m stuck between depression and acceptance. Its game so can’t take it too seriously but still no fan likes to see their team look like this.

    • Pat D

      No one has any sympathy for Yankees fans, nor should they.

      Let’s not turn this into endless months of wallowing self-pity on these boards, they’re already dangerously close to that.

      • mustang (The Has Beens & Wannabes Bunch 2013)

        “No one has any sympathy for Yankees fans, nor should they.”
        Totally agree.

      • trr

        And why waste time on self-pity? It’s been a tough, disappointing season, and likely will finish that way. So be it. I’ve seen worse, much worse. The team needs to get a purpose and a sense of direction for 2014. There’s a lot of issues to be dealt with, and time will be an enemy.

        • Pat D

          I wasn’t suggesting wasting time on self-pity, just the opposite.

          The team needs purpose and direction for next year, but they’re not going to develop that over the last eight weeks of this season. Direction for next year won’t be established until they make a decision on Cano.

          • trr

            Pat, I understood what you meant and was agreeing with it….

            Sure, Cano is a huge question mark, but my guess is they’ll bite the bullet and re-sign him. I don’t think anyone expects anything significant to happen over the rest of the season, we just have to play out the string. Time is an enemy as this team is aging…we may not be truly competetive for 2, maybe even 3 years…We fans don’t have to like it, but we have to take it. Better times will come.

      • mustang (The Has Beens & Wannabes Bunch 2013)

        “Let’s not turn this into endless months of wallowing self-pity on these boards, they’re already dangerously close to that.”

        This wasn’t my intent.

        • Pat D

          OK, good. Because I didn’t think that was typical of you. Just vented my frustration with the comments of late.

          • mustang (The Has Beens & Wannabes Bunch 2013)

            I understand its frustrating times.

      • RetroRob

        Yankee fans on RAB only wallow in self-pity, even when things are good!

        Most of them don’t even know yet when things are bad if they aer fans of the past twenty years.

      • Mandy Stankiewicz

        Agreed (and thanks). RAB and its readers makes me a better informed fan. If I wanted to read ‘dear complaint box’ I’d read the NY POSTS sports comment section.

  • Captain Turbo

    Here’s what we needed after the ASB: Jeter, Grandy, A-Rod, a bat for hire, a catcher upgrade, and better performance from two of the three SPs not named Kuroda or Nova. What we got is Grandy, A-Rod (assuming he stays healthy), a bat for hire in Soriano, no catcher upgrade, and continued suckitude from the bottom 3/5ths of the rotation. In other words, barring a miracle we’ll all be hitting the links in October.

  • Eddard

    Could be the final nail? It already is! I don’t care if you have the 98 Yankees lineup, if 3 starters give up 5-7 runs a game you just aren’t going to win many of their starts. Hell, even this offense gave CC 7 runs against Boston in a crucial division ballgame and what did he do? Gave up 7 runs himself and they lost when the pen couldn’t hold out forever.

    Someone said earlier well if CC, Andy and Hughes can just go .500 in their remaining starts they have a shot at 90 wins. They’re more likely to win 0 of their starts than half of them.

  • Jay T

    The year the Yanks are having is really long overdue. Sooner or later the lack of dependable young talent and contracts for aging players was going to catch up to them. The fact that they are still above .500 is somewhat of a miracle.

    • mustang (The Has Beens & Wannabes Bunch 2013)

      “The fact that they are still above .500 is somewhat of a miracle.”


      • trr

        who knows where we’ll stand come Sept 30th? Right now I’d say probably a few games under .500, but there’s several tough series left on the schedule….and we got blown out last night by the White Sox! The White Sox for chrissake!

        • RetroRob

          Their season-ending series against the Astros might allow them to crawl back to .500.

          Still hoping, though, that Andy and CC get their acts together. It’s a long season, so maybe for both the start and finish will be better than the middle.

          • trr

            Keep The Faith, Rob, Keep The Faith….

      • Bronx Bombers23

        This is just the latest example of why the Yankees should have done everything possible to move Hughes, Joba, and anybody else they could have at the deadline. This team is old and injury prone, and saddled with multiple long-term contracts.

        Saying we even had a shot at the playoffs weeks ago was a joke. I agree with an earlier comment. Just the fact we’re above .500 is a miracle. Unfortunately, I think that won’t be the case in another 2 weeks or so.

  • Vern Sneaker

    Next year who will catch? (Stewart is a back-up, Cervelli nothing special, Romine who knows what he is? Murphy we have no clue.) Play 3B? (A-Rod no doubt out.) SS? (Even fully healed, I doubt Jeter’s up to it, we’re talking part-time SS/part-time DH. RF? (Ichiro, meh.) 1B? (Will Tex be 100%?) Starting pitchers? Closer? (If Robertson, who’s the 8th inning guy?)

    What a mess. Management needs to get damned smart and creative.

    • Oy

      C: Stewart
      1B: Teix
      2b: Cano ( 7 years, 190 mill)
      ss: Betancourt ( 2 y- 9m)
      3B: Polanco (1 y- 5)
      RF: Ichiro
      CF: Gardner
      LF: Soriano
      DH: Jeter

      SP: CC
      SP: Nova
      SP: Phelps
      SP: Marquis (1 y- 3m)
      SP: Westbrook (1y-5m)

      • RetroRob

        So Betancourt, the worst player in baseball, will be paying the Yankees $9M over two years for the honor of putting on the pinstripes? Still not worth it!

        • Oy

          Youk and his -0.4 fWAR got himself a nice 12 million for 118 lousy at bats and terrible defense. I think Betancourt would be right on the Yankees radar.

  • Kramerica Industries

    Signing Ted Lilly would just invoke the horrible second-guessers of the Jeff Weaver deal.

    Pass for that alone.

  • OldYanksFan

    Just to lighten things up a bit:
    And he could have been a Yankee!

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    Yankees need to put Arod through waivers, and then see if somebody bites, then foist him on them.

    • Coolerking101

      I’m pretty sure Arod has made it through waivers every single year.

  • ialien

    right now the season hinges on pettitte & CC finding their way out of their problems. But how? The players themselves are scratching their heads. seems that wear & tear might be the culprit. the solution to that is biogenesis, which isnt available cause the clubhouse sales rep just got a 211 game suspension.

  • Duh Injuries

    Real simple:

    The Yanks have lost EIGHT games where they gave up only a run or two – too many games to lose giving up so little runs.

    The well has run dry with the pitching save Kuroda, Nova, and the bullpen save Chamberlain, and to expect it to carry the team ALL YEAR is unrealistic thinking.

    Pettitte and Hughes are toast, Sabathia could be. If two of them don’t step it up, it’s over for how long can Kuroda and Nova keep being the default 1-2?

  • Oy

    Jason Bay DFA. But why bother when you can send a young arm for a similar player to the Cubs and also pay him 5 mill for next year?

  • jim p

    Thanks for digging that up. So really, there’s no reason not to risk Romine’s catching vs having Romine’s bat in the game.

  • Tim B

    Is the amount of injuries this year a record? Sure seems like it. Would be nice to see Wang back. Also what happened to Mark Prior? I thought he was making a comeback. At this point, yanks are not playoff contenders when you have your #2 pitcher to start the year as your ace and Nova who was inconsistent many times to be your #2 pitcher. Yanks might need to restratizize. We could see a rebuild which is unlikely thanks to Hank. But it might not be a bad idea. I dont like the idea of paying CC his $27 million when he can only win 10 ganes a year and constantly bringing in relievers very early in the game. DJ isn’t worth $10 million when he plays 15 games a year. I do admit that Ichiro has done a good job but hes getting old. Sooner or later he will be getting injured. Wells is also old and shouldnt be resigned. Grandy needs to return. Still young and has power. Gardner needs to stay. Cano needs to stay as well. Teix may be an all star in the past but isnt right now. He makes alot of 15 day DL trips which doesnt help. I thought Juan Miranda would be everyday 1B but that didnt happen. I think they need a 1Bman who will be here 2 years. Than Bird can be called up and hopefully be everyday 1B. Adams might improe this year and could get a shot at 3B full time. Hopefully he can hit alot better. Nunez is a backup. They need a starting SS. Almonte will hopefully replace Ichiro/Wells and become a very good starting RF. They will need a backup OF. They need a DH. I dont care if its Overbay or any other free agent. Stewart has been very good defensively and gets the occasional RBI. Cervelli is way better and hopefully wins the starting job. Or have Cervelli become DH and sign a catcher or promote Gary Sanchez later in the year. Joba needs to go. Hughes & Pettitte need to go. Hell if trading CC brings back some good starters than im all for it. Kuroda will be back. Nova will hopefully pitch the same the way be had been. Phelps will hopefully come back and play like he did last year. Pineda will be back and hopefully become the player he once was. Nuno will be back and hopefully show he is a MLB starter. Not a bad rotation.

  • Tim

    C: McCann (5 yrs, $60 mil)
    1B: Tex
    2b: Cano ( 7 years, 180 mill)
    ss: Asdrubal Cabrera (trade)
    3B: Jeter (Ripken did it, so can Jeter)
    RF: Ichiro
    CF: Gardner
    LF: Granderson (3 yrs, 50 mil)
    DH: Soriano

    SP: CC
    SP: Kuroda (1 yr,18 mil)
    SP: Nova
    SP: Garza (5 yr, 75 mil)
    SP: Phelps


      Like what you have but need to get those two slap happys outta the corners. Shin-Soo Choo gotta get him out there. Yankees should have traded Cano for some odd reason this team think they owe their players and hang on to them way to long. McCann gets hurt but you know what this team needs something. If the Yankees go into the off season and fill with quick fixes this team will be the same. Gotta get Joe outta the different line every day mentally and go out and get him every day players so he can’t do that. I might even give Beltran a peek guy can still hit 20 homerun and in the Yankees banbox he might be able to pull off 30.

      • Oy

        McCann is one of the most durable catchers in the game. 6th in game played since 2010 and 3rd since 2007.

        Choo is strictly a platoon bat and is a pretty bad fielder.


      btw your missing Pineda

    • Oy

      Lazy to count, but just by looking at it, I’m pretty sure that that above 189.

      McCann will get over 60 mill. Red Sox, Tigers, Angels, Dodgers and other teams should be all over him.

      Asdrubal has been one of the most overrated players in the game. Sucks at fielding, just average/below average hitter. And he’s expensive. Eww.

      Giving a 32 year old Granderson 50 mill after he pretty much missed all of this year except for 1.5 months?

      Garza is an injury prone douche who only had one great year. Don’t want to have another Burnett.

  • Mike

    Hey, sometimes a team just has a lost season where everything goes wrong. Look at Boston on and off over the past 5 years. It was unrealistic to expect the team to compete after losing 4 of its 5 best position players for most of the season. And the team didn’t do itself any favors by failing to obtain good backups for its aging and injured stars.

    Any honest fan saw this slide coming a couple of months ago. I for one did not hold out any hope of making the playoffs at all this season and viewed the over-500 record as unsustainable. Unfortunately, I was right. It’s tough to watch.


    To all you nitwits that post on the Yes network forums guess what. I was right from day one. 85 win team no playoffs. Yankees needed changes and ever single one of you asshats said this team was fine guess what. LOL

    • Captain Turbo

      You must have some serious powers of prediction if you foresaw all the injuries and re-injuries this year. Seriously, dude, you should approach the Yankee organization and offer your services cuz you must have some Obi-Wan Kenobi powers.


        Another asshole bind to the fact what the Yankees fail to get in the offseason. Lemme guess it’s ok cuz they went to the playoffs 90 times in the row right? a 2 year old could have seen this coming a mile away but then again some people don’t see baseball as well as I do. Cocky? Maybe but you know what I do in fact have the eye for talent!

        • Captain Turbo

          Man doesn’t know how to take a compliment.