So the Daily News already has an article up about how pitching AJ Burnett will end up costing the Yankees. I don’t understand why…if the Yankees are up or down 3-0, there’s not a chance Girardi doesn’t go with Sabathia in Game 4. Wouldn’t Sabathia pitch Game 4 anyways with AJ getting the ball in Game 5?
Here is said Daily News article. I suggest not reading it, I’ll instead summarize it with blah blah blah A.J. Burnett will cost them the series blah blah blah he stinks blah blah blah. There’s also some cliches in there and the typical doomsday scenario talk. Fresh and original, you know. Nothing but the best.
Anyway, back to reality.
Look, A.J. Burnett was awful this year. He gave the Yankees no chance to win in almost half his starts, and in half of the remaining half he was slightly better than bad. There’s no denying this, and there’s no going back in history to change things or any amount of anything that can make people feel more comfortable about his Game Four start. But guess what, he’s going to start that game, and anyone that thinks it’s an automatic loss needs to get a grip on reality.
Burnett pitched to a 4.83 FIP over the course of the 162-game regular season, slightly better than the 4.99 FIP put up by Rangers’ Game Four starter Tommy Hunter. Over the last three months and change A.J. had a 4.71 FIP, Hunter 5.47. If there’s anyone in the Texas rotation that you want to start Burnett against, it’s Hunter because he is every bit as likely (if not more given the lineup he’ll be facing) to blow up in horrific fashion. You don’t start A.J. in Game Three against Cliff Lee with the mindset of “well they’ll probably lose to Lee and lose Burnett’s start, so they can kill two birds with one stone,” that completely defeats the purpose. The idea is to beat the Rangers and Cliff Lee, not make easy for them. If you’re willing to do that, then just go root for the Mets, it’s a loser mentality.
The Yankees already have the pitching advantage in Game One and it’s no worse than a push in Game Two. There’s nothing they can do about Lee, he’s going to pitch and chances are he’ll be awesome. It’s what the guy does. They don’t have to beat him though, they have to beat the Rangers. Texas had a five run lead against the Yanks in the sixth inning of this game with Lee on the mound, and you know what? They lost. You know why? Because the Yanks chipped away and then punished the Rangers’ bullpen once their ace lefty was out of the game. Andy Pettitte doesn’t have to beat Cliff Lee in Game Three, he just has to keep the Yankees within striking distance. Then it’s up to the offense to do their thing late in the game, just like they did in the ALDS. It’s doable.
Remember, the Yankee pitching staff is in better shape right now than it was last year in the playoffs, when they beat a Cliff Lee led team in the World Series (a team that was better overall than this Rangers’ club, by the way). There was no Phil Hughes then, and they had no choice but to start Burnett every five days (and once on short rest). The regular season is a marathon, but the playoffs are a relay race, a series of one game sprints where literally anything can happen. There’s no better embodiment of that “anything can happen in one start” phenomenon than Burnett, who on any given day can surrender eight runs in two innings or no runs in nine innings. He’s a roll of the dice every time he touches the mound, and that inconsistency is why he’s starting Game Four, not Game One or Two.
If the Yanks do lose the ALCS, it won’t be because of Burnett’s one start. He’s one of 25, and if they drop three of the other six (potential) games in the series, then a whole lot more went wrong than A.J. They’ll win as a team and lose as a team, as they should. No one shoulders the blame by themselves. It’s trendy to trash Burnett, just like it was trendy to trash Joe Girardi in September and say the Yanks would be one and done in the playoffs because of how horribly they struggled. Look how that turned out.
Anyway, there’s my rant for the night. As for the actual question, yeah, I’m pretty sure they’d start Sabathia in Game Four if they were down three games to none. They’d have no choice, and frankly they would have much bigger problems than worrying about Burnett in that situation.