Back when George Steinbrenner was still alive the Yankees might have overpaid for C.J. Wilson of the Texas Rangers or the 25-year-old Japanese hurler Yu Darvish, but it seems like the current regime will stick with the current rotation, or add a minor addition to the pitching staff (or a lefty in the bullpen).
Darvish (who is half Iranian and half Japanese) is an intriguing option based on the seven pitches that he can throw as well as being the best pitcher currently in the baseball crazed country of Japan, but it has been reported that he will likely demand a posting fee before signing his contract like Japanese players typically do when leaving their contract early. (The Red Sox paid a 51 million dollar posting fee for Daisuke Matsuzaka.) The Yankees last pitching acquisition from Japan, Kei Igawa, did not work on any level, so they will not want a repeat performance. I realize that Darvish, has had better overall stats during his professional career in Japan, but there is no guarantee that he will be able to handle the constant scrutiny in New York City the way Hideki “Godzilla” Matsui did.
Wilson, the 31-year-old pitcher with a media friendly personality from Newport Beach, California, is a pitcher who has been rumored to want to play for the Yankees. He is coming of his best season of his career after finishing with 16 wins, a 2.94 ERA, 206 strikeouts and 223.1 innings. Wilson finished sixth in the American League in the CY Young voting, but a knock against him is that half of his division games in the AL West were against the weak offenses of the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners.
Wilson, or @str8edgeracer as he is known on Twitter, was the Rangers number one starter last season, but would likely be the number two or three on the Yankees. It is also not the most promising sign that his best season came when he was 30. If Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes pitch up to their ability then Wilson would not be much of an upgrade. As far as Darvish, he would be asking for the contract equal to a number one starter and the Yankees already have CC Sebathia.
Other free-agent pitchers who the Yankees could be interested in bringing to the Big Apple are pitcher Roy Oswalt (Phillies), Edwin Jackson (White Sox) and Mark Buerhle (White Sox). They are all either old, have some question marks or both.
If this would have been the 2010 off-season I would have wanted to sign Buerhle as a lefty replacement for Andy Pettitte, but at 32 I am not sure he can handle pitching in the AL East and New York City.
I would sign up for Buerhle, replacing a likely member the 2012 Yankees rotation, A.J. Burnett, as the number four starter, but I will state later on why that likely will not happen. He has pitched for the White Sox his whole career and has always been reliable and durable, but one has to wonder how many more productive seasons he has left.
My prediction for the 2012 Yankees pitching staff is close to the one that finished the 2011 campaign:
1. CC Sebathia – He is everything you can want an ace pitcher to be. He is coming off as season where he picked up 19 wins, had a 3.00 ERA, 230 strikeouts and only allowed 61 walks in 237.1 innings. Since the 2005 season concluded, he has only had one season where his ERA was above 3.22 and he has also had 17 wins or more every season since the 2006 season ended. Sebathia can be counted on to go deep into games, stay healthy and always give the Yankees a chance to win. He likes pitching under pressure and since he has so many reliable pitches he can be counted on to get out of trouble.
2. Ivan Nova – Last season the 24-year old righty who was in his first full season in the majors emerged as a viable top of the rotation starter. Nova had a rocky last start of the season where he allowed four runs, but in eight of his last 10 starts of his season he allowed three runs or less. This proves that he did not hit the “rookie wall” or get worse as the pressure increased like many young pitchers do. His 2011 season was filled with positives including his 16 wins, 3.70 ERA, 165.1 innings as well often not letting a one run inning turn into three or four. The only area for him to improve are the number of free passes that he allows. Last season he walked 57 batters, which is more than half of his strikeouts, but I see him cutting down on that number as well as lowering his ERA to below 3.50. Another positive attribute is that he often limited walks from scoring.
3. Phil Hughes – I see him being able to bounce back to sometimes dominating pitching that he displayed during the 2010 campaign, where he made the All-Star team. He was awful during his first three starts of the season after which he was put on the disabled list until July, but he did end the season on a positive note. He had three starts in August where he allowed two runs or less (August also included two starts where he surrendered six runs) and he combined for three runs in his last two starts before being sent to the bullpen. If he can finish 2012 with 14 or 15 wins and a 3.60 ERA that would be a success.
4. Freddy “The Chief” Garcia – I was not sure what to expect when Brian Cashman signed Garcia before Spring Training to a one million dollar contract. He was 34 and was coming off a season where he had a 4.64 ERA for the White Sox. However, he did indeed surpass my expectations. His 3.62 ERA was his best full season ERA since he was third in CY Young voting in 2001, while his 12 wins and ability to change speeds on his pitches was also impressive. If he can duplicate his stats from 2011 he deserves to have this spot but I am not sure he will get over the enigmatic pitcher I have in the number five spot.
5. A.J. Burnett – Before the 2009 season he signed a five-year, 82.5 million dollar contract with the Yankees. He was coming off a solid, but far from stellar, season for the Blue Jays, where he had 18 wins, a 4.07 ERA, an impressive 231 strikeouts but also 211 hits. Burnett has not lived up to his contract during his three years on the team. Last season he had 11 wins, a 5.15 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and 190 hits. Those stats don’t warrant anything higher than a number five spot in the rotation. I would prefer a free agent signing such as 29-year-old Paul Maholm from the Pirates or the 32-year-old Erik Bedard, who is productive when healthy, but that is not very likely because Brian Cashman likes Burnett and does not want to give up on that contract. Burnett’s tenure with the Yankees has been filled with inconsistency, but he does have potential. He only allowed one run during his start against Detroit in the playoffs.
*** A dark-horse to look out for is 20-year-old Manny Banuelos. If A.J. Burnett is inconsistent until the All-Star break and Banuelos cuts down on his walk rate there is a strong possibility that the best arm in the Yankees minor league system could join the rotation. All of the starters were bragging about him in Spring Training last season and he has a very effective curveball/fastball combination. He has received praise from the future Hall of Fame closer, Mariano Rivera, who said that he was the best pitching prospect he had seen.
This strategy of not overspending for a potentially questionable starter (that is not to say that they don’t have talent) makes sense because Felix Hernandez, who won the CY Young in 2010, and is arguably the most talented pitcher in the American League will be a free agent after the 2014 season. At that point, CC Sabathia, will probably only have about two or three productive years left.
The Yankees had a chance to push their lead in the American League East to 5 games, with 10 games remaining, but Brandon Morrow pitched eight dominating innings for the Blue Jays in their 3-0 victory.
This loss, in a game where Freddy Garcia was only able to pitch 4.2 innings, closed out their three city road trip where they only went 4-5. Luckily, the Red Sox are 2-8 in their last 10 games so the Yankees did not lose ground in the standings. The Red Sox now only have a two game lead in the Wild Card over the Rays after losing three out of four in the series that ended on Sunday.
Morrow only gave up four hits in his eight innings and has owned the Yankees offense this season pitching to a 1.74 ERA in three starts. However, the Bronx Bombers did not exactly send out the A lineup as Eric Chavez replaced Mark Teixiera at first, Ramiro Pena was the shortstop giving Derek Jeter the day off and Chris Dickerson got a rare start as Curtis Granderson didn’t play as a result of having a very low career average against Morrow.
All-Star second-baseman Robinson Cano got half the game off, as he was the Designated Hitter and Eduardo Nunez got the start at second base. Nunez was the only player who really showed up on offense as he improved his average from .254 to .261 with his three hits.
Another troubling sign about this game, in addition to the offensive ineptitude, was that Garcia had his third consecutive subpar start. He only gave up three runs, but Girardi took him out at the right time since he gave up five hits and three walks including two solo home runs to Adam Lind. In his two previous starts Garcia had allowed five and seven runs, respectively. Hopefully this is not a sign of what is to come as he will be needed to be relied upon as the fourth starter in the playoffs.
The Yankees bullpen continued to be a bright spot as they were lead by Luis Ayala who pitched 1.1 perfect innings, and Raul Valdes who pitched 1.1 innings, only allowing one hit in his first appearance for the team.
The imminent Comeback Player of the Year, Bartolo Colon, who was the other pre Spring Training signing to a cheap contract, also struggled mightily in his last start, on Saturday, against the Blue Jays. However, this was not totally unexpected as he has a 7.99 ERA and a .327 BAA in five starts against Toronto this season. He should be the Yankees number three starter in the playoffs.
If Manager Joe Girardi would have trotted out all of his regulars they could have had a 5.5 game lead over the Red Sox heading into their makeup game against the Twins, in the Bronx, on Monday afternoon. It is impossible to win when you don’t put any runs on the board and having all the normal starters playing would have surely helped the offensive attack.
However, this was the last chance for Girardi to give some of his injured players a day off as the rest of their games down the stretch are all critical. It is almost guaranteed that the Yankees will win the division, since they are up by 4.5 games with 10 games left but it is important to go into the playoffs with momentum.
In today’s matinee tilt against the Twins A.J. Burnett will be pitching who comes into the contest with a 5.20 ERA and 10 wins. He is lucky to have that many wins as Colon has eight wins but a very respectable 3.81 ERA. This should be Burnett’s last start of the season as he has mysteriously received a few extra starts since Girardi decided to stick with the six man rotation.
The Twins rookie, Scott Diamond, who is from Ontario, Canada, will be pitching for the Twins. Diamond went to SUNY Binghamton, in upstate New York, which is not known for producing professional baseball players. He has made only five starts after coming up from AAA Rochester and has one win with a 3.94 ERA.
Minnesota is the worst team in the American League so the Yankees need to win this game before the Tampa Bay Rays invade the Bronx for three games. The Yankees are in as strange position during the series with Tampa since sweeping the series will drastically help the Red Sox win the Wild Card.
Also, on Saturday, Granderson became the only Yankee besides Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth to have had seasons of at least 20 doubles, 10 triples and 40 homers. He has joined exclusive company as those are three of the best players of all time.
The Yankees defeated the Orioles, 3-2, behind timely hitting and effective pitching all around by Freddy Garcia as well as the bullpen. This win gave them a split of the interrupted four-game series against the last place Orioles, in Baltimore.
Freddy Garcia only allowed four base runners during his very solid first start after returning from his short stint on the disabled list. The only run that he allowed was a homer to the free swinging Mark Reynolds, who can usually be counted on hitting a ball out of the park or striking out.
Garcia has a stellar 3.09 ERA, while continuing his pre disabled list ownership of the American League with his sixth straight start allowing three runs or less. More impressively, in four of those starts he has allowed one run or less.
Down the stretch their will be a three-way battle between Garcia, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes for the number three spot in the Yankees playoff rotation. As of now, Garcia should get the edge because he has been battle tested, pitching in many more big games during his career than Nova or Hughes. Nobody would have thought that Bartolo Colon and Garcia could have been the two and three starters for the Yankes, in the playoffs, at the beginning of the season.
Mark Teixiera got the scoring started in the first hitting a double to drive in Curtis Granderson, for his 100th RBI, which is his sixth season driving in 100 runs or more. Teixiera continued his recent surge at the plate as he is 6-12 in his last three games
In the fourth inning, Nick Swisher would give the Yankees all the scoring they would need off of Alfred Simon as his homer to deep right drove in Robinson Cano. Six of Swisher’s last eight hits have been home runs which is unbelievable. He now has a .267 average, with 21 homers and 77 RBI’s, which is a total reversal of fortune from how he was hitting earlier in the season.
The normally perfect David Robertson, who had not surrendered a run in his last 13 appearances, actually gave up a home run to J.J. Hardy, to deep left center, to make the game interesting. However Robertson, also known as Houdini, would buckle down afterwards, striking out two in the inning while getting the hold.
Mariano Rivera has more saves against the Orioles than against any other team. That is not all that surprising since they are in the AL East and have struggled for much of Rivera’s career.
He entered the game with a 3-2 lead facing Vladimir Guerrero. Rivera would tip the ball with his glove, so that Cano could field it near second and make a strong throw to Teixiera at first. He would go on to retire the side in order like he has so many times during his Hall of Fame career.
Rivera has now been perfect in his last five innings, not allowing a walk or hit during those games. The last time he faltered was during three games against the Angels and Red Sox. The Yankees will now be facing the Red Sox for three games in Boston, so hopefully Rivera can start as well as CC Sebathia can dominate the Red Sox.
They now trail the Red Sox by 1.5 games and are 2-10 in the season series. Sebathia, (17-7, 2.99 ERA) the Yankees ace, has had a CY Young caliber season and would be a lock for the award over Justin Verlander if it was not for his struggles against Boston.
During four starts this season against the Red Sox, he has a sky-high 7.20 ERA, with a 1.72 WHIP and 10 walks in 25 innings. He will pitch tonight, against John Lackey, (5.98 ERA) who lacks a decent ERA. Hopefully Sebathia will be able to execute his pitches and pitch well tonight like he has against the rest of the AL East. He has been a workhorse for the team, throwing at least seven innings in his last 14 starts, receiving the win in nine of those decisions.
The Red Sox and Yankees will clash three more times after this three game set in Boston, and these six games will go a long way towards deciding who gets to win the division and thus face the Detroit Tigers in the first round of the playoffs.
The Yankees were again without the duo of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez but were still able to win the last two games without them. There is a chance that both will play during the series in Boston.
Rivera is now only eight saves away (592) from Trevor Hoffman on the all-time saves list so he should be able to pass him before the end of the season.
Ivan Nova was super once again, pitching seven effective innings, while not wasting the offensive explosion, during the 8-3 victory in the second game of the doubleheader. He became the first Yankees rookie to win at least 10 straight decisions in one season since Atley Donald won 12 straight in 1939.
Nova allowed one run in each of the first three innings, as Adam Jones would drive in two of those runs. Nova leads all rookies with his 14 wins, and pitches very well with a lead. Some pitchers will crumble and buckle under pressure with a lead, but Nova excels.
However, the story of this game was how the Yankees offense put on yet another remarkable display.
Curtis Granderson turned around his slump with a vengeance as he hit a three run home run in the third. His 37th home run, in the top of the third, nearly made it onto Eutaw Street and it put the Yankees up 3-2. He is now in sole possession for the major league lead in homers.
Granderson drove in Eric Chavez and Brett Gardner, who have both been in slumps recently. Chevez’s slump has been more pronounced as he is only 4-25, but at least he is not an everyday player.
The home run barrage off of Orioles starter Brian Matusz would continue a Cano hit an opposite field home run in the top of the sixth, to break the tie and send the Yankees up 5-3. That was the first of back-to-back-to-back homers which would make the score 7-3. Nick Swisher sent one over the fences off of Matusz to end his night and send him to the showers.
The next two pitchers could not avoid the long ball as well. Chris Jakubauskas, struck out two batters but he also gave up Andruw Jones’s 11th homer of the season. Granderson hit his second home run off of journey man giant Mark Hendrickson.
An interesting not about the three consecutive homers in the sixth is that the last time the Yankees did so it also came against the Orioles. That date was May 20, 2009, and Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano joined the party on that day as well.
Another positive about Granderson is that he has totally turned around his offensive production against lefties. He used to struggle against them but ever since his meeting with hitting coach Kevin Long, last August, he has been a new hitter from both sides of the plate. He now leads the majors with 15 long balls off of lefties and has just passed Cano for most RBI against them.
This is the offensive outburst that was expected against the Orioles, and especially Brian Matusz because he had an 8.92 ERA coming into the game, now 9.07, and even though he has not been in the rotation the whole season he has likely been the worst starter in the American League.
David Robertson had not allowed a run in his last 12 appearances. He entered the game with the score 8-3, and runners on first and second. He would go on to allow a single to Adam Jones. Since it was hit right to Nick Swisher in right, J.J. Hardy was stranded at third. Robertson got the free swinging Vladimir Guerero to strike out on a pitch that was well out of the strike zone. Another hitter who does not take many pitches, Mark Reynolds, was Robertson’s next victim, as he struck out for the third time. He then struck out Ryan Adams for the trifecta, pulling off the impressive feat of striking out three men with the bases loaded.
This was a truly remarkable outing by Robertson, also known as Houdini. He had the correct mindset as he threw mainly pitches out of the zone against Guerrero and Reynolds because he knew they were apt to be overly aggressive. Now, out of the 44 batters he has faced with the bases loaded he has struck out 23 of them.
Baltimore’s bullpen has been suspect as well, so they were due for a down game after having won six straight. Hopefully this will be the start of a long winning streak for the Yankees as they start a three- game series, in Boston, against the Red Sox, on Tuesday. They are now two games behind Boston, who has won three out of their last four.
In an effort to give the Yankees a split of the four-game set, Freddy Garcia (3.16 ERA) will pitch during the series finale on Monday, which will be his first start since coming off of the disabled list. He has the advantage against O’s starter Alfred Simon, who only has four wins and 4.30 ERA. However, in his last start, he only allowed the Twins offense to score one run over a career high eight innings.
It is also possible that he will not see Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez in the lineup, who could continue to be out with minor injuries.