Via Ken Davidoff today -
What the Yankees missed most of all in 2008, you sense from talking to people around the team, is that intimidation factor one gets only from possessing a strong, deep starting rotation.
When the Yankees rode the bus from their Toronto hotel to the Rogers Centre, for instance, and knew they would have to deal with Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett and Dustin McGowan (before his injury) in the next three days, it took something out of them before they even saw a pitch.
So even though the Yankees allowed fewer runs (727) this past season than they did in 2007 (777), they lacked the pitchers – either big names or big stuff – who made clubs dread coming to the ballpark.
That’s what they’re trying to recapture, in addition to the obvious: tangible improved pitching.
“I think the intimidation factor comes from the performance. It doesn’t matter if they have a name,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Friday. “Last year, A.J. Burnett was performing. So Toronto could say, ‘Burnett, Halladay, Magowan – we’ve got those three guys.’ Tampa Bay, out of the blue, had guys like [Scott] Kazmir, [Matt] Garza and [James] Shields. Boston has [Josh] Beckett, [Daisuke] Matsuzaka and [Jon] Lester.
“When we ran into guys like that, there was no breathing room. We could go a full month and not face a layup. If the starters lined up properly, we would’ve had that. We had a rotation, in theory, of [Chien-Ming] Wang-[Joba] Chamberlain- [Mike] Mussina-[Andy] Pettitte.”
Cashman thinks Tampa’s pitching came out of the blue? Really?
Anyway, Ken Singleton talked about this during the YES broadcasts this season – the importance of having a starting pitcher going that day who you knew was going to give you an excellent chance to win the game. Once Wang and Chamberlain went down, and Pettitte got hurt, all the Yankees had last season was Mussina. And, let’s face Moose was a gift from the baseball heavens last year.
And, now, Mussina is gone. Pettitte may be gone – and he needs to prove that he’s healthy if he does return before you can count on him as being a near-ace type pitcher. Wang will be back – but he too has to prove that he’s sound. Ditto Chamberlain.
Given that no one knows if the Yankees are going to acquire any starting pitchers, for sure, this off-season, 2009 may just be another season where the Yankees rotation doesn’t scare anyone…at least not at the start of the season.