Via Will Leitch:
But there is trouble brewing, and it’s best described by a quote that [Brian] Cashman might recognize from his old rival across the country in Oakland, Billy Beane. In Moneyball, Beane confesses, “My shit doesn’t work in the playoffs.” What Beane meant was that for all his work at roster construction, once the strange dynamics of October take over—short series where a hot pitcher or a random bounce can prove decisive—winning is a crapshoot. Anything can happen. It’s a lesson Yankees fans should keep in mind, because one can make a strong argument that this team’s postseason prospects are shakier than anyone is willing to admit.
This season, A. J. Burnett will make more money than Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Robinson Cano. His $16.5 million salary makes him the twentieth-highest-paid player in the game and the sixth-highest-paid pitcher. And he has been terrible. His 5.15 ERA is easily the worst of his career, and he’s compiled a 10-12 record, which, on a team that’s more than 30 games over .500, is difficult to achieve even if you’re trying. Girardi has kept him in the rotation for the same reason Girardi makes most decisions—he has a solid enough lineup, and a big enough cushion in the standings, that he can keep sending Burnett out there and hope he figures it out. In October, he will have no such luxury.
Burnett is just the highest-profile symptom of the Yankees’ biggest postseason concern. The rotation is springing leaks everywhere. After CC Sabathia, who has been terrific, the Yankees don’t have a single reliable starter. Andy Pettitte hasn’t pitched since mid-July, and it’s far from certain he’ll look like the old Andy when he returns from his left-groin injury. Phil Hughes was the team’s best pitcher the first three months of the season but has cooled off lately (and is nearing his innings limit). Javier Vazquez has vindicated fans who screamed when the Yankees traded for him in the off-season (funny how Game 7 grand slams given up to the Red Sox don’t fade from public consciousness) and was recently plying his trade in the bull pen. Rookie Ivan Nova has been a pleasant surprise, but he’s still a rookie. Dustin Moseley, Chad Gaudin, and Sergio Mitre are guys you throw in the game in case one of the above pitchers can’t make it out of the second inning.
And that’s it. That’s all the Yankees have as a rotation. A $213 million payroll, and the Yankees have one reliable postseason starter. So much of October comes down to starting pitching—that and Mariano Rivera have been the constants during every Yankees World Series run—and the Yankees, the vaunted Yankees, have no idea who starts Game 2 of a series. Sure, they’re planning on its being Pettitte, but that’s assuming he’s ready and able. If he’s not, the Yankees are looking at Burnett, Hughes, or Vazquez. Never mind Game 3.
This ties into what I mentioned a week and a half ago. As I said then: “…the Yankees starting rotation, excluding #52, is a mess. It’s a shame that the Yankees front office has turned a blind eye to this as it has been unfolding. Because, now, it may be too late to do anything about it.”
There’s no way this rotation carries the Yankees through three rounds of post-season baseball. Maybe, just maybe, it might get them through the LDS – because you only need three wins there. But, come LCS and WS time, it’s going to be a sad time in Yankeeland, should New York make it that far.