• Nova #4, Garcia #5 – Colon Vs. Mitre For Long Man

    Posted by on March 25th, 2011 · Comments (14)

    How did we get to this place, in Yankeeland, today, where I’d be writing headlines like the one above? Via George King -

    The biggest question in Yankees camp — who will be the fifth starter? — could be answered today.

    “We have to make a decision sooner than later,” GM Brian Cashman said of picking between Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon as the final piece to manager Joe Girardi’s rotation.

    “We will close the competition soon enough. I will talk to Joe on the phone. … We will close this thing out eventually.”

    Girardi and his staff meet daily, and it’s not out of the question that decisions could spill out of today’s discussions.

    When camp opened Feb. 14, Ivan Nova and Garcia were the favorites to cop the final two spots behind CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett.

    While it hasn’t been announced, Nova has won the fourth spot.

    And, even though Colon’s numbers are better and he is throwing very well, Garcia remains the favorite because he won 12 games last year and logged 157 innings.

    Despite the strong spring by Colon, the Yankees aren’t sure what he can deliver innings-wise, because he hasn’t pitched in a big-league game since 2009 due to arm trouble.

    Garcia can exercise a March 29 opt-out if he isn’t on the roster; Colon’s date is March 31.

    Wednesday, Girardi said he didn’t need to see any more out of the 34-year-old Garcia during yesterday’s minor-league game — when the righty worked five innings against the Phillies’ Triple-A club, allowing a run, four hits and fanning three.

    It was an indication that the manager was leaning toward Garcia. And while there was plenty of Yankee brass watching Garcia, Girardi wasn’t among them.

    “It’s not beneficial for me to state my preferences,” Cashman said. “I will get all the recommendations and make mine to ownership.”

    Curiously, club president Randy Levine watched Garcia pitch yesterday. It was a rare appearance at the minor-league complex by Levine, who was joined by Cashman, pro scouting head Billy Eppler, pitching coach Larry Rothschild and bullpen coach Mike Harkey.

    If Garcia is the fifth starter, it doesn’t mean Colon will be released or sent to Triple-A Scranton.

    There is a chance Colon could work in the pen. That would likely mean the Yankees will try to move Sergio Mitre, who has value because he can start or relieve and isn’t terribly expensive at $900,000.

    Comments on Nova #4, Garcia #5 – Colon Vs. Mitre For Long Man

    1. MJ Recanati
      March 25th, 2011 | 7:45 am

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      How did we get to this place, in Yankeeland, today, where I’d be writing headlines like the one above?

      In 1996, the Yankees #3 starter for most of the season was Dwight Gooden.

      In 1997, the Yankees #3 starter was Kenny Rogers. Their #5 starter was Dwight Gooden.

      In 1998, one of the best Yankee teams ever, their #4 starter was Hideki Irabu.

      In 1999, Irabu was the team’s #5 starter.

      I could go on but you get the picture. The Yankees have had plenty of guys that you wouldn’t think of as good starters in the back end of their rotation.

      Now, if you want to say that some of those teams had better pitchers up front, sure, you wouldn’t be wrong. But if you’re going to make criticisms, the #4 and #5 starter spots aren’t really the place to begin. Nova and Garcia will both probably be below average. Most #4 and #5 starters are, otherwise they wouldn’t be #4 and #5 starters.

    2. March 25th, 2011 | 8:48 am

      When you have three stud/solid trusty starters at the front end of your rotation, you can get by with a rookie and a washed up journeyman bringing up the rear.

      Do the 2011 Yankees have three good bets on the front end?

      Sabathia? Yes.

      Burnett and Hughes? They’re no lock, in my book. Hughes was worse than league average for most of the season last year – sans the first seven weeks of the season or so (before the league caught up to him). Burnett was a bomb last year. And, even at his best, he’s just a .500 pitcher.

      See? It’s not just about Nova and Garcia this year. It’s about them following Burnett and Hughes.

    3. Raf
      March 25th, 2011 | 10:45 am

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      When you have three stud/solid trusty starters at the front end of your rotation, you can get by with a rookie and a washed up journeyman bringing up the rear.

      That isn’t necessarily true. The 2006 Cards come to mind, and I’m sure there are other playoff teams as well as other WS winners that have had lousy rotations.

    4. Scout
      March 25th, 2011 | 11:53 am

      Raf wrote:

      The 2006 Cards come to mind, and I’m sure there are other playoff teams as well as other WS winners that have had lousy rotations

      Not very many, though it can happen. It is always about probability: the likelihood of getting to the post-season and going deep in the play-off rises with excellent front-line starting pitching. An overpowering offense and one ace may get you into the play-offs but the odds are you won’t last long once there. Unfortunately, as of today, the Yankees look to be in the latter camp, not the former.

    5. MJ Recanati
      March 25th, 2011 | 12:19 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      And, even at his best, he’s just a .500 pitcher.

      I’m happy to criticize AJ Burnett for his putrid performance last yera and I’m happy to share in the skepticism that he might be cooked based on declining velocity over the past few years but his W/L record has nothing to do with it. Cliff Lee was barely a .500 pitcher last year, which goes to show you how meaningless W/L record is.

    6. Raf
      March 25th, 2011 | 12:36 pm

      Scout wrote:

      It is always about probability: the likelihood of getting to the post-season and going deep in the play-off rises with excellent front-line starting pitching.

      That isn’t necessarily true either.

    7. Scout
      March 25th, 2011 | 3:15 pm

      @ Raf:
      Well, then, I think the burden of proof lies with you to demonstrate that teams without excellent one-through-three starting pitching are just as likely to advance deep into the play-offs. On my side, I will point to the Giants last year, the Yankees the year before (who used ONLY three starters in the entire play-oofs), the successful Red Sox teams in recent years.

    8. MJ Recanati
      March 25th, 2011 | 3:31 pm

      @ Scout:
      What’s your arbitrary cutoff, though? A team can have bad pitching that gets hot in the playoffs or a team can have good pitching that gets rocked in the playoffs. A team with five starters will shorten their rotation in the playoffs and a team with three starters can make it through with even a dubious fourth starter.

      My point is, your statement seems and sounds correct but asking Raf to prove his claim requires some guidelines. After all, the 2002 Angels won the World Series with a rotation of four guys — Ramon Ortiz, Jarrod Washburn, Aaron Sele and Kevin Appier — that were generally mediocre their entire careers.

    9. Scout
      March 25th, 2011 | 4:43 pm

      @ MJ Recanati:
      I’ll let Raf define the criteria of top frontline starters using whatever metric he likes. The 2002 Angels are widely regarded as the exception to the rule, the team that hit its way to a championship. My contention is that such an outcome is unusual, and not a model for success.

      Brian Cashman has recognized this, of course. That is why he spent so heavily for Sabbathia and Burnett after the 2008 season and why he wanted so badly to add Lee to Sabbathia and Hughes this year. Cashman will look hard for another #2 type (or better) this summer because he knows the Yankees do not want to go into the post-season with Sabbathia and a bunch of question marks.

    10. Raf
      March 25th, 2011 | 6:29 pm

      MJ Recanati wrote:

      A team can have bad pitching that gets hot in the playoffs or a team can have good pitching that gets rocked in the playoffs.

      That’s more or less my point.

      Also, it should be noted that there are teams with better pitching than playoff teams on the outside looking in.

      Define going deep? ALCS? World Series? There have been teams with “great starters” that don’t make it out the first round.

      Scout wrote:

      Brian Cashman has recognized this, of course. That is why he spent so heavily for Sabbathia and Burnett after the 2008 season and why he wanted so badly to add Lee to Sabbathia and Hughes this year

      That has pretty much been the GM’s plan every offseason. This time around, it was Lee, before it was Sabathia and Burnett. A few years ago, it was Pavano, Johnson and Wright. Before that, it was Rogers and Cone. Even earlier, it was Key with them losing out on Cone & Maddux.

      If Cashman makes a trade to bolster the rotation, it won’t necessarily be because of Sabathia and the Question Marks. As Steve’s other entry (Yankees Starting Staffs Since 1973 – Most “Non-Quality” Starts) shows, the Yanks have been all over the map WRT failures and successes of starting pitching.

      As for pitching vs hitting,
      http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/does-good-pitching-beat-good-hitting-in-october/

      while the phrase “good pitching beats good hitting” is largely true, it does not hold so strongly true that you should bet your bottom dollar on the team with the best pitching. Good pitching has nice chances against good hitting, but not so good that the game’s outcome is anywhere close to inevitable just because an ace is on the mound.

      The phrase is useful, but not controlling or predictive of a short series; it’s more a silver nugget of baseball truth than it is a gold one. Good pitching beats good hitting … except when it doesn’t.

    11. Evan3457
      March 25th, 2011 | 10:16 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      How did we get to this place, in Yankeeland, today, where I’d be writing headlines like the one above?

      Because Cashman’s international free agent operation was smart enough to sign Nova, and because he was smart enough to sign a very inexpensive 5th starter, so the Yanks have a promising young 4th starter who throws 93-96, and several good offspeed pitches, and veteran 5th starter who just had a decent season for the White Sox, and both of them very cheap.

      Oh, wait…you probably didn’t mean it that way. ;)

    12. Greg H.
      March 26th, 2011 | 11:19 am

      To Steve’s point if “how did we get here,” I want to say that although I’m not filled with confidence like I would be with the Phillies’ rotation, I’m also not unhappy with where we’re at. As Evan “Voice of Reason” 3457 points out, we have a very talented young #4 and a couple vets holding places while 2-3 excellent young arms stretch it out in AAA. It’s easy to see the pitching as being somewhat loaded, not empty.

      In year, maybe sooner, our rotation will likely have AJ Burnett as the # 4 or #5, with CC at the top and a bunch of young guys at 2-4. This is the optimal situation for a team like the Yanks, who can always afford to pick up talented position players with their abundant resources. Not that there aren’t a few good position players coming up as well, because there are. Many of them will contribute to the club, either by making the team or via trades. As I’ve said many times, people who write off the Yankees before September are usually proven wrong.

      It’s still March, and people are crowning the Orioles? Please.

    13. Corey Italiano
      March 26th, 2011 | 11:35 am

      Greg H. wrote:

      To Steve’s point if “how did we get here,” I want to say that although I’m not filled with confidence like I would be with the Phillies’ rotation,

      Ya don’t say. ;)

      Let’s not get jealous here. The Phillies have a potential all-time rotation, we can’t be pissed cause we don’t have one to match. It doesn’t happen often.

    14. Greg H.
      March 26th, 2011 | 3:42 pm

      I’m not jealous of the Phils, not by any means. They have lineup issues and aside from the rotation are not that deep a team. In fact, it will be interesting case study on whether a stellar rotation means playoff success. The NL east will not be a total cakewalk – the Braves are decent, and the Fish could surprise.

      My point was just the opposite. I’m not too concerned about pitching rotation or the pen – not yet at least.

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