I was looking back at what I wrote seven weeks ago, at the start of Spring Training this year, regarding my observations on the 2011 Yankees (heading into this season) – and I still feel the same way today.
But, above all else, at this junction, what concerns me the most about the Yankees this year is their starting pitching – and it’s not the back-end (Nova and Garcia or a fill-in TBA) which scares the snot out of me.
Actually, I think the keys to the Yankees success this year are A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes – meaning they have to pitch well in order for the Yankees to reach the post-season in 2011.
Related, I keep going back to the fact that Hughes had an ERA of 5.15 over his last 20 games in 2010. Also, there’s the whole issue with Phil’s velocity being MIA this spring.
And, Burnett is wildly inconsistent. Further, if you look at A.J. over the last 6 seasons, his win totals are: 12, 10, 10, 18, 13, 10 – with 18 coming in his opt-out year. Seems to me, looking at these numbers, it’s safe to say that Burnett, when not playing for a contract, can only be counted on to win 10-13 games a season.
Bottom line, if Hughes is going to pitch to an ERA close to five this season and Burnett is going to be just a 10-game winner, that’s a much larger problem for the Yankees than having a journeyman and a rookie bringing up the rear of their starting rotation.
Of course, maybe Hughes and Burnett will both win 16+ games this season – and the Yankees, as a team, will win 95 games and make the post-season this year? But, I’m not counting on that – based on what we know, for fact, today, about Burnett and Hughes.
And, if A.J. and Phil don’t pitch well this season, we in Yankeeland could be looking at a team that’s going to win 85-90 games and miss out getting a post-season berth.