When Cliff Lee failed to sign with the Yankees, and when Andy Pettitte retired, the Yankee rotation became a major concern. Sure, there was CC Sabathia, but after that things got shaky, especially with Burnett coming off a terrible season, Hughes’s inconsistency in the second half, Nova’s inexperience, and Freddy Garcia…well, being Freddy Garcia. I go to school in Boston, so all I heard was how the Red Sox rotation, coupled with their improved offense, would dominate the A.L. East. Who did the Yankees have? Ivan Nova? Bartolo Colon? Ha!
Early on, things looked bleak. Phil Hughes couldn’t throw a fastball. Ivan Nova had some rough starts. But ever since Hughes went on the D.L., and Bartolo Colon took his place in the rotation, the Yankee starters have dominated. Sabathia, Burnett, Colon, Nova, and Garcia have combined for a 3.47 ERA in 42 starts. Ivan Nova’s 4.29 ERA is actually the highest in the rotation. The only time in the last 30 years that the five primary starters all had ERA’s under 4.30 was 1998 (of course).
What was once the Yankees’ biggest concern is now their biggest strength. The Yankees caught lightning in a bottle with Colon, who has somehow found the fountain of youth and is throwing high 90′s fastballs with movement on the black. Sabathia has been his typical self, Burnett has rebounded, Nova has been effective, and Garcia has been fantastic. In fact, all five had a quality start in their last outing.
The bullpen has also been dominant, led by Rivera and Robertson, who both have ERA’s under 2. As a team, the Yankees have a 3.59 ERA. That’s their lowest mark since 1981, when the team posted a 2.90 ERA in a strike-shortened 107-game season.
Maybe I’m misreading the success of the starters for a wider trend throughout baseball. After all, pitchers are dominating this year. A.J. Burnett’s 4.02 ERA actually gives him an ERA+ under 100. Run scoring is lower than it’s been in 20 years. The league average is .249.
But considering the Yankees are hitting just .254 as a team (seventh in the A.L., though their OPS and OBP are first and third, respectively), they have needed their starters to step up. All five have done so.
It is unlikely that Colon and Garcia will continue to post ERA’s in the low 3′s for the rest of the season. Burnett and Nova might become more inconsistent as the year goes on. But for the time being, I am enjoying the success of the starters, and hopefully it continues throughout the summer.