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The Yankees Postseason Rotation is Still Murky

By Mike Silva ~ September 23rd, 2011. Filed under: New York Yankees.

The ALDS will start on Friday, September 30th. Despite the fact that we are week away, it doesn’t appear the Yankees postseason rotation is any more settled today than 10 days ago.

You know CC Sabathia will take Games 1 in every series. Ivan Nova, a minor leaguer in the middle of the season, very well could start Game 2, or they could go with the veteran with postseason experience in Freddy Garcia. Either way, both will receive postseason starts. That brings us to Game 4, which could be a pivotal game regardless if we are talking about a 5 or 7 game series. Who gets the start? Bartolo Colon, Phil Hughes, or could A.J. Burnett still be in the mix?

Colon has been the obvious answer for months now. The stem cell procedure has breathed life into his arm. He’s made the most starts in six years (25), and pitched to a decent 4.02 ERA. His 8-10 record is not indicative to how well he pitched throughout the first half.

The second half hasn’t been as kind to Colon. Opponents are hitting .298 against him and his ERA is a very pedestrian 5.09. Every month since July we have seen Colon regress to where he is this month- a pitcher with a 6.64 ERA. When Girardi points out there are issues with Colon’s “movement, location, and velocity” you have to wonder if he’s reached his innings threshold and hit a wall. Remember, this is a surgical procedure that hasn’t ever been used before. Who would have thought he would be asked to give them 160 innings this year.

The problem is do the Yankees really have another option? Phil Hughes now has back inflammation. Despite the team’s stance that this isn’t a concern, how confident are you that Hughes can start Game 4 in Detroit on October 4th when he couldn’t take the mound two days ago? He’s been better since coming back from his dead arm, but a healthy Hughes last year came up lame performance-wise in the postseason.

Finally, it’s the new lightening rod A.J. Burnett. Alex Rodriguez used to be the guy that couldn’t stay out of the papers, but Burnett has taken that honor from him the last two years. Could he give you 6 innings/3 runs? Could Burnett keep you in the ballgame? He’s shown improvement in September, but for him that means an ERA of 5.06 versus 11.91 in August. The process is a bit better than Colon as he’s struck out almost 13/per 9 since Larry Rothschild tinkered with his mechanics. The home runs are still plentiful and opponents aren’t fooled when they do make contact (.284 BAA). By rights he should get the ball considering he is paid $16 million a year to be the #2 starter.

The Yankees fourth starter is going to be called on to start a game in each series. Unless there is a rash of rainouts, they won’t be able to avoid it like they did in 2009. Joe Girardi doesn’t seem to be close to making a decision. As a matter of fact, he got testy with the press when it was brought up earlier in the week.

Even if Colon, Burnett, or Hughes impresses in his final tune-up do you go by just one start? The process of each has been flawed. There is not clear cut favorite. Its importance will determine the state of the series. Imagine if the Yankees trail 2-1 in a series, especially a best of five.

This wouldn’t be such a big deal if 1 through 3 was lockdown good. Sabathia, despite some recent struggles, shouldn’t be a worry. But Nova is a kid and Garcia hasn’t been locating his pitches as well as earlier in the season.

The good news is, despite who they pitch, they probably will be facing an American League team that has an equally flawed starter in that spot. That is, unless Tampa makes the postseason. Notice I didn’t say a word about the Phillies as its way too soon to even think about that mountain.

It will probably come down to the bats and bullpen for the Yankees in most series. They are strong enough in either where they have a good chance to win if both do what is expected. At least they will need it to be in Game 4 of each series.

Mike Silva is a freelance writer and radio host since March of 2007. This website is his own personal "digest" of New York Baseball He's also hosts NYBD Radio on Blog Talk Radio and 1240 AM WGBB. Check out his sports media commentary at www.sportsmediawatchdog.com. Check out his official website, www.mikesilvamedia.com
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