The Yankees are doomed

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OK, maybe doomed is too strong. But, once again, I don’t think Brian Cashman has built a team made for the playoffs. Mainly, the problem is pitching. Starting pitching. As the Atlanta Braves showed us throughout the 1990s, having a load of B+ starting pitchers is fantastic for 90-plus regular season wins … but doesn’t really work so well in the post-season. Generally speaking, the teams in the best shape have two ass-kicking starters with rubber arms and angry demeanors (think Johnson-Schilling, ’01)

Here’s what the Yankees have:

C.C. Sabathia: Great starter. Elite starter. Worth the big bucks thus far—but in five postseason games with Cleveland and Milwaukee, the man has a 7.92 ERA over five starts. Please, read that again—seven point nine two. Last year, as the Brewers’ ace/supposed savior, Sabathia allowed six hits and five runs in 3 2/3 innings of his long divisional series start. Can he be masterful? Of course. Will he be? Seems sort of unlikely.

A.J. Burnett: I’d argue (as would many) that, come playoff time, Burnett has the chance to be New York’s stud. He still throws extremely hard, still possesses lightning stuff—plus, he’s already won a World Series with the 2003 Marlins. But has anyone watched the guy this year? In a word: Meh. He’s no Ed Whitson, but Burnett (11-9) has been incredibly inconsistent. One good start, three bad ones, two great starts, four mediocre ones. Would you trust him to  pitch a huge game?

Neither would I.

Andy Pettitte: Just when it looked like Pettitte’s career might be coming to an end, he rebounds with a surprisingly good season—13-6, 4.14 ERA. But the Braves analogy works well here—though Pettitte isn’t what Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine were back in their primes, he got mediocre velocity, relying mainly on hitting spots. That can work in the playoffs. In fact, it can work well. But, again, is Pettitte a guy you want on the mound with a huge game in the balance?

Joba Chamberlain: Over the past 13 years, no team has handled most baseball-related matters better than the Yanks. But their dealings with Chamberlain have been, well, pathetic. They took a stellar young arm, screwed and screwed and screwed with his heads—and now? Mush. I mean, seriously, what they’ve done to this kid is, in a baseball sense, criminal. If I’m a Yankees fan, and it’s Game 7, do I want Jona or Phil Hughes starting?

Me, I take Hughes.

34 thoughts on “The Yankees are doomed”

  1. C’mon, Jeff, let’s not re-write history here. The Braves took the Twins to seven games in 1991. Smoltz threw an “A” game, Jack Morris threw an A+ game.

    In ’92 they lost to a terrific Blue Jays team (and offense) in six. In ’97, Eric Gregg’s (RIP) dinner plate strike zone torpedoed Atlanta in the decisive game vs. the Marlins.

  2. Regarding CC Sabathia, you wrote:

    “Great starter. Elite starter. Worth the big bucks thus far—but in five postseason games with Cleveland and Milwaukee, the man has a 7.92 ERA over five starts. Please, read that again—seven point nine two.”

    I would make one minor adjustment:

    “Great starter. Elite starter. Worth the big bucks thus far—but in five postseason games with Cleveland and Milwaukee, the man has a 7.92 ERA over five starts. Please, read that again—ONLY FIVE STARTS.”

  3. I agree, Jeff. The Yanks don’t have the pitching to win in October. Yes, Burnett won a ring with the Marlins, but he was hurt and missed most of that year. So he has zero playoff experience.

  4. Since when is the Greg Maddux of the 90s a B+ starter? Or Tom Glavine for that matter? Or John Smoltz? All of those men are going to the Hall of Fame. You don’t get into the Hall of Fame on B+ performance unless you’re Jim Rice.

  5. The Braves teams were good because of their great starting pitching, it was everywhere else where they lacked. Do you even watch baseball?

  6. When I think of Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz in the 90’s, I do not think of a load of B+ pitchers. If they get a B+, how the heck do you get an A?

    When I think of the 90’s Yankees championship teams, I think of a load of B+ starters: Hernandez, Petitte, Clemens, Cone etc.

    Pearlman, do you think before you type?

  7. Wait, this idiot thinks Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz ca. 1995-1996 were B+ pitchers and we are supposed to listen to anything he says?

    Wow, what maroon. What would an A pitching staff be? Walter Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Sandy Koufax, and Whitey Ford, all in their primes?

  8. Braves B+ pitchers in the 90s? Millwood? Avery?

    Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz are apparently HOF bound, assume HOF bound is greater than B+, but hey, SI used to sell well, I guess today there’s more B+ talent on the staff trying to compete with real ringers in the bigs.

  9. The sad thing is this all could have been avoided if Brian Cashman had just added an innings eater at the trade deadline–or even at the waiver deadline. There were numerous guys out there waiting to be picked up for a song–including Ian Snell, who just handcuffed them the other night. But Cashman was too interested in taking his victory lap for three no-brainer free agent signings to get a deal done. With a reliable fourth starter, they could have stashed Joba in Mr. Wu’s meat freezer for the duration of the season and no one would have noticed. Instead, we’re stuck with the legendary “Surge” Mitre.

  10. Only Jeff Pearlman would label the 90s versions of Smoltz, Maddux and Glavine, three surefire Hall of Famers, as a bunch of “B+” starters.

    What Pearlman has done to sportswriting is, in a word, criminal.

  11. No, not when dealing with how he pitches in the regular season but I’d say 5 post season starts would be indicative of how he does against the best teams on the biggest stages no?

  12. No, not indicative. 5 starts is 5 starts. Show me his body of work against the best teams, and forget about biggest stages, that’s silly nonsense.

    I agree that there are a lot of question marks on the Yankees pitching staff. And that those question marks can be painful in the post season because one or two bad starts can kill you. But I don’t think the Yankees are unique in that regard.

  13. As a Yankees fan I am concerned about the rotation – I think “doomed” is too strong a word, as I think the lineup and bullpen are strong enough to make it to the World Series (However, facing the Cardinals with Carpenter/Wainwright or Phillies with Hamels/Lee would be difficult).

    with that said, 2 things to add here that you neglected to take into consideration:

    1) Its unfair to factor in Sabathia’s postseason record, because in some of the more recent regular seasons he’s been asked to pitch on short rest multiple times at the end of a season for a team making a playoff push. So, it makes sense that an irregular schedule and more frequent workload would have taken a toll on his arm and caused him to be ineffective.

    2. Phil Hughes is absolutely NOT available to start a game this season. his arm is not stretched out to go long (he hasn’t thrown more than 28 pitches in an appearance since the end of July). Not to mention, the stability that he brings to the bullpen would be lost without him. PLUS, who is to say he wouldn’t experience the same sruggles as Joba has, if he were to start? his track record as a major league starter up to this point certainly leaves much to be desired.

  14. I hope the Yankees don’t do the unthinkable and trump my play for the Phills, after all I have £160 riding on “they will not” but true to many of my sporting ironies the sad fact is that most of that money will be ploughed into next years trip to NYC.

  15. I can’t wait til the yankees starting pitching shoves the barrell of a bat up every teas every doubters asses. Anyone who says things like this are just Yankee haters and for the most part have no idea what they’re talking about. I can’t wait til everyone of have to eat your words.

  16. 5 starts, spread out over 3 different post seasons, against 4 different teams, would seem a good sample. The best teams, a pressure situation, consistently bad. Here’s the more eye opening stat IMO: 25IP 33H 22BB 24K.

    22 WALKS to 24 K’s.

  17. So you’re looking at an average of 1.6 starts in each year and that’s supposed to make it a MORE RELEVANT sample size?

    You’re looking at one start per opponent and that’s supposed to make it a MORE RELEVANT sample size?

    The mind boggles.

  18. Well then how many starts does CC have to get in the post season before it’s OK to doubt him?

    How many pitchers ever get 5 starts in the post season over the course of their careers?

    It’s not like anyone is saying he’s awful or its 100% that he’s going to suck in the post season but I can understand why their is doubt.

  19. Colin–

    I’m not sure how many starts someone should get in the postseason before it’s “ok to doubt them.”

    I would say any pitcher is doubtable at any time. But I would say if you mean how many postseason starts should a pitcher have before you use his aggregate postseason total as proof he’s a bad postseason pitcher? I am going to go out on a limb and say “more than 5”

  20. Fair enough but I don’t think many, if any, people are saying that it’s a fact that CC can’t pitch in the post season. Jeff stated that it doesn’t seem likely and I tend to agree with him.

    When dealing with the playoff success the odds of having a sample size big enough to come to a definitive conclusion seem pretty slim. Not very many pitchers are able to be there year after year and even when they are you seem them twice in a series at most. Based on what we’ve actually seen from CC in the playoffs I’d say it’s fair to have some doubt.

    Although, CC should be able to deal with the Tigers. I’d imagine he’ll look masterful.

  21. Kind of hard to buy the premise of any argument from a guy that calls three future Hall of Famers in Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz, with 7 Cy Youngs between them, B+ pitchers.

    I wonder what Pearlman would consider an A+ staff?!?

  22. Jeff love your stuff. The Bad Guys Won is one of my favorite books ever, but dont get caught up in small sample sizes. They’ll always let you down. CC is the best for a reason and even if he struggles in the World Series it doesnt mean he isnt a big game pitcher, it just means hes a baseball player.

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