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A.J. Burnett traded to Pirates, but who gets 5th Starter job?

"My hair looks like this on purpose."

"See ya!"

By now, you’re aware that A.J. Burnett has been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates due to his extreme suckiness for marginal prospects and salary relief.    But what does that mean for the Yankees?

The first and most obvious result of ditching Burnett is the change this makes to the 5th starter competition.  At this point, I think it’s clear that the rotation shapes up as follows:

  1. C.C. Sabathia
  2. Michael Pineda
  3. Hiroki Kuroda
  4. Ivan Nova

So we’re left with a battle between Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes for the final rotation spot.

In my view, this is a tough decision.  If you choose Garcia, you know about what you’re going to get; 150 innings of average pitching.  With Hughes… well, I he’s kinda got that whole A.J. Burnett thing going for him in terms of being Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  In 2010, Hughes had a great first half but then fell off in the 2nd half.  He’s either completely healthy or injured beyond the point of pitching through pain.  When he’s in the bullpen, he’s great – when he’s a starter, it might be OK and it might be a huge embarrassing failure.

From a win now standpoint, I think you go with Garcia; he’s a known quantity and you know you can put Hughes in the pen (although it’s fairly crowded out there), he’s likely to succeed.  In terms of the Yankees long term success, you probably want to give Phil Hughes the chance to blossom as the starter you always hoped he’d become.  You’ve seen flashes of it, and Garcia is only under contract for 2012 whereas Hughes could be a member of the team for years to come.  This is a tough decision and if I’m the Yankees, I go with Hughes and… I don’t know, have Garcia serve as the long man and emergency starter until someone gets hurt or sucks.  If Nova, Hughes and Pineda are in the rotation, that’s a lot of youth, unknowns and possible injury concerns, so you’re probably going to need another starter at some point for two weeks or so.

The other thing that changes with Burnett leaving the Yankees is the salary relief it provides, which will help the Yankees fill out their bench this year and who knows next year.  At this point, we’re all waiting to see who the Yankees grab as their left handed DH; I still think they’re going with Johnny Damon.

But the point is, the A.J. Burnett saga is finally over, and I love it.  He seems like a good man, but beyond a few glorious moments, I don’t think I’ll miss Burnett’s stay in pinstripes all that much.

Who Will Be The Yankees 4th and 5th Starters?


At this point, I think it’s pretty clear that the Yankees intend to front their rotation with C.C. Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda.  But who will they slot in as their fourth and fifth starters, and in what order?  There is a case to be made for all the candidates.

Freddy Garcia

Garcia gave the Yankees 25 starts, 146.2 IP of 3.62 ERA ball – not exactly setting the world on fire, but more than serviceable.  He’s a veteran, he’s been this guy for two seasons in a row, and, like any pitcher, you know what he’s going to get unless he breaks.

A.J. Burnett

At this point, the only positive thing I can say about Burnett‘s tenure with the Yankees is he always takes the ball when it’s his turn and he soaks up innings.  If the Yankees are willing to eat say…  75% of his salary, they can probably trade him, but that’s a spicy meatball.

Ivan Nova

Nova’s rookie campaign have the Yankees 165.1 IP of 3.70 ERA ball in 27 starts while going 16-4.  That’s impressive.  Now I think it’s fair that no one expects him to repeat that performance in 2012, but Nova looks like the real deal, and I don’t see any reason why the Yankees would want to disrupt his progress (Hughes style…  Chamberlain style… sigh.), so it stands to reason they’ll find a spot for him.

Phil Hughes

Hughes has been the Yankees pet project for years, but I think it’s finally over.  Hughes has repeatedly shown success in the bullpen while the injuries just keep piling up.  Sure, he had that one strong year in 2010, but his health is a concern.

So what’s a team with four arms for two spots to do?

Nothing.  Having too many starting pitchers is the sort of problem that could work itself out before opening day as someone could get injured.  Phil Hughes’ fastball velocity could be in the toilet again…  Burnett might get punched in the face again…  Garcia might have another kitchen accident… who knows?

Make a trade.  The bullpen is already pretty crowded, so maybe the Yankees try to move Hughes.  On the other hand, his value is low now, so the Yankees would be selling low, which doesn’t make a lot of sense.  They have been reportedly shopping Burnett for months now, and, because they are sick of his act, may be willing to eat a ton of money just to get rid of him – especially now, with this influx of too many arms and a need for a part time DH.  (Of course, they can keep Burnett and pick up Johnny Damon or Carlos Pena for straight cash.

But what will they do?  What do I think they’ll do?  I think they’ll force Burnett out the door for a bag of balls…  but we’ll see.

Bringing Freddy Back To The Fold Indicates Yankees Rotation Plans

Now that the Yankees have agreed to a one year deal with Freddy Garcia, I think Brian Cashman’s plan for rebuilding the rotation (his top off season priority) has become evidently clear.

The current roster currently has five starters under contract: indisputable ace C.C. Sabathia, rookie sensation Ivan Nova, "Look out, I don’t know where it’s going," aka A.J. Burnett, "He came into Spring Training a little out of shape last year," and former 19 game winner Phil Hughes and the aforementioned Garcia. So there’s your rotation right there…

Or, maybe not. Hughes and Garcia aren’t exactly a guaranteed picture of health and you never know when Burnett’s tendency to pitch like Charlie Sheen in Major League before he gets the glasses is going to get so out of hand that he can’t pitch anymore, so there are going to be chances for the kids down on the farm to make their case.

But what this early off season move by Cashman truly indicates is that the Yankees are not interested in dumping piles of money on C.J. Wilson or Yu Darvish, and I tend to agree with that logic. Wilson’s short career as a starter doesn’t warrant the dollars he wants and Darvish has never pitched in the majors, and I think Kei Igawa has left a bad taste in the Yankees months. Now that’s not to say that they won’t snatch either (or both) of these guys up if they are able to be had at a below market price, but otherwise, I wouldn’t start stitching their names onto the back of Yankee jerseys.

It’s trade or bust for adding another starter to the Yankees rotation.

If the Yankees can work out a reasonable deal for someone like John Danks, Gio Gonzalez or Jair Jurrjens, then they’ll do it. Maybe they’re willing to part with some of their many catching or pitching prospects that their minor league system is currently awash with to make a deal for one of these guys, but otherwise, the Yankees are going 2008 style and waiting on the better 2009 free agent class – or, in this case, the 2012-13 free agent class.

This is a tentative list, but there are some attractive names here – proven commodities that are better risk/value for the dollar than Darvish or Wilson. Besides, do the Yankees really need a third starting pitcher with initials for a first name?

Free Agent Starting Pitchers in 2012-2013 Off Season

Scott Baker
Joe Blanton
Matt Cain
Fausto Carmona
Kevin Correia
John Danks
Jorge De La Rosa
R.A. Dickey
Scott Feldman
Gavin Floyd
Zack Greinke
Jeremy Guthrie
Cole Hamels
Dan Haren
Tim Hudson
Colby Lewis
Francisco Liriano
Kyle Lohse
Derek Lowe
Shaun Marcum
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Brandon McCarthy
Brett Myers
Carl Pavano
Jake Peavy
Anibal Sanchez
Jonathan Sanchez
Ervin Santana
Joe Saunders
James Shields
Jake Westbrook
Randy Wolf
Carlos Zambrano

A.J. Burnett and C.C. Sabathia’s post season average stats

A.J. Burnett and C.C. Sabathia‘s post season average stats are a bit closer than I thought they would be.  Of course, C.C. Sabathia’s sample size is much larger, but the data does lean a bit toward the shocking side.


Who would have guessed the numbers would play out this way?  Not me.  Of course, this isn’t the sort of revelation that makes anyone want to throw a parade for A.J. Burnett – rather, it’s more a reminder that outside of 2009, C.C. Sabathia’s post season performance has not been exactly stellar.  Still, make no mistake – with C.C. Sabathia, the Yankees may not be able to reach the post season – the problem is, they can’t win unless he pitches more like himself.

In Praise of Curtis Granderson

Where would the Yankees be last night without the impeccable defense of Curtis Granderson? Or his bat? Hell, where would they have been all year?

You’ll note that this morning, a lot of folks are vindicating A.J. Burnett for his performance last night, and I’m not here to say he doesn’t deserve some acolades for how he pitched, but let’s be real – if Curtis Granderson doesn’t make that catch in the 1st inning, we’re looking at a very different game going forward form there. If that ball is dropped or worse, gets passed Granderson and rolls to the wall, we’re looking at a bases clearing double or triple AT BEST. Granderson’s catch saved an in the park grand slam at worst – can you imagine? Then he saved Rafael Soriano’s proverbial bacon with that full extension grab that sent him sliding across the outfield for several feet! Hitting the ground completely emptied the air out of Granderson’s lungs, but he still held onto the ball and somehow managed to raise his glove.

I was so happy when the Yankees acquired Granderson over the 2009-10 off season and although things didn’t go well from the get go, it’s fair to say that his 2011 performance has exceeded even my high expectations. Before yesterday’s game, I was encouraging people to pray for Burnett – maybe we should be praying to Granderson.

Have Faith in Burnett & Yankees

I think we’re all feeling the pressure here in Yankeeland – the season potentially comes down to this elimination game. And A.J. Burnett is starting. Why is it that people only ask themselves deep questions or turn to prayer in times like these?

But cheer up – it’s not so bad. It’s really pitching that has killed the Yankees in their two losses to the Tigers – giving up 5 runs is too many, while scoring 3 or 4 ought to be enough to win – the Yankees shouldn’t have to score 9 runs to win a playoff game. There are two good things about tonight’s elimination game: it’s all hands on deck, so all relievers are available and Burnett’s numbers earlier in games aren’t that bad.

Consider: in the first three innings of games, hitters are hitting Burnett around .200 and in the first five innings of games, hitters are hitting him around .215. According to River Ave Blues, the Burnett gets hit to the tune of a .900 OPS the third time hitters see him and a 918 OPS in the sixth inning. There’s no reason for hitters to see Burnett a third time or for him to appear in the 6th inning.

Now those numbers through the first three and fist five inning aren’t astounding, but they’re not terrible (like Burnett’s ERA) and tonight, the Yankees don’t need six or even five innings from A.J. – four should be plenty. If A.J. Burnett can give the Yankees 4 innings of 0, 1 or 2 run ball, they ought to be able to hand the game over to some combination of Phil Hughes, Corey Wade and (God help us) Boone Logan to get through sixth – and from there, the three headed monster takes over.

Keep in mind, this plan doesn’t take extra innings into account, so that’s a concern – but if the Yankee bats can do their part and scratch out 3 or 4 runs (they did against Justin Verlander’s triple digit fast balls with nothing from the middle of the line up), then this series should be headed back to the Bronx.

Nevertheless – feel free to stop off and pray at your local house of worship on the way home tonight!

The Yankee Fan’s Prayer

a-j-burnett-new-tattooLord, protect us from your servant, A.J. Burnett.

Protect us from his fastball command,

Protect us from his 59 feet curve balls,

And give strength to that new tattoo that is not helping at all.

Lord, guide Russell Martin’s Canadian glove hand,

Let him block pitches and wield a mighty April-like bat.

Lord, help Derek Jeter hit with runners in scoring position,

Seriously – people are booing A-Rod and Jeter has left a small village on the base paths.

And Lord, speaking of Alex Rodriguez and, while we’re at it, the middle of the order –

Can you do something about Mark Teixeira’s anemic bat?

Lord, keep Joe Girardi’s head in the game and out of the match up binder.

Make sure he doesn’t stick with A.J. for too long like he did with C.C. Sabathia last night.

I still can’t believe he let Brett Gardner bat in the 9th inning when they were down by one with a runner on.

Lord, How did it come to this?  A season in the pitching hand of A.J. Burentt;

Is this because Jesus Montero didn’t get into the game last night?

Yankees @ Tigers in Swing Game

PREDICTION: Whoever wins tonight’s game will win the series.

After rain on Friday, additional rain on Saturday and ending yesterday’s game with (Surprise!) more rain, it’s pretty exciting to check the weather in Detroit and see no rain in tonight’s forecast. But at this point, I’ll believe it when I see it.

After Ivan Nova and Robinson Cano finished things off in game one, we experienced the sadness of game two. While the strike zone seemed fairly large for lefties, the righties seem to enjoy a slightly closer to normal strike zone – something that did not benefit the Yankees line up laden with switch and left handed hitter as they faced a right handed pitcher. Finally, the Yankees got some business done late in the game, but it was too late.

Now the Yankees head to Detroit for game 3, the series tied at 1 game a piece. This one is for all the marbles – C.C. Sabathia vs Justin Verlander is about as epic as it gets, and whoever has the most success holding down the opposing offense is probably going to be the MVP of the series – assuming they do it in their own typical, dominant fashion and the game isn’t a slug fest. Given that A.J. Burnett is going to start game four, it’s hard to imagine the Yankees winning that game, so they really have to win tonight. Besides, even if A.J. wasn’t pitching tomorrow, the Yankees would be facing elimination on the road, which is never a good thing.

So this is it for the Yankees as the season comes down to one game tonight – win now and force a game five or lose tonight and face elimination tomorrow, on the road, with A.J. Burnett on the mound – a game that will have an all but certain conclusion.

Season Over

Whew! That was the most exciting night in baseball I can recall when the Yankees had absolutely nothing at stake.

Completing the Sweep
I predicted it yesterday and it came to pass. The Yankees stuck to the plan and got in the work for everyone they wanted to and shelved the guys they wanted to rest. You might say it’s unfair to the Red Sox, but the Yankees first duty is to get themselves ready for the playoffs and the BoSox have no one to blame for the fact that they’re headed for the golf course but themselves.

The Harder They Fall
Again, I predicted it yesterday and it came to pass. The Red Sox just didn’t have enough left – or rather, Jonathan Papelbon didn’t have enough left after the Orioles worked him over hard on Tuesday night and put on great at bats last night. Again, The Red Sox have no one to blame but themselves – but what else can you say after a 6-20 September?

Be careful What You Wish For
I think it’s an easy bet to pick the Texas Rangers over the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round, but you never know. Tampa has mostly Boston’s ineptitude to thank for their playoff spot (and the Yankees, who were getting their house in order for October), but they might surprise us and take the Rangers down. Assuming the Yankees can navigate Justin Verlander, it could make for an interesting ALCS, bu we’re a long way’s off for that.

Facing Verlander
Brrr… Justin Verlander in a short series. This is why I wanted the Yankees to face the Rangers in the first round, but here we stand. On the other hand, if the Yankees can win game one, that puts Detroit in a pretty serious hole.

I Bet You Didn’t Know

A.J. Burnett is second to only C.C. Sabathia in team strike out totals with 173. Sabathia had 230 and Bartolo Colon is third with 135, so there is obviously a lot of separation between the Yankees strike out leaders.

Night of Blunders decreases Yanks wildcard lead’s headline, "Abreu torches Yanks with homer off Mo" might be hyperbole (the game was tied, after all; it wasn’t a save situation), but it’s general sentiment sums up the Yankees performance during the evening well enough.

This season, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have scored 447 runs – that might sound like a lot, but when you compare it to the Red Sox’s league leading 629 or the Yankees own 607, you realize that you’re dealing with a team that has trouble scoring runs – at least compared to the superior teams in the league. So of course, A.J. Burnett promptly gives up the big hit and allows 4 runs in 6 IP… did I mention he allowed all 4 runs in the 6th inning? The guy has won some big games for the Yankees (game 2 of the 2009 world series), but these days, Burnett often folds like Superman on laundry day – faster than a speeding bullet. I think it’s time to admit that Burnett can’t start a game in the playoffs.

Yes, Mariano Rivera gave up the go ahead 2 run home run, and boy, did he look shocked. Mo usually goes through a phase where he gets hit hard around this time of year, so it’s no concern – but it couldn’t of happened at a worse time.

Curtis Granderson, who started things rolling with a solo home run, ended the scoring just as suddenly when he he got picked off with two outs in the bottom of the 9th as the Yankees tried to rally back from a two run deficit. I know it happens to everyone, but it looked HORRIBLE.

The Yankees need to put last night’s blunder behind them and rally behind Ivan Nova, who gave the Chicago White Sox a tremendous beating his last time out. They still retain a 6 game lead in the wild card, but the Yankees are a decidedly better team than the Angels, and there’s no reason to let things get interesting.


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