Sunday, December 30, 2012
But the main reason I won’t write off the Yankees: the pitching staff. I still like the quality and depth of the starting rotation:
CC Sabathia—He did have surgery to remove a small bone spur from his elbow but is expected to be ready for spring training. Otherwise, he was arguably better than ever in 2012, with a league-leading strikeout-walk ratio and .238 batting average allowed.
Hiroki Kuroda—Pitched a career-high 219 innings while winning 16 games with a 3.32 ERA, adapting without a problem to the AL.
Phil Hughes—Had a solid season other than the 35 home runs allowed. Walked just 46 batters in 32 starts, so if he can cut off 10 home runs, he’ll look more like a No. 3 than a 4 or 5.
Andy Pettitte—Made just 12 starts but was very effective with a 2.87 ERA. He hasn’t lost much in stuff—in fact, his strikeout percentage matched the highest of his career. If the Yankees can get 25 starts out of him, they’ll likely be good ones.
David Phelps—Sleeper breakout candidate for 2013. Fastball in the 90-92 mph range, good cutter, a curveball and an improving changeup. Good minor league numbers, good numbers as a rookie as a reliever/spot starter.
Ivan Nova—Good rebound candidate, despite the ERA spike from 2011. His strikeout rate was much higher than in 2011 and his walk rate was slightly better, but he suffered a .331 average on balls in play, third highest among all qualified starting pitchers. There are reasons that happened but the stuff is there to suggest improvement is possible if he adjusts.
Michael Pineda—The wild card if he can bounce back from shoulder problems.
When I look at the strengths of teams entering a season, I place a huge emphasis on the depth of rotations. Few teams make it through the season with just five starters. Few make it through with six. So you need that depth. The Yankees have it—certainly more depth than the other AL East teams. Yes, Toronto’s rotation could be outstanding if Josh Johnson makes 30 starts (good luck) and if R.A. Dickey has another Cy Young-caliber season (I do like his chances) and if Brandon Morrow can pitch more than 179 innings for the first time and if Ricky Romero can bounce back. The Tampa rotation could be terrific again, but the Rays have to replace James Shields’ 33 starts and 227 innings.
Before the new year begins, I figured it would be nice to throw in a little optimism into our offseason.
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