Tag:Andy Pettitte
Posted on: February 4, 2011 1:51 pm
Edited on: February 4, 2011 1:57 pm
 

The $200 million question

The Yankees aren't the only team that enters spring training with huge questions unanswered.

The Yankees are the only team with $200 million to spend -- and a $200 million question.

Money doesn't guarantee you success. But shouldn't this much money guarantee that you don't reach Feb. 4 -- 10 days before pitchers and catchers report -- with this shaky a starting rotation?

Cliff Lee says no, Andy Pettitte says no, and now the Yankees are left with this?

"Our starting rotation's not where it needs to be right now," general manager Brian Cashman admitted at Friday's Pettitte retirement press conference. "I'm up for the challenge."

Sorry, but the challenge began last October, when Pettitte said he left Rangers Ballpark after Game 6 feeling like "I was done." Or the challenge began before that, because it's been clear for a while that the Yankees' strong crop of pitching prospects might be arrive as quickly as the need for reinforcements would arise.

Maybe Cashman should have used the weight of his huge offer to Lee and pushed for a decision earlier. He admits now that by waiting so long for Lee, the Yankees found other options closed off.

Maybe Cashman should have been willing to rework the proposed trade for Lee last July, because maybe after half a year in New York Lee would have been open to staying.

Maybe if Lee had said yes, then Pettitte would have been more interested in returning to a team that would have been one of the favorites to go to (and win) the World Series.

Instead, the Yankees have this: a strong but heavily-worked top two of CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes, a completely unreliable No. 3 of A.J. Burnett (coming off an historically bad season), and then a mix of candidates for the fourth and fifth spots that would be more suited for a team with a $70 million budget: young Ivan Nova, middle-aged Sergio Mitre and old Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.

Could they trade for Felix Hernandez? Unlikely. A Yankee official said bluntly: "They're not trading him."

Could they get by for half a season and hope that some other top-level starter hits the market? Sure they could, but that's not a great option for a team that regards anything short of a World Series win as a lost season.

As for the free agents or trade targets they could get right now (Kevin Millwood, Joe Blanton, for example), would adding either of those really answer that $200 million question?

The obvious answer is no. Spring training is 10 days away, the Yankee rotation "is not where it needs to be," and there are no obvious answers.

And still no Plan B behind Cliff Lee.

Posted on: January 13, 2011 5:35 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2011 9:13 pm
 

Are the Yankees in trouble?

Three years ago, the Yankees began the season with two unproven starters in their rotation.

And maybe it's no coincidence that the 2008 season was the only one in the last 16 that ended with the Yankees out of the playoffs. Or that the Yankees reacted to that failure by throwing nearly $250 million at their rotation that winter.

So now here we are, with spring training a month away and with the throw-money-at-it plan not having worked nearly as well. Here we are, a month after Cliff Lee shunned and stunned the Yankees by signing with the Phillies, and we understand even more why even Yankee officials always admitted that this winter included no real Plan B.

Here we are, thinking more and more with each passing day that maybe Andy Pettitte really doesn't want to pitch this year -- although still not knowing for sure.

Here we are, looking at a Yankee rotation that for now includes two unproven starters (Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre, perhaps, behind CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and the always undependable A.J. Burnett), and with seemingly no significant starters available as free agents or in trades.

By adding Rafael Soriano to Mariano Rivera, the Yankees might be assembling a bullpen that reminds you of 1996, when Rivera was setting up John Wetteland in the first title of this two-decade run. But you wonder if it's a bigger problem that their rotation reminds you of 2008, when those two unproven starters (Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy) combined to go 0-8 with a 7.51 ERA in their 17 starts?

Are the Yankees in trouble?

Maybe not, but when you're the Yankees, with $200 million-plus committed every year, and with an organizational philosophy that regards anything shy of a title as failure, can you take the chance that it is?

I wrote yesterday that I fully understand the low-budget Rays taking chances. I'm writing today that it's a whole lot tougher to accept that when it's the big-money Yankees (although I'm not sure where they'd go to find a proven starter now).

By all accounts, the Yankees have quite a bit of young talent in their minor-league system. One scout who follows the Yankee system closely said he'd have no problem relying on the kids right now.

"They have two or three guys in the minors who could pitch in the big leagues right now, and I'm talking besides Nova," the scout said. "They have three other guys just waiting for a shot. If I worked there, I'd be pushing for them, instead of Mitre.

"Nova will be fine as a fourth starter."

That may be true, but Nova won just one of his seven starts last year (although the Yankees won five of the seven games). Mitre has never had more than five wins in a big-league season.

As for those kids the scout mentioned, Dellin Betances and Manuel Banuelos have each made just three starts above Class A, while Adam Warren has just 10.

"If this were a team like the Indians, yeah, you could let them learn on the job," said another rival scout, who also likes the young Yankee starters. "But they can't do that. The Yankees have a lot of young players, but you wonder how they can fit them in while they're trying to win, and also how they'll live with the mistakes that all young players make.

"They had enough trouble living with [Robinson] Cano's mistakes early, and he's a great talent."

The Yankees have other issues, most notably an aging group of position players ("The third baseman is getting older, and the first baseman is getting older fast ," the first scout said).

But the biggest issue this year is still exactly what it was when the winter began, and that's the starting rotation.

Remember, each of the last two Octobers, the Yankees had just three starting pitchers that they wanted to count on, when you really need four.

And each of those years, one of those three dependable starters was named Andy Pettitte.

There was no Plan B behind Cliff Lee. If we didn't know that a month ago, we sure know it now.

Is there also no Plan B behind Andy Pettitte?

Posted on: December 8, 2010 7:09 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2010 8:28 pm
 

Lee updates still likely to end with NYY deal

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Good news if you're enjoying all the Cliff Lee updates: Agent Darek Braunecker left the Winter Meetings Wednesday, and he indicated it's very likely now that Lee won't choose his new team this week. This thing isn't ending yet.

Bad news if you're one of those hoping that Lee ends up anywhere but with the Yankees: New York's offer to Lee, estimated by SI.com's Jon Heyman to be at six years for $140-150 million, could make it tough for the Rangers or any other team to seriously compete.

Braunecker insisted again on his way out the door that this isn't a two-team race, but it's hard to find anyone in baseball who thinks Lee ends up anywhere but in New York or Texas. Actually, it's increasingly hard to find anyone outside the Ranger organization who thinks he ends up anywhere but with the Yankees.

The lure of Texas is obvious for the Arkansas-bred Lee, who very much enjoyed his time with the Rangers. And Rangers people continued to express confidence that Lee will choose them, with one official saying tonight that in his gut he believes Lee will remain a Ranger.

But the Rangers seem adamant on not going to six years for Lee, and even if they match the average annual value of the Yankee offer ($23-25 million) over five years, that's a huge gap in total dollars.

Assume the Rangers offered five years and $125 million (and there's no certainty that they have offered or will offer even that). That's still $15-25 million behind what the Yankees would likely pay, and while it's for one year less, Lee would be 37 years old at the end of a five-year deal and couldn't expect to command anything close to that in his next contract (if there even is a next contract).

Is it possible another team could trump both the Yankees and the Rangers? Sure, but it seems very unlikely. Even if a team went past the Yankees and offered Lee seven years, would they really go for $23-25 million per year? Remember, a seven-year offer at even $20 million a year is only $140 million, which is thought to be at the low end of what the Yankees would pay for six years.

It's a huge amount of money, and while the Yankees aren't blowing everyone out of the water the way they did a couple of years back with CC Sabathia, they are making it tough for anyone else to compete with them.

As general manager Brian Cashman told a group of New York writers: "I know my title is general manager, but I consider myself the director of spending for the New York Yankees."

That spending isn't unlimited. One baseball official familiar with the Yankees insisted that there's not enough room in owner Hal Steinbrenner's budget for both Lee and Carl Crawford, and also suggested that the Yankees might offer Andy Pettitte a pay cut that would lead Pettitte to choose retirement.

Rangers people have suggested that Lee's preference is to stay with them, but there are also reasons to believe he'd like to sign with the Yankees.

One is that he and Sabathia became good friends when they were both with the Indians. Another is that Lee, who won both the first regular-season game and the first World Series game at the new Yankee Stadium, has an affinity for the ballpark.

"He loves to pitch in New York," said one baseball person who knows Lee.

That same person said that before Lee went to the Rangers, he sometimes talked about not liking to pitch in Texas.

"He's not real fond of the hot weather," the person said. "Although, he also said it was tougher as a visitor than if it's your home park."

Lee, for the first time in his career, has a chance to choose his home park this winter.

If he needs a few more days to choose, it's hard to blame him. So watch out for more updates.


Posted on: October 17, 2010 7:17 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2010 7:22 pm
 

Burnett is a problem, but 3-man isn't the answer

NEW YORK -- Sorry, but the problem isn't that the Yankees are sticking with their plan to start A.J. Burnett in Game 4.

No, the problem is that the Yankees have no real choice but to start A.J. Burnett in Game 4. The problem is that the team with the $200 million payroll still has only three dependable (or somewhat dependable) starting pitchers.

For the second straight year!

The Yankees got away with it last year. Thanks to an extra off day in the American League Championship Series, thanks to fine short-rest work from Andy Pettitte and (especially) CC Sabathia, the Yankees went all the way to a World Series championship using just three postseason starters.

They didn't trust fourth starter Joba Chamberlain, so they simply didn't use him. And they got away with it.

And here they are again, a year later, with the same exact problem. Phil Hughes has stepped in as one of the three (somewhat) dependable starters, but Burnett has stepped into the Joba role as the totally unreliable No. 4. Meanwhile, Javier Vazquez, who was acquired with the idea of avoiding this predicament, is even more useless than Burnett.

The solution? Sorry, it's not a three-man rotation, despite what is being written in many other places (including by our very able bloggers ).

There's a reason that nearly every postseason team for the past three decades has gone with a four-man rotation. There's a reason that all four teams that have gotten this far this year have planned to use four starters.

I know that it's popular to call for starters to go on short rest. I know that the Rangers got ripped for not bringing Cliff Lee back in Game 4 of the Division Series, that Bruce Bochy considered bringing Tim Lincecum back for Game 4 against the Braves, that Charlie Manuel is already being asked about bringing Roy Halladay back for Game 4 against the Giants.

Halladay could no doubt do it. Sabathia can do it.

Most guys can't. Over the last five postseasons, the only guys to start and win a game on three days' rest are Pettitte and Sabathia (once each last year), and Paul Byrd for the Angels in Game 1 of the 2005 ALCS.

For the Yankees to skip Burnett in this series, they'd need to pitch Sabathia on short rest in Game 4, followed by Phil Hughes on short rest in Game 5, followed by Pettitte on short rest in Game 6, followed by Sabathia on short rest again in Game 7.

Isn't it better to try to win with Burnett (as unlikely as that may seem), and then have Sabathia, Hughes and Pettitte strong and on normal rest for the final three games of the series?

If Yankees lose Game 3 on Monday night, I have no doubt that manager Joe Girardi will face even more questions about starting Burnett on Tuesday. If the Yankees lose the series after starting Burnett, plenty of people will blame Girardi.

Sorry, but the problem isn't the four-man rotation. The problem is failing to find four dependable starters.

And if the Yankees lose, that will be one reason why they did.


Posted on: September 17, 2010 11:05 am
Edited on: September 17, 2010 11:06 am
 

3 to watch: The Comeback edition

Chris Young returns to the Padres rotation Saturday. Andy Pettitte returns to the Yankees rotation Sunday.

The Padres fell out of first place Thursday. The Yankees fell out of first place Wednesday.

Yes, there's a difference. Of course there is.

The Yankees, according to the computers at coolstandings.com, are a 97.3 percent lock to make the playoffs. The Padres, the computers say, are basically 50-50.

But the computer here at 3 to watch says Pettitte's return could have just as big an impact on this coming postseason -- probably more -- than Young's.

Young might help the Padres get into the playoffs. Pettitte could well be the difference in whether the Yankees win once they're there.

The Padres rotation, 7-14 with a 5.33 ERA over the club's last 25 games, could use a boost. But unless Young drives in some runs (he's a .139 career hitter, with 10 RBI in 190 at-bats), it may not be enough to matter.

The Yankees are in a bit of a slump at the plate, too, scoring just 34 runs in their last 10 games (eight of them losses). But the real issue that threatens their run at a second straight title is a rotation that features one great pitcher -- CC Sabathia -- and a ton of question marks.

Since Pettitte's last start, on July 18 against the Rays, the Yankee starters other than Sabathia have combined to go 22-20 with a 5.68 ERA.

Pettitte was having one of his best seasons when he went down with a groin injury. Besides that, he's the winningest postseason pitcher ever, with an 18-9 record and 3.90 ERA in 40 career starts. He won four of his five starts last postseason, and left the other one when it was tied 3-3 in the seventh inning.

There's no doubt the Yankees need him to be healthy, and need him to be strong. There's at least some doubt about how ready he is, which manager Joe Girardi acknowledged when he said that recently demoted Javier Vazquez would be ready to start Sunday if Pettitte can't.

On to 3 to watch:

1. Yes, the Braves still have six games remaining with the Phillies, who they now trail by three games in the National League East. That's good, if you think the Braves can catch the Phillies. It's bad, if you think they can't, because it means their schedule is tougher than those of the other wild-card contenders. And that makes it doubly important for the Braves to beat up on teams like the Mets, particularly with Tim Hudson on the mound against Dillon Gee, in Braves at Mets, Saturday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Citi Field .

2. Young hasn't started a big-league game since the second game of the season, and he spent the rest of the year dealing with a right shoulder that took forever to recover from the surgery he underwent in August 2009. He has worked two simulated games and three minor-league rehabilitation games over the last month, and now the Padres believe he's ready. They hope he's ready, because he'll be starting in Padres at Cardinals, Saturday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Busch Stadium , for a team that is out of playoff position for the first time since the middle of April.

3. Getting Pettitte back is crucial to the Yankees, whether they win the division or finish second and take the wild card. But the Yankees keep saying that winning the division matters, and in that case Pettitte's start in Yankees at Orioles, Sunday afternoon (1:35 ET) at Camden Yards takes on even more significance. The Yankees' four remaining head-to-head games with the Rays will be played next week at Yankee Stadium, but the rest of the teams' remaining schedules favor Tampa Bay. Besides that, the Yankees don't want to give the Red Sox (six games behind) any hope that they can make their six remaining head-to-head games with the Yankees more significant.

Posted on: May 14, 2010 10:05 am
Edited on: May 14, 2010 10:09 am
 

3 to watch: The this isn't perfect edition

In the 1044 days since July 4, 2007, the Twins have won a division title and gone to a 163rd game before losing another. They've had a player win an MVP, and they've moved outdoors.

And they've won exactly zero games in New York City.

Not in the old Yankee Stadium. Not in the new Yankee Stadium.

Not in the regular season. Not in the postseason.

You might say they've been perfect -- or perfectly frustrated, given the way their two visits went last year.

In May: A 5-4 loss in which the Yankees scored three times off Joe Nathan in the ninth, a 6-4 loss in which Alex Rodriguez homered off Craig Breslow in the 11th, a 3-2 loss in which Johnny Damon homered off Jesse Crain in the 10th and a 7-6 loss in which the Yankees scored six times in the first.

In October: A 7-2 loss in Game 1, and then an excruciating 4-3, 11-inning loss in a Game 2 that included A-Rod's ninth-inning homer off Nathan, Mark Teixeira's game-winning home run in the 11th off Jose Mijares, and also Phil Cuzzi's mistaken call taking a double away from Joe Mauer.

Perfect, huh?

Speaking of which, Dallas Braden and Mark Buehrle both take to the mound tonight, leading off this edition of 3 to watch:

1. It's been 295 days since Buehrle's perfecto against the Rays, and while he hasn't been winless in that time, he hasn't been anywhere near perfect, either. He's 4-11 in 20 starts, with a 4.85 ERA. The White Sox have lost the last five times he's gone to the mound. They'll try again, in White Sox at Royals, Friday night (8:10 EDT) at Kauffman Stadium , a game which will also be Ned Yost's debut as Royals manager. Good news for the Sox: They've won six of Buehrle's last seven starts against the Royals.

2. As colleague Scott Miller detailed yesterday, Braden seems to have enjoyed the four days since he made history against the Rays. (He's certainly enjoyed it more than Buehrle has enjoyed the last 295 days.) He'll make his first start as a major celebrity tonight in Anaheim, against an Angels team he beat in April, but lost to in all three starts last year. It's A's at Angels, Friday night (10:05 EDT) at Angels Stadium .

3. Andy Pettitte hasn't thrown a perfect game in any of his 464 career starts. But he was perfect enough for the Yankees last October and November, winning the clinching game in all three postseason series. The Twins will remember the first of those, a 4-1 win that closed out the Metrodome in Game 3. Pettitte hasn't even lost a regular season game to the Twins since April 30, 2001, when he threw an eight-inning complete game at the Metrodome, and lost 2-1 to Brad Radke. Pettitte will be the focus again, in Twins at Yankees, Saturday afternoon (1:05 EDT) at Yankee Stadium , because he hasn't pitched since leaving his April 5 start (and win) against the Orioles because of inflammation in his left elbow.



Posted on: December 9, 2009 11:00 am
 

Yankees close to new Pettitte deal

INDIANAPOLIS -- Andy Pettitte is close to a deal to return to the Yankees, CBSSports.com has confirmed.

SI.com reported that the 37-year-old Pettitte, whose 2009 contract only guaranteed him $5.5 million (he made more through incentives), will be guaranteed $11-12 million in 2010.

Pettitte went 14-8 with a 4.16 ERA for the Yankees in 2009, and he won four more games in the postseason, including the clinching games in each round of the playoffs.

Category: MLB
Posted on: October 23, 2009 2:35 pm
 

Does the long ALCS benefit the Phils?

In the Phillies' celebration the other night, there were many questions asked about the Yankees.

And there was one answer that made the most sense.

"I'd love to see CC throw one more time [in the ALCS]," Phils Game 5 winner Chad Durbin said.

CC Sabathia is the one Yankee who has made the biggest difference so far against the Angels, with two wins already and with his looming presence in a Game 7 hanging over the series. For all Alex Rodriguez has done, the Yankees have three wins and in two of them, Sabathia has pitched 16 innings while allowing just two runs.

Sabathia could be the difference-maker in the World Series, too, but only if the Yankees are able to start him in Wednesday's Game 1. With fewer off days in the World Series than there are in the second round, the only way for a pitcher to realistically start three games is to start Games 1, 4 and 7.

If the Angels win Saturday to force a Game 7 -- or if Game 6 is rained out Saturday and the Yankees choose to start Sabathia on Sunday night on regular rest -- then Sabathia would not be ready for Game 1. The Yankees have started him on short rest before, but Sunday to Wednesday is only two days' rest, and there's no way they try that.

No matter what -- barring three or four days of rain -- the Phillies will have six days off between series. Before last year, that would have been seen as a problem. The Tigers crumbled with six days off before the 2006 World Series, and the Rockies blamed their eight-day layoff for their poor performance against the Red Sox in 2007.

But the Phillies had six days off last year, and it actually worked to their advantage. They set up their pitching just as they wanted it, and the Rays admitted they weren't fully ready for the World Series to begin after going seven tough games with Boston in the ALCS.

So you can bet the Phillies were thrilled to see the Angels win Game 5 on Thursday -- and that they'll be even happier if the Angels win Game 6 on Saturday night.

*****

For the Yankees and their fans, the 2004 ALCS collapse is always in the back of their minds, the same way that the 1964 collapse always sits in the Phillies' organizational memory.

But the Yankees situation in 2009 feels less like Yankees 2004 than it does like Cubs 2003.

The Cubs took a three games to one lead on the road in Florida, then lost Game 5. Because they still had Mark Prior and Kerry Wood available for Games 6 and 7 at Wrigley Field, the NLCS felt over -- just as it still does now, with the Yankees going home and having Sabathia available if needed for Game 7.

Prior was 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA in 2003, and by that time he had already added playoff wins over the Braves and Marlins. Wood had 14 regular-season wins, and two more in the postseason.

As all of us (and Steve Bartman) know, the Cubs didn't win Game 6 or Game 7.

*****

Overall, Andy Pettitte has been OK, but not great, in starts where his team has a chance to clinch a postseason series. He has made 10 such starts, going 4-2 with a 4.17 ERA (compared to his overall postseason ERA of 3.90, and his career regular-season ERA of 3.91). His teams (the Yankees, and the 2005 Astros) are 6-4 in those 10 games.

But Pettitte has also started twice in the exact situation he'll face Saturday: Pitching Game 6, with his team leading the series four games to two.

Both times, his team lost.

The first was in the 2001 World Series, and Pettitte lasted just two innings in a 15-2 Diamondbacks rout.

The second? The 2003 ALCS, which one night later became known as the Aaron Boone series. Pettitte gave up four runs in five innings in Game 6, departing with a 6-4 lead that the Yankee bullpen couldn't hold.
 
 
 
 
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