Tag:CC Sabathia
Posted on: April 24, 2011 10:45 pm
 

3 to watch: The starting pitching matters edition

In some ways, the Yankee rotation has been better than advertised.

Freddy Garcia has started twice and still hasn't allowed a run. Bartolo Colon made it to the seventh inning in winning his only start. The often shaky A.J. Burnett is 3-0 in four starts.

Put together, the Yankee starters have a 7-3 record and a not-terrible 4.62 ERA, and that's even though they've lost four other potential wins to blown saves.

Not bad, as long as you ignore that other very significant stat: innings pitched.

Put together, the Yankee starters have pitched fewer innings than any other rotation in baseball.

Normally, and not surprisingly, teams like that don't win. It's been 11 years since the team that finished 30th in starters innings had a winning record, and longer than that since a team like that made it to the playoffs.

So far, the Yankees have gotten by, in part because they're scoring so many runs (more than six a game) and in part because four scheduled off days and three rainouts have helped the Yankees rest their bullpen.

The rain may not be over, but there's not a scheduled day on the Yankees' schedule either of the next two weeks.

On the other hand, the Yankees may have something better than an off day. They've got four games the next four games against the struggling White Sox.

Only one Yankee starter this year has finished seven innings (and CC Sabathia has done it just twice in five starts). By contrast, eight of the last 10 pitchers who started a game against the White Sox have finished at least seven innings, combining for a 1.90 ERA.

So maybe this is the week things turn around for the Yankee starters.

Either that, or maybe this is the week that short outings by starters start affecting the Yankees' record.

On to 3 to watch:

1. One thing to remember about Burnett: While his 2010 season was one of the worst ever by a Yankee starter, he was 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA in his first six starts. So what should we make of Burnett's 3-0 record and 4.37 ERA in his first four starts this year? Maybe we'll know more after he makes his fifth start, in White Sox at Yankees, Monday night (7:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium. Why's that? Because in two years as a Yankee, Burnett has faced the White Sox twice. He lost both games, allowing 15 runs on 18 hits in just eight combined innings.

2. When Jered Weaver beat the Rangers last week, he became the first pitcher since Dave Stewart in 1990 to go 5-0 in his team's first 18 games. Stewart went on to make it 6-0 in the A's first 22 games that year. Weaver can't do that, but he'll go for 6-0 in 23 games when he starts in A's at Angels, Monday night (10:05 ET) at Angel Stadium. One note of caution: Weaver has just one win in his last 11 starts against the A's, dating back to September 2007. Weaver has a tough opponent in Gio Gonzalez, who has a 1.80 ERA through his first four starts.

3. As Scott Miller points out in Weekend Buzz, the Red Sox have recovered quite nicely from their 0-6, and then 2-10, start. In fact, if the Sox follow up their weekend sweep in Anaheim by winning their first two games in Baltimore, they could have a winning record by the time they finish Red Sox at Orioles, Tuesday night (7:05 ET) at Camden Yards. That's basically unheard of. While teams have recovered from 2-10 starts to finish over .500 (and even to win 100-plus games), it usually takes a month, or two months, or even three months. The Red Sox have a chance to do it in 11 days. It's a nice pitching matchup Tuesday, with Josh Beckett facing Jeremy Guthrie.

Posted on: April 14, 2011 9:49 pm
Edited on: April 14, 2011 9:53 pm
 

3 to watch: The Rangers pitching edition

Remember last winter, when the Rangers were going to sign Cliff Lee, or trade for Zack Greinke or Matt Garza?

Remember this spring, when the Rangers began spring training with just two spots set in their starting rotation?

Remember the end of spring training, when Tommy Hunter's injury left a hole in the Ranger rotation?

Well, forget it. All of it.

Forget that anyone was ever concerned that the Rangers wouldn't be able to pitch enough to support their great offense.

While the Yankees worry about Phil Hughes and the Red Sox worry about Daisuke Matsuzaka, this is what the Rangers have gotten from the back end of their rotation: six starts, six wins, and a 1.15 ERA.

Red Sox people raved about Matt Harrison after he shut down the Sox in his first start. Orioles people raved about Derek Holland after he held the O's scoreless in his second start. And in two starts, Alexi Ogando has yet to allow a run to anyone.

"The way they've been throwing, they don't need anyone [else]," Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis said.

"I don't think people realize the depth they have in pitching," O's manager (and one-time Rangers manager) Buck Showalter said. "They've covered the what-ifs very well."

The Rangers visit the Yankees this weekend for the first time since last year's American League Championship Series, and they won't start any of the four starters they used in the ALCS. Instead, it'll be Harrison, Holland and Ogando.

And that's not bad.

On to 3 to watch:

1. Remember, Troy Tulowitzki is a notorious slow starter. In his first four full big-league seasons, he hit seven April home runs. That's seven in four years. Now he has seven home runs and 14 RBI, with 14 April games still remaining on the Rockies schedule. The next six of those will be home games, starting with Cubs at Rockies, Friday night (8:40 ET) at Coors Field. For his career, Tulowitzki has a .926 OPS at Coors, vs. .804 on the road, but this year he has five homers in his first seven road games. One more Tulowitzki fact to think about: Over his last 41 games, dating back to last Sept. 2 (basically one-quarter of a season), he has 22 home runs and 54 RBI.

2. Things have been so bad in Boston that the Red Sox welcomed a Wednesday rainout that basically gave them back-to-back days off. "I don't think that will hurt one bit," manager Terry Francona told reporters. So it'll be interesting to see how the Sox react this weekend against the Blue Jays. It'll be even more interesting to see whether Josh Beckett follows up on his strong start last Sunday against the Yankees, when he starts in Blue Jays at Red Sox, Saturday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Fenway Park. Beckett wasn't good against many teams last year, but he hasn't beaten the Jays in six starts since 2007, going 0-3 with an 11.85 ERA.

3. Of all the new Rangers starters, Ogando is the most interesting, and not just because he has yet to allow a run (and, in two starts, has allowed just a .298 opponents OPS). Ogando is the guy who replaced Hunter in the rotation at the end of spring training. He's also the guy who signed with the A's as an outfielder, got caught up in a visa fraud and couldn't get out of the Dominican Republic for five years, was converted to a pitcher by the Rangers, and got to the big leagues last year. Now he's in the rotation, maybe to stay. Some Rangers officials see a 2012 rotation that includes both Ogando and Neftali Feliz, who for this year remains the Rangers' closer. Ogando faces CC Sabathia in Rangers at Yankees, Sunday night (8:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium.




Posted on: April 7, 2011 6:04 pm
 

3 to watch: The no snowing in Minnesota edition

It was cold on opening day at Yankee Stadium. It was colder, at least according to the thermometer, the next day at Citizens Bank Park.

On Thursday at Progressive Field, the game-time temperature was 38 degrees.

And now it's time for baseball in Minnesota?

Sure is, and the forecast for Friday's first pitch of the year at Target Field is a very reasonable 61 degrees.

How about we move all early-season games to Minnesota? And play them outdoors.

We all thought the Twins were taking a huge gamble with the weather, when they moved out of the Metrodome and played their first outdoor home games since 1981. We all thought they'd be playing doubleheaders all summer, to make up for all those games that would be snowed out.

Then they had one game rained out all season. The NFL's Vikings, who still play indoors, had more weather postponements than the Twins did.

Target Field became one of the best baseball stories of the entire summer, a beautiful park (maybe baseball's best) with daily sellouts and a great baseball atmosphere.

And the weather turned out to be no problem at all.

"We had one rainout, and one suspended game, and other than that we never put the tarp on the field during a game," general manager Bill Smith said.

That can't happen again this year?

"Why not?" Smith said.

"I'm counting on it," Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer said with a smile. "I'm not holding my breath. But I am counting on it."

The Twins opened with a week of games away from home (one of which, on Wednesday in New York, was rained out). But Smith is not among those who believe baseball should avoid opening in cold climates.

He wants the Twins to open at home sometimes.

"You tell me whether the weather in Minnesota is going to be better this week or next week," he said. "It's one week."

There is rain in the forecast for Sunday, when the Twins are scheduled to play their third home game against the A's.

But no snow.

"We're done with that," Smith said.

On to 3 to watch:

1. Are you starting to believe in the Orioles' young pitching staff? I am, but I'm anxious to see how they do over the weekend against the Rangers. I'm especially anxious to see how Zach Britton does, when he makes his second big-league start in Rangers at Orioles, Saturday night (7:10 ET) at Camden Yards .

2. The Twins did fine with the weather last year, and opening day looks good. But aren't they tempting fate by scheduling their second home game for an evening start. Actually, the reason for the start time for A's at Twins, Saturday night (7:10 ET) at Target Field , is that a Friday home opener provided the Twins with no makeup date in the event of a rainout. If Friday's game had to be postponed -- there's no rain in the forecast -- the plan was to make it up at noon local time on Saturday, meaning that people with opening day tickets would still be able to see the opener.

3. Back in February, when I ranked baseball's most untradeable contracts , I didn't include Josh Beckett on the list. I'm beginning to think I should have, because in the year since he signed his four-year, $68 million extension, Beckett hasn't looked like a $15.75 million a year pitcher. Health was no doubt part of the reason for last year's 5.78 ERA, but Beckett wasn't good this spring and wasn't great in his first regular-season start, Tuesday in Cleveland. Add in the fact that the Red Sox are 0-6, and that the Yankees are in town, and that CC Sabathia will be his mound opponent, and there will be more focus than ever on Beckett in Yankees at Red Sox, Sunday night (8:05 ET) at Fenway Park .

Posted on: March 30, 2011 5:02 pm
 

3 to watch: The opening day matters edition

On opening day, I want to be everywhere.

On opening day, I want to see every team, every game. Even if the Pirates are playing the Astros (which, thankfully, they're not this week).

Opening day is like no other day. But opening day is still only one game, and opening weekend is still only one weekend, and that means I'm still limited to just 3 to watch.

Just remember, as players, managers and columnists are sure to tell you, that opening day only counts for one win, or one loss.

But also remember that last year's two World Series teams, the Giants and the Rangers, both won on opening day. American League MVP Josh Hamilton was 0-for-3, but Joey Votto began his MVP season by going 3-for-5 with a home run.

Felix Hernandez began his Cy Young season in what would prove to be typical fashion, leaving in the seventh inning with a 3-1 lead that the bullpen didn't hold, and thus ending up with a no-decision. Roy Halladay won, of course, going seven innings and allowing one run.

And even if opening day only counts for one win, remember that had the Giants won just two fewer games last year, they not only don't win the World Series, they don't even make the playoffs. Had they lost on opening day instead of won, they'd have finished in a three-way tie with the Padres and Braves for the NL West and wild card.

With that in mind, here's the first 3 to watch of the year:

1. As I wrote in spring training , I think the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright-less rotation will work out better than anyone expected. I even picked the Cardinals to win the National League Central , although not with total conviction. I'll feel a lot better about that column and also that pick if Chris Carpenter looks like an ace in Padres at Cardinals, Thursday afternoon (4:15 ET) at Busch Stadium . One scout who spends every March in Jupiter said Carpenter looked old this spring, and that he "didn't stand out, the way he usually does." If he doesn't stand out against a Adrian Gonzalez-less Padres lineup, I may want to revise my picks by Thursday night.

2. Question: Which $20 million a year pitcher has never won on opening day? That would be Cliff Lee, who has the excuse of having started just one opening day game in his nine big-league seasons (2009 with the Indians, when he lost 9-1 at Texas). Lee won't start opening day this year, either (Halladay rightly gets the honor), but that only makes Astros at Phillies, Saturday night (7:05 ET) at Citizens Bank Park one of the most anticipated Game 2s ever. But with the Friday forecast for Philadelphia (50 percent chance of rain), Halladay could end up bumping Lee from Saturday to Sunday.

3. The best matchup of the weekend at Yankee Stadium is on opening day, with Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia both beginning the season as Cy Young candidates. But the most telling matchup could be Tigers at Yankees, Sunday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium . The Tigers start Max Scherzer, who they're counting on to be a true No. 2 starter behind Verlander. The Yankees start Phil Hughes, who they need to be a steady starter behind Sabathia, since A.J. Burnett is undependable, Ivan Nova is young and Freddy Garcia is still an unknown. Scherzer was terrible in his final spring start (allowing 11 earned runs to the Orioles). Hughes' velocity was down significantly this spring. Should be fascinating, and it could be important, because there's a chance these two teams could be fighting for a wild-card spot in late September.

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: October 21, 2010 5:10 pm
 

Sabathia, Wilson could pitch again

ARLINGTON, Texas -- CC Sabathia and C.J. Wilson faced off in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series, and again in Game 5.

How about one more time, down the stretch in Game 6?

Sabathia said today that he will be available for the Yankees out of the bullpen on Friday night, and that he thinks he could throw as many as 45-50 pitches. Rangers manager Ron Washington said he wanted to check with pitching coach Mike Maddux, but he thought Wilson could also be available in relief.

"For an inning," Washington said. "I wouldn't go more than one inning."

Sabathia (112 pitches) and Wilson (93 pitches) started Game 5 on Wednesday, so Friday would be a normal "throw day" in the bullpen. Sabathia said he would hold off on throwing his normal bullpen session, so that he could be available if needed in the game.

Sabathia has never pitched in relief as a professional, either in the regular season or the postseason. Wilson was a full-time reliever for the last four seasons, before moving into the rotation this year.
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: October 5, 2010 12:45 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2010 1:53 pm
 

Yanks make obvious decision, drop A.J.

The Yankees made the obvious decision on A.J. Burnett today, announcing that they'll go with a three-man rotation that doesn't include him in their Division Series matchup with the Twins.

The first-round schedule includes an off day between Games 2 and 3, and another between Games 4 and 5. So to go with a three-man rotation of CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes -- as the Yankees announced today that they'll do -- only the sturdy Sabathia needs to pitch on short rest (in Game 4).

The tougher call would be if the Yankees advance to the American League Championship Series, because this year's schedule includes only two off days in a best-of-7 series. Last year, with an extra off day, the Yankees stuck with a three-man rotation of Sabathia, Burnett and Pettitte through all three rounds of the playoffs.

The idea this year was that they would be deeper, with Hughes' emergence as a real option for the postseason rotation. The problem with that idea is that Burnett had one of the worst seasons in recent Yankee history, going 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA.

For a while, it seemed as though the Yankees would be forced to go with Burnett in October, anyway. Hughes seemed to be hitting a wall, and Pettitte's health was a question.

But Hughes recovered to pitch well at the end of the season, and Pettitte came back, too, although he was shaky in his final two starts. And Burnett never got better.

His 5.26 ERA was 90th among the 92 major-league starters with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. Only Kyle Davies of the Royals (5.34) and Jeremy Bonderman of the Tigers (5.53) were worse (although Tampa Bay's James Shields, at 5.18, wasn't much better).

The 5.26 ERA is the worst ever by a Yankee pitcher who made 30-plus starts.

Worse yet, the Yankees lost 10 of Burnett's final 12 starts, and he had a 6.61 ERA and a .300 opponents batting average (with an .874 OPS) in that span.

Does it matter that the Yankees are paying Burnett $16.5 million this year, or that they owe him another $49.5 million over the next three years?

It shouldn't. It can't. In the postseason, there's an urgency, and it's all about putting the team on the field that has the best chance to win.

Right now for the Yankees, that doesn't include A.J. Burnett.

And that's obvious.

UPDATE: Speaking of obvious, the Yankees have left Javier Vazquez off their ALDS roster entirely. Vazquez is making $11.5 million this year, but he has been nothing like the pitcher he was with the Braves last year. His velocity has been way down, and the results show it, with a 10-10 record and 5.32 ERA (the third-worst ever for any Yankee with 25-plus starts, behind David Cone's 6.91 in 2000 and Andy Hawkins' 5.37 in 1990).

The Yankees also left Chad Gaudin off the roster for the Twins series, opting for Sergio Mitre and Burnett as their long men in the bullpen. They also kept Greg Golson as an extra outfielder.

 
 
 
 
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