Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Pettitte’s retirement spells doom for the Yankees season

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Pettitte is done ... leaving a massive hole in the Yanks rotation. Photo:

One of the last major off-season issues to resolve prior to the beginning of spring training (the status of lefty Andy Pettitte) was resolved with the pitcher announcing his retirement earlier this week.

The retirement leaves the Yankees rotation in serious trouble.  Pettitte may have only given the 2010 team 21 starts but he went 11-3 in those starts and was the Yank’s 2nd best pitcher.  They failed to acquire any of the marquee free agents or trade targets in the off-season and are going into 2011 with this as a rotation: Sabathia, Burnett, Hughes, Nova, and Mitre.  The problem is that after Sabathia, every one of these guys has serious question marks;

  • Hughes may have gone 18-8 but his accompanying numbers (4.19 era, 1.28 whip) only rated a 102 era+ for the season.  That’s essentially league average.  He benefited from some pretty amazing run support that probably cannot be sustained in the long term.  It was also his first year starting full time.  He has a great pedigree (1st round pick in 2004) and has pitched well.  But he may be a candidate for the Verducci effect of quickly increasing workload.  The Yanks have been burned in the past by young starters blowing out their arms (Wang).
  • Burnett may be the latest in a long line of quality pitchers who just cannot perform in the spotlight.  He was relatively awful in 2010; 10-15, 5.26 era, 1.511 whip.  Most teams would put up with this in a 5th starter if the guy was a promising rookie … but Burnett is a highly paid supposed ace starter.  He’s never been a complete lights out starter, sports a career 110-100 record and should never have been given a $84M contract to begin with.
  • Mitre is a 29-yr old journeyman pitcher with a career 13-29 record.  And he’s slated to be the Yankees #4 starter.
  • Nova looks like he could be a ok back of the end starter prospect … but he owns a grand total of 3 career major league starts.  And he’s slated to be the #5 starter.

New York has signed a couple of MLB veterans in Freddie Garcia and Bartolo Colon to minor league deals, and they may provide insurance/competition for Mitre and Nova in the spring.  But there is a reason these guys couldn’t catch on with even the worst teams out there; they’re more likely to put up a 6.00 era than a 3.00 era.  Perhaps Garcia’s decent 2010 season may land him a rotation spot, but Colon hasn’t pitched in the majors in over a year and was awful then.

Now, the Yankees are still one of the best offensive teams in the league and can slug their way to a number of 8-6 wins … but in a division where Boston has restocked and looks dominant and Tampa has a rotation that New York only wishes it had, 3rd place looks like it is in the Yankees future.  Writer Jon Paul Morosi thinks that the Yankees won’t miss Pettitte, but i think he’s crazy.  His article seems to just assume that a Fausto Carmona trade is a done deal (despite the fact that the Yankees have swung and missed on every pitcher acquisition this off-season).  He also assumes that 3 prospects that nobody has heard of (Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos or Andrew Brackman) will magically come to the rescue.  Banuelos and Betances each are grizzled minor league veterans with 3 AA starts to their credit, and Brackman isn’t that far ahead of them (he was 5-7 with a 3.01 era in 15 AA starts in 2010).  Yeah; not exactly Jeremy Hellickson-esque prospects waiting in the wings.

2/7/11 update: Seth Livingstone at USA Today wrote about this same topic and reviewed some other possible prospects in the Yankees system that may be better options than the three mentioned above.

There are definitely some arms to be had in the trade market.  Joe Blanton is probably available, the Braves may have an extra starter in Kenshin Kawakami if their up and coming prospect Mike Minor blows it out in the spring, the Dodgers have 6 starters for 5 slots and may give up Vicente Padilla once the season starts, and even the Washington Nationals may have an extra arm or two worth gambling on (Maya, Wang and Detwiler are all slated to start in the minors right now).

Without a move though, I say “Welcome to 3rd place” and only the 2nd time you’ve missed the playoffs since the wild card era.

One Response to 'Pettitte’s retirement spells doom for the Yankees season'

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  1. I sure hope you’re right. $200 million just doesn’t buy what it used to.

    Mark L

    7 Feb 11 at 8:23 am

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