CC SABATHIA – Age 28
A.J. BURNETT – Age 32
CHIEN-MING WANG – Age 29
ANDY PETTITTE – Age 37
JOBA CHAMBERLAIN – Age 23
This was the starting rotation with which the Yankees started the season. Of course, Chien-Ming Wang did not finish the season, having season-ending surgery to repair his right labrum. So the Yankees had to come up with a fifth starter to take Wang’s place.
Despite calls to shift Phil Hughes back to the starting rotation and efforts be made to acquire Roy Halladay from the Toronto Blue Jays, the Yankees instead tried to go a cheaper route by bringing up veteran righthander Sergio Mitre from Triple A and picking up swingman Chad Gaudin off waivers.
Neither starter distinguished himself but both were able to keep the Yankees in the games in which they started. So it was not a total disaster to have either pitcher start for the Yankees. But it was also painfully obvious that neither would be a option to start games in the postseason.
So keeping Hughes in the bullpen and saving future Yankees’ prospects by not acquiring Halladay was the positive in the decision general manager Brian Cashman made.
I gave the starters an overall grade of C at the midpoint.
Here are the individual grades I handed out:
Wang I (Incomplete)
Let’s now look at the second half beginning with Sabathia. In 14 starts after the All-Star break, the big left-hander earned his position as the staff ace by recording a record of 11-1 with a 2.36 ERA.
His only loss was an outing in which he gave up six runs (five earned) in 5 2/3 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg.
The Yankees won both of his no-decisions: beating the White Sox 5-2 in 10 innings on Aug. 28 at Yankee Stadium and beating the Rays 4-1 on Sept. 7 also at Yankee Stadium.
In his 99 innings of work after the All-Star break, Sabathia has given up only 79 hits and 24 walks for a sensational WHIP of 1.04. He also struck an even 99 in those 99 innings.
With one start remaining and a 19-7 record, Sabathia has a chance to win 20 games for the first time in his nine-year major-league career. He won 19 games in 2007 with the Indians and was awarded the American League Cy Young Award.
He is a candidate for the award again this season.
Sabathia simply was everything the Yankees imagined he would be, particularly in the seond half. For that reason, he would have to earn an A+ for the second half and an overall A grade since he was just 8-6 with a 3.86 ERA in the first half.
The Yankees other high-priced free agent A.J. Burnett struggled with inconsistency in the first half of the season. He was 8-4 with a 3.77 ERA before the All-Star break.
He had ended the first half on his hottest streak of the season with a 1.34 ERA in his last 33 2/3 innings and he had won four of past five starts. We gave him a B and said he could improve upon that great by continuing to pitch this well in the second half.
That did not happen entirely.
Throwing out a really bad shelling he took from the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on Aug. 1, Burnett did go 2-2 with a 2.38 ERA over his seven starts to begin the second half. But his 2009 nemesis, the Boston Red Sox, started him on another steep decline on Aug. 22.
Burnett surrendered a career-worst nine runs on nine hits and two walks in five innings at Fenway Park. In two September starts against the Orioles, Burnett gave up six earned runs in both outings. Over that five-start stretch, Burnett gave up 25 runs in 29 1/3 innings (7.67 ERA).
It sounded alarm bells as the Yankees moved closer to the playoffs. Would Bunrett be a reliable starter for the Yankees in the postseason.
The Yankees hope Burnett’s last two starts are indicative of how Burnett will perform in October. In his last two starts he has given up just three runs in 12 2/3 innings (2.13 ERA) with 17 strikeouts.
In the second half overall he was 4-5 with 4.69 ERA. He gave up 88 hits and 40 walks in 88 1/3 innings for a really awful WHIP of 1.45.
He received a midseason grade of B but for his poor second half he deserves a C- for his lackluster and inconsistent second half. After paying him a princely sum in the off-season, his overall record 12-9 with a 4.19 ERA gives him a disappointing overall grade of C for this season.
Andy Pettitte was 8-4 with a high ERA of 4.85 in the first half. Between his struggles in May and June he earned an overall grade of C. But we mentioned at that time that Pettitte has historically been a better pitcher in the second half.
That again proved to be true. You can make a case for Pettitte being the key member of the staff with Wang out and Burnett struggling with his consistency. The end result was Pettitte rediscovered his hard cutter and he cruised to a 6-3 record after the break.
But the record did not tell the real story. The lefthander gave up just 29 earned runs in his 82 2/3 innings (3.16 ERA). He gave up just 66 hits and 28 walks for a 1.08 WHIP. His cutter also allowed him to regain a strikeout pitch by fanning 77 in those 88 2/3 innings.
Though he was plagued by five no decisions in the second half to go along with five in the first, a better indication of Pettitte’s worth can measured by the fact that the Yankees were 8-2 in those games. So the Yankees were 22-9 in all of Pettitte’s 2009 starts.
In comparison the Yankees were 3-3 in Sabathia’s no decisions and 22-10 overall. So Pettitte was well worth the bargain-basement $5 million-dollar contract the Yankees signed him to in the winter.
Pettitte earned his second-half grade of A and, with his 14-7 record and deceiving 4.11 ERA, he gets an overall grade of B+ for the season.
Joba Chamberlain was 4-2 with 4.25 ERA at the break and he was drawing criticism from the Yankees brass for his inconsistency and inability to pitch deep into games. He started the second half with hopes of showing some improvement.
In his first three starts after the All-Star break, Joba was 3-0 with a 0.42 ERA. In 21 2/3 innings he gave up eight hits and eight walks (0.74 WHIP) and struck out 19 batters.
But after that, Joba;s season was short-circuited by the so-called “Joba Rules.” Concerned that pitchers under the age of 25 should not throw more than 30% more innings in the following season, Cashman said Chamberlain would be limited in his innings in the second half of the season.
Chamberlain would be skipped in the rotation at points and substitute starters would be used in others. What it ended up doing is ruining whatever ability Chamberlain might have had to help the Yankees in August and September.
In his next nine starts, from Aug. 6 through Sept 20, Chamberlain pitched 36 innings. In those 36 innings, he gave up 33 runs on 50 hits and 21 walks. That’s an ERA of 8.25 and a WHIP of 1.97.
This carnage lasted through two different sets of Joba Rules. After skipping Chamberlain’s starts and giving him additional rest did not work, the Yankees decided to pitch him every fifth day but limit his innings. Neither version worked.
In his last start, one in which he was pitching on five days of rest and not limited by innings or pitch counts, Chamberlain pitched like he did in his first three starts of the second half. On Friday night against the Red Sox, Chamberlain gave up three runs over six innings and served up just five hits and one walk while striking out five.
It was his first victory since Aug. 6 and only his fifth victory in the second half. That proves one thing: Joba Chamberlain was adversely affected by what Cashman and the front office did to him.
Probably slated for long relief in the bullpen in the first playoff series, it will interesting to see if Chamberlain is used as a starter in league championship series.
He earned a D for the first half and I hesitate to give him another D for the second half. It was the manipulation of his innings that skewed his poor numbers. So I will give him an I for incomplete for the second half and an overall grade of I for the season.
Until the Yankees take the the training wheels off Joba it is hard to evaluate what kind of starter he will be. But I agree with a lot of pundits in stating that the Yankees should flip-flop Hughes and Chamberlain next season, making Hughes a starter and moving Chamberlain to the bullpen.
However, that will create another problem. Hughes will have to have his innings limited by those same Joba Rules for him: Philly Rules. So maybe the Yankees will have to leave well enough alone and keep Joba in the rotation and Hughes in the pen.
Sergio Mitre made nine starts in the second half and ended up 3-3 with a 7.16 ERA. The team was 6-3 in his starts so I guess that pleased Girardi enough.
Mitre also had his moments. On Aug 15, he gave up just one earned run in 5 1/3 innings against the Mariners. Then on Aug. 29, he took a no-hitter in the sixth innings against the White Sox before being hit by a line drive off the bat of A.J. Pierzynski.
But take away those two outings and Mitre was tagged for 34 runs in 32 1/3 innings for a 9.46 ERA and that is bad in any No. 5 starter’s book. In his last two starts he was blasted for 16 runs in nine innings against the Blue Jays and he has not started since.
It is safe to assume he will not be a starter in the postseason and he likely will not be in the bullpen either. Mitre can go back to rehabbing after Tommy John surgery and it unclear if he even has a future with the Yankees.
He certainly earned the D- for his woeful pitching.
Chad Gaudin has made five starts for the Yankees, not including the start he is making Monday night. He has no decisions in any of them. In fact, he has pitched into the sixth inning in only two of them.
But he has been effective in those starts. In 24 1/3 innings, Gaudin has given up 24 hits, 13 walks and nine earned runs. That is ERA of 3.33 and a WHIP of 1.52. Gaudin’s shortcomings are bouts of wildness and he loses effectiveness after four or more innings.
You have to give Gaudin props if, for nothing else, that the Yankees won every game he started. So a 5-0 record as a fill-in starter is not bad. Gaudin is even more effective in the bullpen where he can pitch multiple innings.
So his role as the long man of the bullpen is all but assured. Girardi held out hope that Gaudin might be selected as the fourth starter if Chamberlain continued to struggle. But Chamberlain’s strong outing against Boston on Friday and Gaudin’s inability to get out of the fifth inning in his last start looks to have sealed his fate to the bullpen.
I would give Gaudin a solid C for his work as a starter.
SECOND HALF STARTING PITCHING GRADE: C+
OVERALL SEASON STARTING PITCHING GRADE: C+