Commentary

Projecting the Yankees' starting rotation

CC Sabathia's supporting cast needs to step up -- and there's plenty of talent to do it

Updated: March 30, 2011, 7:41 AM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

The New York Yankees' rotation has been CC and the Question Marks. Until now, that is, because we have all the answers. Well, at least, all the projections.

Using a sophisticated formula -- talking to scouts, players, coaches, managers and our gut -- we have come up with ESPN New York's way of going all ESP. We will tell you how each and every Yankees starter will finish the season

At the same time, we have used ESPN Insider Dan Szymborski's ZiPS computerized and probabilistic projection system to give another perspective. (All ZiPS projections for all teams are in this month's ESPN The Magazine).

So, sorry in advance, we are about to ruin the suspense of the season for you. Enjoy and then bookmark this page so you can congratulate us in October on how we nailed each and every one of our projections -- or you can call us names for how far off we were.


CC SABATHIA

Sabathia
Sabathia

Last year: 21-7, 3.18 ERA

Pro: Sabathia has been nearly a perfect Yankee since he arrived. Think about it: His first year, he was the biggest reason the Yankees won the World Series. Without Sabathia's three-days-rest dominance, A-Rod may never get a chance to have his forever postseason in 2009. Last year, all Sabathia did was finish in third in the Cy Young voting.

Con: In the past four seasons, Sabathia has thrown more than 1,000 innings. When you add together his regular season and postseason that is a lot of mileage on his left arm. When does the warranty run out on Sabathia?

ESPN New York projection: 18-11, 3.33 ERA

ZiPS projection: 19-8, 3.32 ERA

Final take: Sabathia is going to be very good this season, but he is due for a little drop. Bill James says Sabathia will be 17-9 with a 3.32 ERA.


A.J. BURNETT

Burnett
Burnett

Last year: 10-15, 5.26 ERA

Pro: An MLB scout said that new pitching coach Larry Rothschild is one of the better pitching coaches in baseball. If anyone can get Burnett on track, it is Rothschild. The scout said that, during the spring, Burnett looked as if he had better balance on the mound. Burnett's herky-jerky delivery often was out of whack last season, which led to him having the worst statistical season a Yankees starter has ever had with 30 or more starts.

Con: It is all about Burnett's head, not his arm. In spring training, he was happy he was able to shake off giving up a run or two and not unravel. But even Burnett admitted that this was spring training, not the regular season, so until the bright lights in the Bronx are shining there is no telling what Burnett has in him. And the answers won't be fully in until October.

ESPN New York projection: 12-10, 4.23 ERA

ZiPS: 12-10, 4.50 ERA

Final take: Burnett can't be worse than he was last year. He still won't be a legit No. 2, but he will be a legit major leaguer.


PHIL HUGHES

Hughes
Hughes

Last year: 18-8, 4.19 ERA

Pro: Hughes' confidence, propelled from his success as a reliever in 2009 and a starter in 2010, is ready to blossom from the no-pressure five spot to riding shotgun after Sabathia. Hughes won 18 games so at 24 years old he is about to move to 20 wins.

Con: A scout said Hughes' velocity was a bit down in the spring. The scout also noted Hughes' sloppy second half. After the All-Star break, Hughes was just 7-6 with a 4.90 ERA.

ESPN New York projection: 13-9, 3.90 ERA

ZiPS: 11-7, 4.08 ERA

Final take: Hughes has the right attitude for New York, but he hasn't shown overpowering stuff yet. He won 18 games with great run support last year. His ERA will be lower, but his win total will be, too.


IVAN NOVA

Ivan Nova

Nova

Last year: 1-2, 4.50 ERA

Pro: He has the stuff to be a legit starter. One scout said he thinks Nova could be higher in the Yankees' rotation by the end of the season.

"In my mind, he is at least a No. 4," the scout said.

If Nova is talked about in terms of starting Game 2 or 3 in the ALDS, then he's had a tremendous year (even if it means Burnett or Hughes has not).

Con: As his mentor, he has chosen Burnett. His concentration has been questioned by one scout we contacted, which showed up when he could not get to the fifth inning at times last year. Nova could be very inconsistent.

ESPN New York projection: 9-8, 4.46 ERA

ZiPS: 7-8, 5.29 ERA

Final take: Nova has a future -- he's generally thought of as being a No. 3 at best one day -- but 24-year-olds don't usually light it up in their first full year as a starter.


FREDDY GARCIA

Freddy Garcia

Garcia

Pro: Everyone you talk to about Garcia mentions he does it on guile now. That doesn't take a baseball expert to figure out considering he throws 86 mph these days. Still, he was good enough to win 12 games last year.

Con: Throwing 86 in the American League Central is one thing. Doing it in the AL East is quite another. He could get rocked early and often in the toughest division in baseball.

ESPN New York projection: 7-7, 5.12 ERA

ZiPS: 4-6, 4.83 ERA

Final take: Garcia is going to have trouble in the AL East, but the Yankees only need a few good months from him before they make a trade for a big-time arm.

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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