It has been said that pitching wins ball games. Perhaps somebody should tell the New York Yankees’ starting rotation that. Throughout the 2013 season, much of the blame has been put onto the hitters and the lack of power, and while they surely must take some of it, we can not ignore the fact that 3/5 of the starting rotation has been rather bad.
In the cases of Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova, they have done their job very well. In fact, they’ve done it fantastically. Kuroda has seemingly worked his way to being the new ace of the pitching staff with a record of 10-6 and an ERA of 2.38. While he likely wont win, he has performed well enough to be brought up in a conversation about the Cy Young award. So far this year, opposing batters are only hitting .226 against him, and he holds batters to an even lesser average when there are runners on base. He gives the Yankees a chance to win the game every time he goes out to the mound.
The same goes for Ivan Nova, who as of late, has also been a tremendous asset to the team. Since the beginning of July, Nova has a record of 3-2, and has lowered his ERA to 3.08 after a rather horrid start to the season. In the five games he has pitched since July started, he has only allowed seven runs total. Meaning that he has been going out there and giving up one or two runs per game, giving the Yankees a great chance to win. While they have won some of his starts, he has also been a bad-luck loser, losing games by a score of 3-0 and 1-0. He has worked hard to earn his spot in the rotation back, and he deserves to stay in as long as he has been pitching like he has.
Let’s start with CC Sabathia who, a few years ago, signed a mega contract to remain with the Yankees and be the real ace of their pitching staff, and more importantly, one of the best pitchers in baseball.
He has not performed like that this year.
In fact, this is arguably CC’s worst year of his career. He’s currently 9-10 with a 4.78 ERA. Opposing hitters are batting .276 against him, but are batting well over .300 when runners are on base. In fact, with the bases loaded, hitters are batting .429 against him. CC has been bad this year, there is no other way to slice it. Some people chalk it up to the fact that he had surgery over the offseason, and in their defense, they could be right. Personally, I think he lost too much weight too fast, and has been unable to recover from the loss of velocity and movement on his pitches.
The point is that Sabathia can not perform like this if he is supposed to be the ace. While the fans will give him a break for a while, if this type of performance persists, we could be having the same talk about him that we always do with Phil Hughes.
Speaking of Hughes, he hasn’t been much better. The thing with him is that on any given day, he can go out and give you seven innings of one run ball, or he can last three innings and give up seven runs. He is 4-10 with a 4.87 ERA so far this year. To be fair, he has pitched a little better since July started, but he still has the same problems that he has always had: he can not avoid the home run. He just isn’t a fit for the Yankees, or Yankee Stadium, but barring a waiver-wire trade, we’re stuck with him for the rest of the season. If he wants to keep his spot in the rotation, he must step up.
Finally, there’s Pettitte, and he is the most painful one to write anything bad about. I’m a huge Pettitte fan, but in what could very well be his final year, he just doesn’t have it. He too has an ERA above 4.50, and a losing record. Believe it or not, of any starting pitcher on this team, batters are hitting him the hardest. The opposition is hitting .293 against him, and that just simply isn’t good. Take his start against the Chicago White Sox for example. Here’s a weak team that should have been able to be beaten, yet he lasted 2.2 innings and gave up seven runs. Most of the time, he goes out and gives the team a chance to win, but there are times where he just looks lost out on the mound.
What I’m trying to say here is that while the offense has been shaky, the pitching has been no better. When you have three pitchers in the rotation with ERAs above 4.00, one of whom is supposed to be one of the best pitchers in baseball, it’s time to just stop and say, “man, these guys need to step it up.”
And step it up they do, for if they don’t, then the Yankees will not be going anywhere anytime soon.