Blog Entry

Burnett is a problem, but 3-man isn't the answer

Posted on: October 17, 2010 7:17 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2010 7:22 pm
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.


Since: Nov 12, 2009
Posted on: October 18, 2010 7:57 pm

Burnett is a problem, but 3-man isn't the answer

Why didn't they include NOVA on the roster ?   They will never use Kearns in the outfield, and pitching is a little thin these days.  Nova could start against the Rangers, and then go to Burnett or Gaudin in relief.  Would you honestly use Kearns in the outfield over anyone ?

Since: Aug 18, 2008
Posted on: October 18, 2010 7:57 pm

Burnett is a problem, but 3-man isn't the answer

I don't see what the big deal is.  Arizona won it several years ago with only 2 starters:  Schilling and Randy Johnson.  You work with what you got.

Since: Mar 9, 2007
Posted on: October 18, 2010 1:17 pm

Burnett is a problem, but 3-man isn't the answer

While thinking about Burnett pitching tomorrow night is bringing all types of anxiety/depression to my life, I will always remember game 2 of the '09 series where the real AJ showed up and shut down the Phillies to tie the series. When AJ is on and his fastball has movement and his off-speed pitches are hitting the strike zone (yea I know all pitchers are successful when this happens), he really has incredible, #1 type stuff. He might really be the answer to game 4, but I can't agree with this move. Yanks get the Rangers #4 starter Tuesday night and you have to think they will put up some runs. Why not pitch CC on short rest (which apparently he needs now) and take full advantage of the pitching matchup? A win in the pocket is worth two in the bush, or something like that. If you started Pettitte in game 2, then you could go Andy in game 6 and bring CC back for game 7. But now since you can't do that you are stuck with a 4 man rotation no matter what. In the end Girardi better be right with this move is all I have to say. 

Since: May 7, 2007
Posted on: October 18, 2010 4:32 am

Burnett is a problem, but 3-man isn't the answer

maco3, Amen.Maybe Moseley and Mitre can get the Yankees to the 7th inning. And while we're at it, Maybe Tex and ARod can start swinging the bats with risp. Texas is good. Real good.

Since: Feb 1, 2007
Posted on: October 17, 2010 9:49 pm

Burnett is a problem, but 3-man isn't the answer

Agreed, kj.  I would prefer Moseley over Burnett; he pretty much is the only viable option out of the bullpen at this point.  Mitre pitched fairly well during garbage time yesterday, but I have about as much confidence in him as I do in Vazquez.  Regardless of what is written in this article, you won't convince me until I see it that CC won't be on the mound in Game 4 if Lee beats us tomorrow night. 

Yankees need to eat the money and show Burnett the door early; he has forfeited his right to wear the pinstripes, IMO.  Girardi cannot risk going down 3 games to 1 in the hopes that Burnett's "once in a blue moon brilliance" shows itself on Tues. night; and honestly, have we really seen any indications of that type of outing from him since May?!?  No, we haven't.  This is insanity: he hit two of his teammates and threw another pitch to the backstop in a simulated game this week, for Godsakes!


Since: May 7, 2007
Posted on: October 17, 2010 7:58 pm

Burnett is a problem, but 3-man isn't the answer

Burnett shouldn't start. If the Yankees want to go with a 4 man rotation, start someone out of the bullpen and take it from there. I agree the problem is that the Yankees do not have 4 reliable starting pitchers, but if you've been watching the Yankees for the past 2 1/2 months, they haven't had 2 reliable starters. But starting Burnett is just a bad idea, even though he can be brilliant once in a blue moon.

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