Discussion: Six-man rotation?

Yesterday, we heard Yankee pitching coach Larry Rothschild suggest that the Yankees may use six starters for a particularly tough stretch--30 games in 31 days--in April and May. Bryan Hoch's story later in the day included a clarifying quotation from Rothschild:

"It's a result of some of the stuff that's gone on over the last few years, not just here, but everywhere," Rothschild said. "We're aware of situations here and early in the season, we need to get these guys through these stretches. Being that possibly early in the spring, some of them aren't going to be able to throw a lot, we're going to need to build them up too and give them the extra days when we can."

My gut reaction to a six-man rotation in the past has always been aversion, and probably for good reason. Six-man rotations give a possibly fringy starter starts and they take starts away from the top pitchers in the rotation. However, the 2015 Yankee rotation is making me rethink things.

As it currently stands, we're looking at this for the rotation:

Masahiro Tanaka CC Sabathia Michael Pineda Nathan Eovaldi Chris Capuano

That is...not inspiring? If things break right, which is a rather big if, it could be a strong rotation, especially the top three. However, we all know that things usually don't break right in baseball, especially when all three of those guys have health concerns (an elbow, a knee, and a shoulder, oh my!) and missed significant time in 2014. There's also the distinct possibility that Capuano doesn't work out the way we want him to. Those factors are somewhat tipping me in the direction of the six-man rotation, at least at the start of the year.

The six-man rotation may rob Tanaka and Sabathia and Pineda of some starts over the course of the season, but given their gigantic injury potential, it might be wise to give them extra days off. And given Capuano's Chris Capuanoness, it might be worth it to give the sixth starter--Adam Warren? Bryan Mitchell? Esmil Rogers?--an audition period to take over for when the six-man rotation is no longer necessary. Granted, those names aren't the most confidence-inducing, either, which is another potential issue with the six-man rotation.

We should also take into account the strong Yankee bullpen as a reason why they could survive with a five-man rotation, even through a tough stretch if need be. But the other side of that coin is the bullpen getting worn out. Perhaps a sixth starter could help give them rest ever few days.

This would all be a lot better if the Yankees had one absolute sure thing in the rotation, but such is life. It may take some tinkering to get it to work and a six-man rotation could help do that. It's by no means a foolproof plan, but it's a definite possibility.

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Triples for everyone: Yankees 10, Tampa Bay 2

The New York Yankees might have expected a tough pitching duel on Thursday night. One person held up that end of the deal, surprisingly CC Sabathia. Tampa Bay’s David Price was batted around by the Yankees and was chased after five innings after giving up six runs on 10 hits. Yankees beat up the Rays 10-2.

New York gave Sabathia a 4-0 lead by the second inning, thankfully, because Sabathia has struggled in his previous three outings. It may have seemed Sabathia about to hit those bumps again as he allowed a double to Evan Longoria and a walk to Wil Myers in the second inning.

Yet, Sabathia was bailed out when Sean Rodriguez hit a ground ball to third baseman Yangervis Solarte.

Solarte fielded the ball, touched third, threw to second and the ball went around the horn to complete a triple play. The play marked the second straight year Sabathia has been the beneficiary of a triple play.

Sabathia finished with seven hits, two runs (one unearned) in seven innings. A Rodriguez home run in the seventh ended a streak of 27 straight innings without the Yankees allowing an earned run.

While the defense added a fun component, the night was really about the Yankees bats. New York had nine extra-base hits, including triples by Brian Roberts and Jacoby Ellsbury in the second inning and back-to-back home runs from Alfonso Soriano and Brian McCann in the fifth. Solarte also hit his first home run in the ninth. The Yankees took advantage of many of their opportunities, getting six hits with runners in scoring position.

New York faces Tampa Bay for the second game of the four-game series on Friday with Hiroki Kuroda facing Erik Bedard at 7:10 p.m.

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Sabathia's Velocity Will Be Watched Again


CC Sabathia's fastball velocity was one the biggest--and most annoying-- stories of the Yankees season last year. Unfortunately, after his first spring training start on Saturday it is a story yet again.

Masahiro Tanaka's dazzling debut took a little of the spotlight off of Sabathia, but it was a still a story after the game that Sabathia's fastball only topped out at 88 MPH.

Despite the low fastball velocity, Sabathia pitched two scoreless inning against Philadelphia, while allowing two hits and striking out one.

"My fastball is what it is," Sabathia told ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand. "If it gets better, it will. If not, it won't. I can pitch. I'm fine. As long as I'm healthy, I'll be good."

Obviously, it is normal for a pitcher's velocity to be down early in spring training as he builds up arm strength. However, since Sabathia had a velocity issue last year, he will be examined more closely. His fastball velocity averaged 91.1 MPH last year and improved as the season went along, although his performance certainly didn't.

Sabathia's fastball was the major reason he struggled to the tune of a 4.78 ERA and a 4.10 FIP last season. According to FanGraphs, Sabathia's fastball was worth 19.5 runs below the league average. This led to him not being able to put batters away and having his K/9 drop to 7.46. Sabathia's whiff percentage on his fastball was only 5.76%.

While most only point to the velocity as the problem, Sabathia's location was probably a bigger issue. He was missing his location in and out of the zone, as he allowed 2.77 BB/9 and 28 home runs last season. Less velocity means that you have to have pinpoint location, and Sabathia could not find it last season.

The prevailing thought last year was that Sabthia's weight loss was the main reason for his loss of velocity. This was partly correct. He lost the weight without gaining strength due to not being able to workout following offseason elbow surgery.

The hope this year was that a full offseason of strengthening workouts would increase Sabathia's velocity. That didn't happen in his first spring training start, but of course that doesn't mean it will not happen later on.

What lots of people miss when worrying so much about velocity is that location, movement and deception are still very important things. Andy Pettitte proved that for the Yankees last season by pitching to a 3.74 ERA and a 3.70 FIP with only an average fastball speed of 89 MPH.

Velocity allows a pitcher to overcome mistakes over the plate that Sabathia repeatedly made last year. However, if he could hit the corners and keep hitters off balance like Pettitte did last season, he could be as successful.

Sabathia has always had the luxury of being able to throw his fastball by hitters, but if he can no longer do that he will have to learn how to adjust. He has very good secondary pitches in his slider and changeup, which should be able to help him.

The velocity watch was annoying with Joba Chamberlain and it was annoying with Sabathia last season, but it is a necessary evil until Sabathia either starts throwing harder or gets good results without doing so.


Who should start a big game for the Yankees?

Since 2009 the answer to the question who should start a big game for the Yankees has had only one answer: CC Sabathia. Since 2009 CC has been dominant in pinstripes, earning his spots in big games. Except this year. Sabathia is essentially putting up his worst season - not as a Yankee, ever. Sabathia has currently put up 2.2 fWAR. His rookie season he managed just 2.8. Right now the big guy projects to come up short of the mark he managed as a rookie.

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What's wrong with CC Sabathia?

Since joining the Yankees in 2009 no member of the team has been more consistent than CC Sabathia. The big guy joined the team and earned his paycheck from day one. Last season was a bit of a hiccup, but that criticism was overblown. Sabathia's FIP was 3.33 in 2012, better than what he managed in 2009 or 2010. The only real weakness in his season was that the previously durable Sabathia spent time on the disabled list.

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Game Thread: Sunday August 18th, Yankees at Red Sox

The Yankees and Red Sox have traded poundings the first two games of their series. After going off on Boston Friday night 10-3 the Yankee bats went dormant on Saturday and Boston thumped them 6-1. In tonight's rubber match CC Sabathia takes the mound for the Yankees versus Ryan Dempster. Normally this is the type of match up that Yankee fans would die for: A must win game (if the Bombers are going to do anything this year then all the games are must wins) with the Yankee ace on the mound. Unfortunately, CC hasn't had an ace season this year. Despite his struggles, and those of the larger team, the game remains an excellent opportunity for CC and the Yankees to make a statement in Boston. Enjoy!

Game Thread: Sunday, July 14th, Twins vs Yankees

Yesterday's loss to the Twins was frustrating. Phil Hughes had a solid game going until he gave up the two run homer in the eighth. His pitch count was approaching 110 at that point, raising questions as to why he was in the game at all. That said, the Yankees should have scored more than a single run. They'll have a better chance to do that in today's game. The Twins will send Kyle Gibson to the mound. In three games this season Gibson has pitched to a 7.27 ERA and a 1.62 WHIP. He's the kind of punching bag the depressed Yankee offense desperately needs. CC Sabathia will hold down the fort for the Yankees. Sabathia hasn't been his usual self this year, but he should provide more than enough to keep the Twins at bay. Use this as your Game Thread. Enjoy!

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What's wrong with CC Sabathia?

The Yankees are struggling right now for two reasons. The main reason they're struggling is because this isn't the same team that has been on the field the last two seasons. Injuries and age have decimated the Yankee lineup. The players picked up to fill in the gaps (Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner) simply aren't as good as the players who are missing. But the second reason the Yankees are struggling is because the star players who aren't hurt are not playing as well as they have in the past. Ichiro Suzuki has an 86 OPS+. Robinson Cano has a .492 SLG. And CC Sabathia has a 4.15 ERA

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Game Thread: Yankees at Angels, Sunday June 16th

California has not been kind to the Yankees. First Oakland sweeps the team, including a gut wrenching loss in an unofficial double header. Now the Bombers have dropped two in a row to the Angels. This five game losing streak has dropped the Yankees into third place in the AL East behind the Orioles. Not only have the Yankees been losing, but they've been losing ugly. Inept offense is no fun to watch. Many are upset that Mark Teixeira just went down with another injury, but he was batting on the interstate anyway. CC Sabathia takes the mound for the Yankees this afternoon, facing off against Jered Weaver. Sabathia has been struggling as well of late. Hopefully he and the Yankees can start to turn things around today. Use this as your game thread. Enjoy! Happy Father's Day!

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