After a few shaky years of relying on one or two solid starters backed up by a series of interchangeable question marks (Rasner, Ponson, Chacon) and downright WTF's (Igawa, Wright, Pavano), the 2009 Yanks finally managed to put together a roster of starters that came close to being as impressive as their lineup. The Wangster was a bust, but they still had four starting pitchers pitch the entire season without injury or major disaster (CC, AJ, Pettitte, Joba), and the collection of dudes that filled in at the 5th spot was refreshingly reliable - as far as 5th starters go, that is - as well (Hughes, Gaudin, Mitre). As we look forward to 2010, the Yanks' list of starters is even more impressive. In fact, the Yanks appear to be in possession of - I'm frightened to even say this for fear of it causing a wave of Pavano
-esque injuries and sending us right back to where we were in years past - a surplus of starting pitching
Could this really be true? Is this real life? In addition to their three best performing starters from last year (CC, AJ, and Pettitte), the Yankees will also have Javier Vazquez in 2010, giving them a rotation any team would be thrilled to have regardless of who was rounding out the last spot. Unlike previous years where the 5th (and sometimes 4th) spot was at best a gamble and at worst a throwaway, the Yanks have four
viable starters to fill in after CC, AJ, Pettitte, and Javy. Hughes and Joba are the obvious candidates for the spot - Girardi and Stein still consider both of them as potential starting pitchers, not relievers - but the Yanks also still have Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin, who started 9 and 6 games last year, respectively.
Who will actually get that spot remains a mystery for now; arguments can be made in several directions (and we shall discuss them in a later post). The fact that they have
all these options is the important thing. Not only does it give the Yankees some breathing room in the event that someone gets injured or proves to have an off year, but it also forces all of them to step up their game to earn the spot - having to beat out their teammates to get the chance to pitch will surely inspire some serious hard work and determination. I don't necessarily anticipate Chad Gaudin to bust out an epic season and knock Joba and Hughes out of the rotation, but for those two to know that if they don't pitch well they could easily be bumped can only be good.
It's been quite a while since I've felt such confidence in the Yankees' pitching staff. Not having to rely solely on Mariano and offense was a nice treat last year, and I'm really looking forward to enjoying that same luxury this year. With a lineup that actually could carry a team with poor pitching and a rotation like this to take the pressure off, this team is looking downright absurd*.*Superstition disclaimer: Not I would count my chickens before they hatch. Knock on wood, etc etc.