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Archive for July 20th, 2010

Despite facing at least a month without Andy Pettitte, who was having one of the best seasons of his career, Brian Cashman continues to insist that the Yankees are not in the market for starting pitching. Of course, that’s precisely what you’d expect him to say regardless of his true intentions.

I’m not looking for starting pitching. I don’t feel compelled. This is why we have Sergio Mitre.” – Brian Cashman, quoted in the June 20 New York Post

It was only two weeks ago that the Yankees sat on the verge of acquiring ace lefty Cliff Lee, so we know Cashman has at least some doubt about his rotation. After watching AJ Burnett have a mental breakdown and the 38-year old Pettitte’s left groin give out, you’d have to assume that skepticism has increased somewhat. The only problem, however, is there aren’t many quality options available on the market. The Yankees have been rumored to have interest in the likes of Dan Haren and Ricky Nolasco, but both of those pitchers seem unlikely candidates for a trade. Instead, guys like Brett Myers and Ted Lilly are more likely targets, but would the Yankees be willing to pay a price for stop-gap mediocrity?

Although Cashman was willing to part with top prospect Jesus Montero for an ace level pitcher like Cliff Lee, it is doubtful that he would trade highly regarded prospects for the names that are likely to be available. Over the past several years, Cashman has been more than willing to roll the dice with the last spot in the rotation (see chart below), so there’s no reason to suggest he’ll operate differently now.

If Pettitte returns on time, Cashman’s prudence will undoubtedly turn out to be the correct decision, but if there are any doubts about his recovery, then the wait-and-see approach could backfire. Contrary to Cashman’s stated belief that Sergio Mitre “would be starting in most people’s rotations”, the journeyman has no track record to suggest he will be effective as a temporary fifth starter. If the position was made permanent, all of a sudden the likes of Lilly and Myers would wind up looking pretty darn good. For that reason, one hopes Cashman’s poker face is being supported by his confidence in Pettitte’s healthy return, and not by an unfounded expectation that Mitre will be an effective option down the stretch.

Fifth Starters During the Cashman Era*

Year Pitcher GS INN W L ERA
1998 Orlando Hernandez 21 141 12 4 3.13
1998 Ramiro Mendoza 14 88 1/3 6 1 3.87
1999 Hidecki Irabu 27 158 11 7 4.84
2000 Denny Neagle 15 90 2/3 7 7 5.66
2000 Ramiro Mendoza 9 53 1/3 5 3 4.05
2001 Orlando Hernandez 16 90 2/3 3 7 5.06
2001 Sterling Hitchcock 9 49 2/3 4 4 6.16
2001 Randy Keisler 10 50 2/3 1 2 6.22
2002 Andy Pettitte 22 134 2/3 13 5 3.27
2002 Ted Lilly 11 67 2/3 3 5 3.59
2002 Jeff Weaver 8 55 2/3 4 2 4.53
2003 Jeff Weaver 24 147 2/3 7 9 5.73
2003 Jose Contreras 9 57 2/3 6 1 2.34
2004 Jose Contreras 18 95 2/3 8 5 5.64
2004 Orlando Hernandez 15 84 2/3 8 2 3.30
2004 Esteban Loaiza 6 30 1 2 6.60
2004 Brad Halsey 7 31 1 3 6.68
2005 Kevin Brown 13 73 1/3 4 7 6.50
2005 Jaret Wright 13 63 2/3 5 5 6.08
2005 Shawn Chacon 12 77 1/3 7 3 2.79
2005 Aaron Small 9 59 2/3 8 0 3.47
2005 Al Leiter 10 49 4 4 5.33
2006 Shawn Chacon 11 52 4 3 6.58
2006 Corey Lidle 9 44 1/3 4 3 5.08
2006 Jeff Karstens 6 36 2/3 2 1 4.17
2007 Phil Hughes 13 72 2/3 5 3 4.46
2007 Kei Igawa 12 61 1/3 1 3 6.90
2007 Matt DeSalvo 6 27 2/3 1 3 5.20
2007 Tyler Clippard 6 27 3 1 6.33
2007 Darrell Rasner 6 24 2/3 1 3 4.01
2008 Sydney Ponson 15 79 4 4 5.92
2008 Joba Chamberlain 12 65 1/3 3 1 2.76
2008 Ian Kennedy 9 36 2/3 0 4 8.35
2008 Carl Pavano 7 34 1/3 4 2 5.72
2008 Phil Hughes 8 34 0 4 6.62
2009 Sergio Mitre 9 44 3 3 7.16
2009 Chin Mien-Wang 9 34 1 6 11.38
2009 Phil Hughes 7 34 2/3 3 2 5.45
2009 Chad Gaudin 6 31 1 0 3.19

*Pitchers with at least 5 starts in a season who occupied the “fifth starter” role (i.e., did not rank among the top-4 in games started).

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