23 Aug 2007
The papers are full of speculation that Mike Mussina will be replaced in the starting rotation after Monday if he gets shelled again. Now, I am not going to attempt to defend Mussina’s pitching recently, he has stunk, and if you look at some splits things get a little more frightening. Consider the top and bottom halves of the league in terms of runs scored. Against the teams in the top half, Mussina has a 6.39 ERA against the bottom half it is 4.42.
The fact that he pitches worse against the best teams is not a shock, but the fact that he is only league-average against the lower half is a cause for concern. It is obvious to anyone that watches him, that Mussina has lost his fastball, but the stats suggest that he isn’t really fooling anyone. So, the Yankees are right to think about replacing him in the rotation, the problem is, who do you put in his place?
Right off the top, cross Joba off your list. His inning cap of 130 makes it impossible (more on that later) and since putting him back in the rotation would bump the risk of an injury, the Yankees would never do it.
And that’s the big problem, there really isn’t a candidate in the system you can get excited about. Matt DeSalvo didn’t exactly dazzle in his time in the Bronx, so would you want him back? Likewise with Kei Igawa and Jeff Karstens. Tyler Clippard and Chase Wright are currently in AA ball. Ian Kennedy also has an innings cap and while I don’t know exactly what the figure is, he has thrown 140 innings already this year.
So, that leaves you with probably one candidate, Steven White. White has pitched reasonably well at AAA (3.50 ERA in 79 innings) and he is following his pattern of reaching a level, struggling and then doing well there the following year. He only has 46K’s which is a cause for concern, but those numbers have improved lately. But, despite that, do you really want to insert him into a pennant race over Mike Mussina? After Monday they may not have a choice, but for now it is a hard question to answer.
Last night’s game was typical Pettitte, he has always been the “stopper” for this staff. It is one of the reasons everyone was glad to see him back and an ingredient this staff has lacked since he left. I would bet almost anything right now that Joe Torre starts him in Game Two of the playoffs if they make it.
Despite the win, I have to admit I was upset with seeing Joba in the eighth. Yes, I enjoyed the theatre of the Guerrerro-Chamberlain at bat (if you missed that you missed a great showdown and the sight of Guerrero almost crushing an 100-mph fastball, but fouling it back. As Ted Williams used to say, I bet he smelled the wood burning on that one) and I understand there are no “refunds” on the Joba plan. If he doesn’t pitch Wednesday, it doesn’t mean he can pitch back-to-back games Friday and Saturday. But, the Yankees have said they want him to only pitch 130 innings this year. Last night’s game brings him to 96. That means he has 34 left over the final 35 games which following the Joba Rules should work, but why are they using him and Mo in that game? I can see one, but not both and isn’t that the perfect situation for a Farnsworth appearance?
Anyway, that is about all I can grumble about and that is a good thing. Now the Yankees need to get back on track against a slumping Tigers team without Gary Sheffield.