Yankees Surprising Rotation

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

BURNETT, COLON, GARCIA TO BE TESTED VS. WHITE SOX, RED SOX

This is the week that somebody should start paying attention to one of the biggest stories of the year in Major League Baseball!

Imagine that two aging former stars suddenly found the fountain of youth…in the post-steroid era…and starting putting up fantastic numbers. This would be a big story because:

  • It's very tough to bounce back from struggles once you've reached a certain age
  • The elimination of steroids has led to many veterans suddenly losing everything for good
  • The media loves feel good stories like this because it's like a movie come to life

Well, it would be a movie if it was happening to just one guy. We've actually seen multiple versions of that movie already! And, a script about Rocky escaping from a nursing home to win a championship belt one last time has already been written. It's happening to TWO GUYS side by side on the same team.

We have enough already for one of the biggest stories of the year. And, oh…by the way…it's not happening to a small market team that never gets any coverage. IT'S HAPPENING ON THE NEW YORK YANKEES!

Bartolo Colon and Freddie Garcia have been much more than pleasant surprises for the Bronx Bombers this year. Many pundits, fans, and even bettors were skeptical that the Yankees could compete with the Boston Red Sox with those fading veterans playing prominent roles in the pitching rotation. One reason Boston was such a heavy favorite before the season started was that you just couldn't see the Yanks rotation making a run at 90-95 wins. Colon hadn't been a regular since 2005. Garcia had a 4.64 ERA in 2010 with the Chicago White Sox…a horrible number in a "year of the pitcher" in a cleaned up game.

Yet…well, let's just show you the top four spots in the rotation. Here are the numbers for the season through Monday Night's win in Chicago…

YANKEES STARTERS
Sabathia: 2.55 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 8.3 K-Rate
Garcia: 3.22 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 6.1 K-Rate
Colon: 3.30 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 8.1 K-Rate
Burnett: 4.23 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 7.8 K-Rate

C.C. Sabathia is having another Cy Young type season. But, look at Garcia and Colon both at 3.30 or better in earned run average. The Yanks would have been happy with 4.30, which is about what they're getting from Burnett. Maybe the old guys have been a little lucky…as their WHIPS (walks plus hits per innings pitched) are the same as Burnett's. Still, solid stuff from guys who were supposed to be incapable of that kind of production.

Let's compare this year's numbers to last year's numbers for that foursome. You'll see improvement across the board. (Note that we're going to use a 2009-2010 combination for Colon because those two years add up to 19 games. That's what he's pitched this year. Remember, he hasn't pitched a full season since 2005!).

CC SABATHIA
2010: 3.18 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 7.4 K-Rate
2011: 2.55 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 8.3 K-Rate

Sabathia's always a stud. He's knocked more than half a run off his ERA in 2011, and has reduced his WHIP as well. He lost some oomph last year in the strikeout department, but is back up over 8.0 this season. He's had some games where he was almost untouchable.

FREDDIE GARCIA
2010: 4.64 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 5.1 K-Rate
2011: 3.22 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 6.1 K-Rate

Garcia's ERA so far this year is just a shade above where Sabathia was last year! He's not as overpowering. But, the net result is about the same. Amazing for a pitcher moving to a better division that's under a more intense media spotlight.

BARTOLO COLON
09-10: 4.09 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 5.8 K-Rate
2011: 3.30 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 8.1 K-Rate

Again, Colon's numbers are the sums of the last two seasons because he was only a part-timer. Obvious improvement, with a dramatic surge forward in K-Rate. Yes, maybe we'll find out that the "fountain of youth" these guys discovered was just a Latin American chemical enhancement they haven't tested positive for yet. We don't want to join the long list of reporters who overreacted in the past to big performances on the assumption everyone was clean. Maybe there are shoes yet to drop. But, for right now, the PERFORMANCES are big news…and have largely been ignored.

In fact, in the case of Colon, new sports website Grantland ran an article on July 15th that suggested he was finished. Is this the end of Bartolo Colon? He had one bad start off-rotation immediately after the All-Star Break…and somebody decided he was finished? He's pitched well since that blip. It's amazing how many times over the years we've had to point out here in the NOTEBOOK when the media was reporting the OPPOSITE of reality. Colon NOT being finished a huge story in the biggest market in the world. WAKE UP PEOPLE!

AJ BURNETT
2010: 5.26 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 7.0 K-Rate
2011: 4.23 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 7.8 K-Rate

Burnett isn't having the success that Garcia and Colon are. But, he has also shown dramatic improvement from last season. In fact, he has a WHIP and K-Rate that's more consistent with a better pitcher. He's too prone to allowing big hits to keep that ERA fully in check though. (And, another reason we've included Burnett in today's discussion is that he's the starting pitcher TONIGHT in the ESPN telecast of the Yanks and White Sox!).

Okay, the improvement from last year for these four pitchers, particularly Garcia and Colon is a big story. Hopefully we've established that in your mind. There's a bit more of the story to tell though. YANKEE STADIUM IS A GREAT HITTER'S PARK! If you have good ERA's as a Yankee, then you're doing better than most people realize because of the penalties of that stadium. We talked about this some recently with the Texas Rangers. The same is true here.

Check out THESE numbers, using only games that weren't in Yankee Stadium…

ROAD GAMES ONLY
Sabathia: 2.22 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 7.3 K-Rate
Colon: 2.81 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.6 K-Rate
Garcia: 2.85 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 6.9 K-Rate
Burnett: 4.34 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 8.2 K-Rate

Whoa! Colon and Garcia are both below 3.00 this year outside of Yankee Stadium, with it's very short right field porch and friendly hitting environment. What if Colon or Garcia were pitching for Seattle or Oakland or somebody else with home games in a pitcher's park? They might be having Cy Young type seasons believe it or not.

Now we get to the bad news. The Yankee rotation will have to deal with the strong Boston Red Sox offense in Fenway Park this weekend. And, Boston is a team the Yanks will very likely have to get past come playoff time. The Red Sox have owned the season series so far. But, the bulk of those games were several weeks ago.

Have the Yankees improved enough to make a real run at the AL East? They've been closing lately. But, as we've pointed out, a home heavy schedule may be helping them out to this point. That home heavy schedule has actually hurt perceptions of the pitchers though. Interesting dynamics in play this week!

Here's what's ahead the next few days starting tonight for this Yankees rotation:

  • Tonight: at Chicago, Burnett vs. Floyd (ESPN)
  • Thursday: at Chicago, Nova vs. Humber
  • Friday: at Boston, Colon vs. Lester
  • Saturday: at Boston, Garcia vs. Lackey (FOX)
  • Sunday Night: at Boston, Sabathia vs. Beckett (ESPN)

The order isn't quite right for an ALCS preview. But, Sunday Night's Sabathia vs. Beckett matchup would be a dream Game One showdown in a postseason war. It wouldn't be a shocker to see Garcia-Lackey and Colon-Lester rematches either in October.

JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK will be all over the high profile series today (with Cards/Brewers and D-backs/Giants set to go in the afternoon), tonight (with Yanks/CWS highlighting the evening card), and all through the weekend (Philly/SF battle by the bay in a rematch). You can purchase our game day releases here at the website with your credit card. We have great rates for the rest of the season too.

And, don't forget about early-bird football. We're about a week away from the start of the NFL Preseason. Pay just $60 for the dollars of August! Football coverage resumes Saturday in the NOTEBOOK with our first mid-major conference previews of the summer.

Colon and Garcia may be surprises this year. JIM HURLEY IS A VETERAN CHAMPION WHO ALWAYS GETS YOU THE MONEY!

This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by VegasSportsMasters.com and JimHurley.com. For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.

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