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Why the Yankees have to go with A.J. Burnett tonight

Oct 19, 2010, 9:19 AM EDT

New York Yankees starting pitcher A.J. Burnett pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning of game two of their MLB American League baseball doubleheader at Fenway Park in Boston

I said earlier that who the Yankees pitch tonight is not a debatable point because Joe Girardi has already made up his mind. But it’s still obviously a discussable point, so let’s discuss it.

My take: pitching CC Sabathia tonight would be a panic move that would accomplish little.  Why? Because it doesn’t eliminate A.J. Burnett from the rotation, it only pushes him back a day. That’s because pitching Phil Hughes on short rest is simply not a viable option as he has never done it before and he is already well beyond any workload he has ever had. While Sabathia is a horse, the numbers for pitchers on short rest overall are fairly poor. As such, there is no reason to expect you’d get a particularly sharp Phil Hughes.

If the response is “well, we need to win tonight, so just pitch Burnett tomorrow night,” you’re still loopy, because tonight’s matchup is way more suited for Burnett. The Rangers are pitching Tommy Hunter. Hunter has started two games against the Yankees. In those games he has given up seven runs on 14 hits in nine and a third innings. In other words, he’s hittable and thus the Yankees do not need a shutdown start in order to win this game. They simply need to hit the ball for once and hope for no worse than a mediocre start from Burnett.  If the Yankees can’t hit Hunter, well, they’re screwed anyway. Assuming you get past Hunter with a win, the Yankees then throw Sabathia and Hughes on regular rest, and both of those games are winnable.

Look, I know it’s tempting to bring back Sabathia. But the series is at 2-1 right now, not 3-1. You can’t punt Games 4 and 5 simply because you’re freaked out over what happened in Games 2 and 3 and scared to death about facing Cliff Lee in Game 7. By throwing Burnett against Hunter and then Sabathia and Hughes on their regular schedule, the Yankees give themselves the best chance they have to win all three of those games. And that’s all a manager can do. Ultimately, the players have to perform.

  1. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 19, 2010 at 9:25 AM

    I disagree, but what else is new. Starting CC tonight makes sense on alot of levels. First, he gets 2 more games instead of one. Second, Burnett can pitch tomorrow, but you can also use Hughes for 3-4 innings as well. You throw Burnett for 5, then back him up with Hughes. Then you have Andy on regular rest Game 6 and CC on short rest in game 7, if it gets that far.

    The question is what would you rather have…

    CC, Burnett/Hughes, Petitte, CC or
    Burnett, CC, Hughes, Petitte

    Ill take option one. If CC stunk on short rest, I would think differently, but he is just as good on short rest as he is on regular rest. And Hughes can pitch a couple innings on short rest…I don’t think that’s alot to ask if Burnett struggles. I would think Yankers fans would rather Hughes pitches a couple innings on short rest than game 6, down 3-2 in the series, on full rest…assuming the Rangers beat Burnett tonight.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 19, 2010 at 9:28 AM

      Amend one thing…Petitte on short rest in game 6…still not a problem in my opinion.

    • lukehart80 - Oct 19, 2010 at 9:30 AM

      pettitte wouldn’t be on regular rest for game 6.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 19, 2010 at 9:34 AM

        Yeah, I saw that. I just don’t see how they can keep CC from getting two more starts in this series. He’s their horse. I’d rather have Petitte on short rest with Burnett and no Hughes so long as CC gets two starts. You pitch Burnett tonight and your horse only gets one start the rest of the way. As a Yanker hater, I’m glad they are pitching Burnett.

    • BC - Oct 19, 2010 at 9:34 AM

      Your Option 1 is spot-on. You CAN’T risk going down 3-1 in this series.
      Game 5, start Burnett. Have Hughes ready and waiting in case Burnett goes supernova.
      One thing I will mention is that a Game 7 with Lee is winnable for New York. Lee has been WAY better on the road than at home. He’s beatable in Texas.

      • lukehart80 - Oct 19, 2010 at 9:50 AM

        “you CAN’T risk going down 3-1 in this series.” – BC

        um, as soon as they take the field for game 4, the yankees will be risking that they go down 3-1 in this series, whether it’s burnett, sabathia, or whitey ford pitching.

        if the options were: sabathia pitches tonight and wins vs. burnett pitches tonight and loses, then sure, send CC out there, because there isn’t any scenario in which being down 3-1 is better than being tied 2-2, but, but that’s a false choice.

        i think sabathia on short rest gives them a somewhat better chance of winning tonight (going from maybe 55% to 65%), but it decreases their chances in game 5… and game 6… and game 7.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 19, 2010 at 9:57 AM

        “going from maybe 55% to 65%” If you think this, then Burnett is a no-brainer I agree. However, I think the chances go from 50% to 85% with CC tonight. And in that case, to me, CC is a no-brainer. But it is an excellent debate.

        After all this debate, we all know that Burnett is going to go 7 strong, giving up 6 hits and 2 runs while the Yankers score 8 and win 8-4.

    • Ari Collins - Oct 19, 2010 at 9:40 AM

      The choices are really:

      Burnett, CC, Hughes, Pettitte
      CC on short rest twice, Hughes on short rest once, Pettitte on short rest once.

      Putting everyone on short rest is just a bad idea, especially since one guy has a balky elbow and the kid’s never pitched on short rest before.

      If you’re going to go with Burnett/Hughes fingercuffs action (sorry for the mental image), you’re still pitching everyone on short rest. And you’re not even getting to skip Burnett in that deal.

      Although Craig is kind of silly to put up the tiny sample of Hunter against the Yankees, he’s right that even Burnett has a great chance to win tonight, at home, against a rookie who’s allowed 20 homers in 120 innings and doesn’t strike anyone out. No reason to handicap your starters in all four remaining games to avoid one pitcher against an equally bad pitcher.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 19, 2010 at 9:44 AM

        The main reason I’m for starting CC tonight is to get the horse 2 starts. He’s just as good, sometimes better, on short rest. If you think the Yankers are going to hit Hunter, then yeah, it makes more sense to start Burnett tonight. But if you also think the Yankers offense is struggling, you have to get the horse out there twice in case the offense doesn’t show up and take your chances with Petitte on short rest and Burnett/Hughes in game 5, don’t you?

      • BC - Oct 19, 2010 at 10:02 AM

        God’s honest, I think they’d be better off starting Nova tonight than Burnett. I sense epic fail.

  2. lukehart80 - Oct 19, 2010 at 9:27 AM

    as i yankee-hater, i want them to skip burnett and bring everyone else back on short rest, so i can only assume that is NOT what they should do.

    i think they’re making the smart play.


    • pisano - Oct 19, 2010 at 10:12 AM

      First of all you should go back to school and learn how to write , that aside you are one of the most ignorant idiots to ever post on this site. At first I figured you for a Red Sox fan , but they are at least respectful , you are a total moron .

      • Gobias Industries - Oct 19, 2010 at 10:25 AM

        Well, that was an absolutely fascinating response. I can’t wait to read what else this “pisano” character has to write. Ooh! He’s got a comment just below. I’m going to go check it out right now!

      • lukehart80 - Oct 19, 2010 at 11:19 AM

        i see that i used an “i” when i intended an “a.” i guess there’s a lack of capitalization too, i probably don’t know that in formal writing one uses an upper case letter at the start of each sentence and that “i” should be “I” because it’s a proper noun.

        pisano, am i one of the most ignorant idiots to ever post on this site and a total moron for those reasons, or something baseball related? can’t we keep it baseball related? if it IS baseball related, could you expand on your thoughts?

  3. pisano - Oct 19, 2010 at 10:07 AM

    It’s all but over, this is why I wanted Burnett to face Lee . No matter who faced Lee it was most likely going to be a loss . I said make that piece of crap Burnett take the beating and have Pettitte most likely get a win tonight . In doing what they did they wasted a great game Pettitte pitched and now they’re going to take an ass whipping with this bum Burnett on the mound tonight. Pitching aside , Posada , and Jeter are finished as far as being able to count on either of them anymore . they both got old this year and are useless . Neither can hit , and the fielding of both is far from what it was . These two need to be replaced before next year . Another poster said he thought Posada could come back as a DH ,but why would you want a DH that can’t hit to a 250 average . They need an overhaul in the off season . The core four is now the sore core . Cashman , get some new blood , you’ve rode this bunch into the ground ,

  4. Jonny 5 - Oct 19, 2010 at 10:14 AM

    I think Joe is doing the only right thing he can do. He has to give the team the best chance of winning this series. How is running out everyone on short rest the best chance of winning? Say they do use CC and the Yankees score 10 runs? Then when it was an obvious waste you need to rely on tired arms for the remaining games? Naaa.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 19, 2010 at 10:26 AM

      I think it is an excellent debate, but the key to me is this…what is the most important game of the series right now? Game 4? Nah. Game 5? Nah. Game 6? Yes. Why? Well, if the Yankers get a break and win with Burnett, then it is 2-2 in the series. And if they win CC’s game 5, then it is 3-2. Now you have a MUST WIN and Hughes is on the mound. You like those odds, Yankers fans? Or would you rather have Petitte game 6 on short rest? I’d rather take my chances with Petitte on short rest over Hughes on full rest. He’s already been beaten up by the Rangers in Texas and as a Yankers fan, I’d be thinking…”I’ve seen this movie, and I didn’t like it much the first time.” It’s not like Hughes has a huge body of work and can be counted on to win game 6. He can’t. Now you have CC vs Petitte again in game 7…again…I’ve seen this movie and didn’t like it much.

      So my point is this…I’d rather have CC twice and Andy on short rest over Hughes pitching game 6…even with regular rest.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 19, 2010 at 11:30 AM

        That’s all well and good, well planned as well. But the fact is, CC on short rest is going to be picked apart by texas IMHO. And if that were to happen, it blows everything out of the water with your plan. Done. You can handle that loss with CC, Hughes, an Pettite rested and ready. I’m afraid not the other way around.

  5. chipmaker023 - Oct 19, 2010 at 10:34 AM

    Pettitte pitched well, but the Rangers wore him down, 100 pitches in six innings. That wasn’t Andy on the mound in the ninth.

  6. ribender - Oct 19, 2010 at 12:21 PM

    As I stated in a thread yesterday, if you start C.C. and lose game four, you then are facing elimination with A.J. on the mound (Hughes on short rest is not an option). Actually, another option exists that no one will offer — pitch Dustin Moseley instead of A.J. Sure looked good in game two in his two innings (sample size warning!). Just because he doesn’t have the raw stuff of Burnett doesn’t mean he will be worse. I’m not condoning this option, just saying it could be an option …

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