Going on Short Rest

The Yankees will pitch CC Sabathia tonight on short rest and AJ Burnett tomorrow on short rest.  Presumably, Andy Pettitte and Sabathia would pitch games 6 and 7 on short rest as well, if necessary.

If you read this ESPN column by Gene Wojciechowski, he suggests the Yankees forgot to “buy” a 4th starter.  While using the language “buy” is typical of ESPN, the column is also just not correct.

Both Chad Gaudin and Joba Chamberlain have enough credentials that they could start Game 4.  Just like Joe Blanton, who even Phillies fans would admit is not an ideal choice to start.  The Yankees have decided that going with the 3-man rotation will give them an advantage.  Maybe it won’t, but it doesn’t mean they simply don’t have anyone who could start Game 4.  The Yankees clearly had an idea they wanted to go to this tactic when they carefully rested their starters down the stretch.

Wojciechowski suggests that the Yankees should instead start Gaudin in Game 6:

If I were Girardi, I’d present Pettitte with the lineup card as a gift, thank him for the go-ahead victory and tell him he’s made his last start of this postseason. And maybe that’s the way it’ll end if the Yankees can somehow win again Sunday and Monday night. But if they don’t, Gaudin would be my choice for Game 6, not Pettitte.

This makes absolutely no sense.  Starting Gaudin in Game 6 saves only Pettitte from going on short rest.  At that point in the season, pitching Pettitte is a no-brainer.  If he doesn’t have it, you have a short hook and go to Gaudin/Aceves/Chamberlain.  If he does – you let him battle.  Bottom line is, Pettitte is a better pitcher than Gaudin and deserves the chance to succeed.  He won’t go in Game 7 anyways, so it’s not like the Yankees would be wasting him by pitching him early.

The one thing I think you could argue the Yankees messed up here is the roles of Gaudin and Aceves.  Look at the splits for both players (Gaudin here, Aceves here).  Gaudin throughout his career has been strong against righties but lefties kill him.  Aceves is, if anything, better against lefties.

In the postseason, shouldn’t they be in opposite roles?  One thing you’ll notice about good bullpen guys is that they have at least one plus “go-to” pitch.  The Yankee teams of the 90’s had Rivera (cutter), Nelson (slider), Stanton (changeup), and Mendoza (sinker).  In the current bullpen, you still have Rivera, but also Robertson and his curve, Joba’s fastball/slider combo, Hughes’ fastball/curve, Marte’s slider, etc.  Gaudin has his change/curve combo against righties.  What would you consider Aceves’ go-to pitch to be?

What’s good about Aceves is that he throws a bunch of different pitches and he throws strikes.  He can get through an order because he has no single glaring weakness, but he’s hard to deploy in the bullpen because he also has no single obvious matchup strength (which made his use against Kendrick in the ALCS so frustrating – if you need an offspeed pitcher, wouldn’t Gaudin have been better?).

Even if Aceves was the 4th starter/long man however, I still think going on short rest is the best decision for the Yankees.  Their starters had lots of rest down the stretch and between series.  It’s the World Series and you have to go with your best.  Wojciechowski suggests that not starting Gaudin could lead to an offseason of second-guessing.  Well, if the Yankees lose because they start Gaudin, wouldn’t that make it worse?  It’s much harder to second-guess pitching the guys who got your there.

Obviously, tonight’s Game 4 is pivotal, as CC against Blanton gives the Yankees the advantage on paper.  As we all know though, just because a game looks like an advantage, it doesn’t always play out that way.  With Lee going tomorrow night, a 3-1 advantage is critical to keeping the momentum – hopefully CC can make the Yankees’ short rest strategy look good.

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