With the postseason set to begin on Wednesday, the Yankees announced their roster for the American League Division series against the Twins. As expected, AJ Burnett is on the roster––although he is not in the starting rotation––while Ivan Nova and Javier Vazquez has been left out.
Now, it would seem to be a ridiculous decision to not include your fifth highest player on your postseason roster. However, looking deeply into the decisions made, the Yankees may have surpassed that would-be ridiculous decision by including Burnett.
The starters for the Yankees are set. CC Sabathia will pitch Game one, Phil Hughes will pitch Game two, and Andy Pettitte will pitch Game three. Don’t bother thinking that the Yankees might add someone into that mix; the Yankees feel this is their best chance to win, and they will be eliminated before they are forced to change that plan.
Burnett’s place on the team then becomes a relief pitcher. His 5.26 ERA in 33 starts this year would be enough to stop me from even considering putting him in a game, but that doesn’t seem to jive with the Yankees organization.
Then how’s this for a change: Burnett has pitched in 281 games in his career. Just four of them were in relief. In the past six years, he has pitched in just two games in relief, facing an insignificant 14 batters.
Vazquez and Nova, on the other hand, have both pitched in relief this season. Vazquez is certainly no stranger to the bullpen this year, and Nova is young enough to adapt to any position where he is needed. (In fact, Nova has had more relief appearances in his rookie season than Burnett has had in the past six years.)
This is not to say that Vazquez and Nova would be great go-to guys out of the pen. But, Burnett is not that go-to guy either. Vazquez and Nova are much better equipped to succeed in those situations than Burnett is.
For arguments sake, let’s assume that the Yankees included Burnett on the postseason roster for a possible starting role.
In this case, you would be taking a significantly larger risk with Burnett than you would with Nova. Burnett’s ERA in his past three starts is pushing eight, while Nova’s is just south of five. Again, neither of them are opening eyes, but Nova would give you a better chance to win.
What’s my point? Burnett is useless on the Yankees roster at this point. By adding Vazquez or Nova over Burnett, you would at least give yourself a better chance to win.
The only suitable reason Burnett is on the postseason roster is due to the fact that he is making a lot of money, and will continue to for three more years. Vazquez, on the other hand, will be gone next season, and the Yankees have zero monetary obligation to Nova at this point.
As hard as it may be, the Yankees need to put money aside and make the right choice. In any given context––as a starter or reliever––Vazquez and Nova present you with either more experience, or a better possibility of success. This is not 2009; the Yankees are not going to cruise through the playoffs. They need all the help they can get, and Burnett simply falls short.