The Yankees rotation was brutal in April as it posted a 5.80 ERA, the second worst in all of the American League, but it has rebounded nicely in the month of May and now has the second best ERA in the AL at 3.21 – a swing of more than two and a half runs per game.
What has brought on this change? It certainly helps that the top of the rotation, CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda, seemed to have settled down after some early jitters. The biggest difference was probably in getting Freddy Garcia out of the rotation and maturation of Phil Hughes.
Garcia had a terrible 12.51 ERA so getting him out and replacing him with David Phelps and then Andy Pettitte obviously made the biggest difference. Hughes was nearly as big a detriment with his 7.88 ERA in the first month of the season.
Can they maintain this pace though? I don’t see why not. Everyone is healthy so that’s not the problem. Getting Pettitte into a groove may be the biggest question mark right now. He was decent in his first start, but needs to be better. He looks healthy, had five different pitches working on Sunday, and wasn’t missing too badly with his control. He’s just got to tweak a few other things.
Keeping Hughes right will be another essential part in keeping this rotation flowing. So far he has a 3.60 ERA for the month and has done a better job incorporating all of his pitches into his repetiore, except for his weak cutter/slider which he seems to have luckily abandoned. But we’ve seen flashes of good stuff from Hughes in the past, most notably in 2010 and then also in 2011. He’s going to have to sustain that over the long haul or otherwise risk being the anchor that weighs the rotation down.
One interesting thing to note is Garcia. Many fans wondered why the Yankees didn’t just cut him when they removed him from the rotation. Well, his $4 million salary is the biggest part of that, but he’s also a smart veteran. Part of the problem manager Joe Girardi said he had was that his velocity was just not there, hitting 86-84 mph regularly when he was closer to 89 mph last season. Since moving to the bullpen, he seems to have gotten that velocity back. Now it’s hard to say if that is just a product of him moving to the pen or if he’s actually worked himself out mechanically. Either way, he could end up playing a role in the rotation again before the season is over. If he can maintain the stuff that made him successful last year could be a big difference in how the rotation plays out.
Either way, things are going much better in the rotation these days compared to the way it started out. With the addition of Pettitte, things could potentially be even better in the long run.