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Sep 282010

With 5 games left in the season and a 5.5 game lead over the Red Sox in the Wild Card race (Sox have 6 remaining), the Yankees have a playoff spot all but locked up. The Red Sox have a less than 1% chance of making the postseason, as they would need to win all of their remaining games while the Rays or Yankees would have to lose all of theirs for the Sox to earn a spot in a 1 game playoff. While the 3 game set with the Yankees this weekend might make it seem like Boston has a real chance to make up their deficit, the odds are stacked heavily against them. Despite all this, after spending the better part of a month being smart about the health of their players and prioritizing the postseason, the Yankees will turn to CC Sabathia tonight and put aside setting up their playoff rotation in order to clinch now. This is a mistake born of anxiety to clinch, and presents an example of a team succumbing to pressure, both internal and external.

The initial plan had Sabathia pitching this Friday, to line him up perfectly for a start in Game 1 of the ALDS the following Wednesday. Of course, the plan also had the Yankees clinching by now, but a magic number of 1 should be close enough to allow Joe Girardi to stick to his initial decision to focus upon setting up the playoff rotation. Instead, CC will pitch tonight, and likely will not see any action for over a week prior to his Game 1 start. While CC had two periods of long rest prior to excellent playoff starts last postseason, he has performed a bit worse over his career with extended rest and has mentioned that he would prefer to be on schedule for the postseason.

Ultimately, this is not a huge deal, and I do not think it will have much impact on how CC pitches in the postseason. It just disturbs me that the organization is ignoring the overwhelming odds in their favor and is changing course after a month of preparing for October.

Update: As I was writing this post, Mike Axisa took a longer, more detailed look at the issue. Check it out. In that post, commenter j_yankees makes an excellent point that I may have overlooked:

I think proponents of the Yankees going with a 3 man rotation in the ALDS should look at this move as a positive.
Had the Yankees rested CC now and let him go into the postseason on normal rest AND decided to go to CC in game 4 on 3 days rest, he would be looking at pitching 3 games in the span of 9 days.
Now if he starts tonight and you go to a 3 man rotation. You’ll start him tonight, give him rest before game 1 and go back to him for game 4 on 3 days rest. You’re looking at 3 games in the span of 13 days.

Looking at last postseason, CC had at least 8 days off prior to both sets of three day rest starts that he made, as this chart shows:

Series Date Tm Opp Rslt Inngs Dec DR IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA
Series Tm Opp Rslt Inngs Dec DR IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA
ALDS g1 Oct 7 NYY MIN W,7-2 GS-7 W(1-0) 99 6.2 8 2 1 0 8 0 1 1.35
ALCS g1 Oct 16 NYY LAA W,4-1 GS-8 W(2-0) 8 8.0 4 1 1 1 7 0 0 1.23
ALCS g4 Oct 20 NYY @ LAA W,10-1 GS-8 W(3-0) 3 8.0 5 1 1 2 5 1 0 1.19
WS g1 Oct 28 NYY PHI L,1-6 GS-7 L(3-1) 7 7.0 4 2 2 3 6 2 0 1.52
WS g4 Nov 1 NYY @ PHI W,7-4 GS-7 3 6.2 7 3 3 3 6 1 0 1.98
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/28/2010.

While I have no way of knowing whether this was a factor considered by the Yankee decision-makers, it does balance the scales a bit and suggest that starting CC tonight may not be quite as bad for the club as I made it out to be.

Where do you come out on this issue?

5 Responses to “Starting CC Tonight A Mistake”

  1. You have to get in before you can set up rosters and rotations. If you push him back to Fri and somehow end up tied you cant use him in the playoff. Win it now and get it over with.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  2. I could not disagree more: the Yankees need to clinch ASAP.

    Back in 2003 the Sox took 4 straight from the Yankees in the playoffs. I would hate to see a repeat of that because Girardi was over confident in the ability of this horribly slumping team to beat the Blue Jays and Red Sox.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  3. I can see both sides here, but I learn more with the commentators, just clinch already. Plus it does seem like we are destined for a 3 man rotation in round 1, so the extra rest can’t hurt.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  4. I really, really, really doubt that the Yankees will miss the playoffs. They will be in there. I agree this isn’t ideal for setting CC up for Game 1, but they’ve been in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot for quite some time. They’ve played some awful baseball while thinking ahead to Oct. This seems like a panic move only because they’ve been in such a great spot for so long. They missed the opportunity to coast for the final two weeks of the season because of that awful baseball. As that window has been closing and they haven’t done the job. Bad stretches happen and now it’s time to take matters into their own hands. Go for the kill tonight. Get it over with.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  5. the way the yanks play vs first timers or rookies they need CC tonight..he needs to shake some rust off also..i also feel the xtra rest won’t hurt..if he needs to throw give him 2 innings in boston.if we lose tonight we may need him strong come sunday..tomorrow is cecil..they need to win now.. now has been for about every game since texas  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

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