With Masahiro Tanaka officially going to New York, the Yankees have improved their starting rotation, but the scale of this improvement still remains a question.
Ken Rosenthal mentioned on Prime Time Sports Wednesday that, even with Tanaka, the Yankees might not even have the second best rotation in the AL East. It is quite reasonable to put Tampa Bay and Boston ahead of the Yankees.
But how does that Yankee rotation compare with that of the Toronto Blue Jays?
Let’s pit the current projected rotation spots head-to-head and see how they match-up. This is of course by no means scientific, but it is a different way of looking at pitching for both teams rather than a typical overview.
Both pitchers are coming off down seasons in which they held an identical record of 14 wins, 13 losses. Dickey had a better ERA and WHIP with 4.21 and 1.24, compared to Sabathia’s 4.78 and 1.37. But that is just last year and the bigger picture relates to the careers these two veterans have had.
Of the two pitchers, Sabathia has been the more consistent, and last year was by far the worst of his career. Dickey has had three solid seasons from 2010 – 2012 while throwing the knuckleball, but all in the NL and none in the offensively-biased Roger’s Centre until last year.
In an odd way, Sabathia’s age of 33 is more of a concern than R.A. Dickey at 39. Dickey’s knuckleball, even with its higher than typical velocity, should not see as sharp a decline and not cause as much arm stress. Add to this that Dickey finished the season strong. Much has been made of Sabathia’s weight loss, which will most certainly have some kind of impact on his pitching next season.
Who will have a better season? This one could go either way, but let’s give it to Dickey by a hair.
Kuroda has been as reliable as they come, with a sub 4.00 ERA for the past six seasons, averaging 3.40 over that span. Over the past two seasons his strikeout rate has dropped, but so has his walk rate. Morrow, on the other hand, has only had 2012 as a stand-out season thus far, where he ended with a 2.96 ERA. But the start of that season was impressive nonetheless.
At only 29 it is quite possible that Morrow’s best season could be this year. Morrow has been somewhat unfairly labeled with the injury prone tag, and there’s a good possibility he has a great full season in 2014.
Morrow is quite capable of having a dominant season surpassing anything Kuroda has done in years past, but it’s hard to ignore Kuroda’s consistency. Let’s give Kuroda the edge.
This is a nearly impossible comparison to make. If we use Yu Darvish as a benchmark for successful pitching coming out of Japan, Tanaka, by comparison has had a better ERA overseas than Darvish did. But Tanaka also has less strike-outs per 9 innings, and who knows what will happen when more major league bats connect with Tanaka’s pitches.
Buehrle hasn’t been flashy, with a 3.84 ERA over 14 major league seasons. But he’s steady and reliable enough to eat innings and allow his bullpen to do the rest. There’s something to be said for having a good idea what you’re getting.
For what the Yankees are paying him, Tanaka is expected to far exceed any numbers from Buehrle this season. But Tanaka hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors yet, and so he’s just as unproven as any other top prospect yet to play in the big leagues. He could be Cy Young worthy, or a complete bust. Let’s hope for the latter.
It may be a cop out answer, but this match-up is too uncertain to call.
Nova had a solid 2013 finishing with a 3.10 ERA, and he has started looking like a useful piece of the Yankee rotation. But he started the year with some horrendous outings.
For Happ it was the opposite. Happ seemed off to a solid season in the start of 2013, and he was a bright spot in a struggling Jays rotation. But after the line-drive that put him on the DL in May, he never found the same rhythm.
While there’s still some doubt on Nova’s ability to remain consistent, he gets the edge on Happ.
David Phelps vs Unknown
Phelps regressed from 2012 to 2013 balooning his ERA from 3.34 to 4.98. At 27 there’s still a good chance of a bounce back season, but there’s no doubt a short leash on Phelps should he struggle early in the season.
For the Jays there are still options, albeit very limited, out there in Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. Both were solid last season, but horrible the season prior. They both come with question marks, but should come as relatively cheaper options than pitchers who were available earlier in the off-season.
There’s a good possibility the Jays don’t sign either. If so they still have options in: Esmil Rogers, Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek, or even younger unproven pitchers like Marcus Stroman or Sean Nolin.
Even without the Jays making an off-season pitching move, they should be able to find an arm that does better than Phelps.