So I have to start today by wishing Andy Pettitte a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY (not that he’s reading this). Between Andy’s birthday and the fantastic pitching match-up tonight, I’ve decided to put my two cents in about the Yankees pitching this year and what I think about the match-up tonight.
CC. Although CC has struggled against everyone but the Orioles, at the end of the day I want CC on the mound in a big game. CC is a battler and he consistently gets the job done. What I love most about CC is that he WANTS the ball every day. He is a workhorse. No, of course I don’t love that our ace is 6-3 with a 4.01 ERA but he’ll turn it around. And simply put, he just battles -- even when he doesn’t have it (anyone watching his last start will know what I’m talking about here where he went 7 and gave up 2 runs on 9 hits). And let’s not forget that he’s a notorious finisher who seems to get better with each start in the second half of the season. Hopefully he can start to get back on track starting tonight.
AJ. Okay, so I have to preface this by acknowledging that this may seem harsh but AJ drives me crazy. I don’t understand how someone with such amazing stuff can be so inconsistent. His stats so far aren’t horrific (6-4 with a 3.86 ERA) but they’re typical AJ. He has great outings and other times he completely wets the bed. Unlike CC, I think AJ has a tendency to completely implode sometimes if he doesn’t have his stuff. When AJ has an off night, the only thing more annoying than his walks are his wild pitches. I actually went down to Baltimore to catch a game last week and it happened to be the game that AJ pitched. [of course I go to the game they lose to the Orioles after having beaten them 10 times in a row!] Anyway, he definitely didn’t have his stuff that night but he battled more than usual. After the first inning, I was sure that I was in for a complete horror show. But he battled and at one point I believe he even retired 10 in a row. If I could see more of that from AJ, I’d be fine with him. Of course I don’t expect pitchers to have their stuff every night. But games like his second to last start against the Blue Jays are where I get annoyed – 6 innings, 6 runs, 4 walks. I guess my biggest issue with AJ is that his stuff is electric but (with the exception of 2008) he never wins more than 13 games. And while there were other factors (not too many pitcher available, his record against the AL East, etc), the Yankees paid a lot of money for him based on his 2008 season (and the fact that the Yankees couldn’t figure him out when they faced him). Unfortunately, other teams do figure him out. Plus for whatever reason, he’s not as dominate in the AL East as he used to be. Bottom line, AJ is inconsistent and finds his own ways to lose. End of rant.
Andy. I can’t say enough good things about Andy Pettitte. He’s a battler, he’s a class act, and he’s having a tremendous season. And I love that he’s still playing at 37 (well, 38 as of today) not because he’s money hungry or doesn’t know when it’s over (like Brett Favre, but don’t get me started on him). Andy is pitching because he loves the game but also because he still has it in him. And in my mind, he’s the #2 pitcher on this team. I said earlier that I want CC on the mound in a big game. I also want Andy… maybe even more so. I’d rather have Andy over a lot of pitchers that have better stuff than him because he knows how to pitch. It’s how he’s been competitive all these years. He makes adjustments rather than forcing himself to throw pitches that he has lost velocity in. He is a true competitor.
Hughes. Hughes has finally come into his own and is starting to embark on a career that I am excited to watch. I think the bullpen helped him last year to get his confidence in order. I am not looking forward to the “Hughes Rules” but apparently they won’t be as severe because he had more innings pitched in the minors than Joba did. I just hope that whatever “Rules” are used, that they don’t mess up his flow. I feel like – at times – Joba was jockeyed around so much that it threw off his rhythm. If Hughes is on a hot streak later on in the season, I’d hate to see his starts skipped. But I’m not paid the big bucks to make these decisions, so I guess I’ll just shut up and enjoy watching Hughes grow into the phenomenal pitcher he is capable of being.
Javy. I think people need to relax about Javy. And I’ve been saying that since the offseason, so this is not just because he finally has a few wins under his belt. Yes, I watched what happened in 2004. But there were a lot of things that went wrong during that ALCS. And he also made the all-star team that year. But most importantly, that was then. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s pretty much the #5 pitcher. And for the most part, he will keep the Yankees in the game during his starts. With the Yankees’ offense, he will probably have a pretty decent record by the end of the year, especially considering he already has the same amount of wins as AJ and CC. It just really bothered me how quickly the fans got on him this year because of 2004 (and yes, because he pitched poorly to start the season). But give him a chance! Yes, he only throws high 80’s, but his location can make up for that most days. No, he’s not going to win the Cy Young. BUT THE YANKEES DON’T NEED HIM TO! Again, let’s keep in mind that he’s the #5 pitcher on a team that has arguably the best offense in baseball. He’ll be fine.
Bullpen. I don’t need to get into my love for Mariano Rivera. It’s implied and understood by true Yankee fans. So, I will leave him out of this. He deserves his own separate category of greatness anyway. Anyway, the bullpen is a weakness that can hopefully settle down. The Yankees have been lucky to get a lot of 7+ inning games from their starters. Robertson has been inconsistent at best. Chan Ho Park has been a mess (but appears to be turning things around). They miss Aceves. I have no real complaints about Marte – he does his job for the most part (although it would be nice to have another lefty in the pen besides him). And I don’t really have anything to say one way or another about Mitre. He’s done a pretty decent job and he can pitch a few innings which is nice (especially with Ace out). I really have nothing to say about Gaudin except that he’s a disaster and no one expects him to be anything more than that (and if you haven’t already done so, please do a Google images search on Chad Gaudin and let me know what you think about his past facial hair). But with the bullpen, my issue is with Joba. And it’s not an issue per se. He just makes me nervous. He seems like a head case at times and I think relievers need to be calm and NEVER panic. He seems to get flustered sometimes in big situations or with men on base. I think the good news is that he’s young and he has the greatest mentor possible in Mariano Rivera. But I can’t help the unsettling feeling that I get every time I see him warming up in a big game. And, like everyone else, I’m confused about where the 2007 Joba has gone. I think those damn midges traumatized him.
As for tonight, the match-up should be a good one (then again, baseball is so crazy that you never know). Roy Halladay is amazing. Just when I thought we had FINALLY gotten rid of him, he’s back. I love watching him pitch (when he’s not facing the Yankees). He’s going to dominate the National League. The fact that he has 8 wins with a 1.96 ERA when the Phillies have lost 4 of Halladay’s last six starts (scoring just 11 runs in those six outings) speaks volumes to how many wins he can have in the NL once the Phillies’ offense heats up. I’m hoping CC can take advantage of the Phill’s slumping offense and that the Yankees’ offense can be as patient as possible (which is tough considering how many strikes Halladay throws) and can find a way to battle and scratch out a couple of runs. GO YANKEES!