The Potential Yankees Super-Rotation

Yesterday, the New York Yankees signed CC Sabathia to a 7-yr deal worth approximately $161 mil. With a +5.5 win projection for 2009, and the more realistic $4.8 mil/win given the current economy, Sabathia’s fair market value would have been around $26 mil. Factor in a 10% discount rate for a long-term deal and a 7-yr contract comes out to $164 mil, extremely close to the actual terms of the signing. Brian Cashman mentioned how serious he felt about pitching and getting Sabathia definitely cemented that feeling in the minds of Yankees fans.

The signing of Sabathia piqued the interest of Derek Lowe, whose interest in pitching in New York grew following the move. On top of that, the Yankees reportedly have a 5-yr offer on the table for A.J. Burnett worth about $85 mil. Yes, the Yankees are apparently the front-runners for three of arguably the top four free agents in this class. If I see a report placing them atop the list off potential suitors for Mark Teixeira, my head just might explode.

A couple of weeks ago, I discussed what a potential new look Atlanta Braves rotation would produce, given their acquisition of Javier Vazquez and supposed guaranteed fifth-year for Burnett. Let’s do the same for the Yankees. For the sake of this post, we are going to assume all of the following:

1) Cashman signs Lowe and Burnett
2) Wang is fully recoverd and makes 30+ starts
3) Chamberlain pitches at least 140-150 IP in 25+ GS
4) Andy Pettitte does not return

The Yankees rotation in 2009 would then consist of: CC Sabathia, Derek Lowe, A.J. Burnett, Joba Chamberlain, and Chien-Ming Wang. Can anyone say super-rotation even before looking at the numbers?

Sabathia, Lowe, and Burnett have been discussed here before in dollar valuation articles. CC is a +5.5 win pitcher in 2009. With a 3.80 FIP in 187 innings, and a few more runs added for logging innings, Burnett would be +3.5. Lowe is projected to post a 3.67 FIP in 185 IP, but the switching of leagues from the Dodgers to the Yankees should bump that up a bit. If we call him a 3.80 FIP pitcher in 185 IP, he is virtually the same as Burnett, +3.5 wins.

Wang previously established himself capable of a heavy workload, and, if healthy in 2009, I see no reason why he couldn’t meet his Bill James projection of 200 IP at a 3.90 FIP. This makes Wang, with a few more runs for amassing 200 innings, a +3.5 win pitcher. And if Joba can manage a 3.30 FIP in 145 IP, he would also be a +3.5 win pitcher. For those keeping score at home, that gives the Yankees a +5.5 win pitcher and four +3.5 win pitchers in their potential super-rotation.

Put together, that is +19.5 wins. How does that compare to the 2008 rotation?

Well, due to injuries and such, the 2008 rotation was piecework at best. Outside of full contributions from Pettitte and Mussina, the Yankees got 12 starts from Joba and 15 from Wang. They received 105 Rasner-innings, 34 from Hughes, and 36 from Kennedy. Ponson managed to pitch 79 innings as well.

Mussina was top dog in 2008, at +4.7 wins. Pettitte came in second at +3.9 wins. Wang and Chamberlain, albeit in limited starting duty, were worth +1.9 wins each. Rasner was a +0.9 win pitcher and Hughes came in at +0.5. Ponson and Kennedy were the definition of replacement level. All told, this 2008 starting staff combined for +13.8 wins.

If we round 2009 up to +20 wins and 2008 up to +14 wins, then putting together this potential rotation would add six whole wins to their 2008 total, in the rotation alone. We aren’t even talking about defensive upgrades or other moves for the offense. You might think that six wins doesn’t seem like all that much given the quality of Sabathia, Burnett, and Lowe; however, if all other things remained constant, those six wins would have given the Yankees 95 wins in 2008, not 89. They are still making moves elsewhere to strengthen other facets of the club, but if Cashman can pull this off, the 2009 Yankees will be very, very good.

Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

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Steve Sanders
Steve Sanders

I realize that last year Lowe’s ERA was much better than Pettitte, but Pettitte didn’t really pitch THAT poorly according to rest of his peripherals. Given the Yankees infield defense, is Lowe really likely to pitch THAT much better than Pettitte? I know FIP is an isolated statistic, and that Lowe was about a half a run better, but over the course of 200 innings, what is that, 10 runs difference? Is that 10 runs really worth the extra years/salary? If the Yankees miss out on Burnett, maybe he makes sense, but I don’t get why, if given a choice, you would sign Lowe INSTEAD of Pettitte.