Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Series-ous pitching choices

One thing I've found to admire in Joe Girardi's handling of the Yankees this postseason is his willingness to drop the hammer.

Two-inning save from Mariano Rivera? Done that. Strip the two weak links from his rotation and go with three starters? Doing that.

He was aided in this plan by the TV-driven schedule, which has given the Yankees more days off than games played (the fact that the Yankees cleaned up the Twins and Angels in quick fashion helped too). He was also aided by the fact that nobody seriously questions the use of CC Sabathia on three days rest. The man's an obvious horse with a track record of short-rest success.

Now, however, Girardi — for the first time — has to push A.J. Burnett (above) and Andy Pettitte. And the result with Burnett on Monday was not good.

But it was justifiable:

1) The old-school pitchers from the '60s and '70s heyday of the four-man rotation generally agree that three days rest may detract from velocity but sharpens control. Burnett has had a season-long issue with wildness — remember, he led the AL in walks and wild pitches and was among the leaders in hit batters — and he was out of control Monday. It happens.

2) Burnett had a good, if small, track record on three days rest: 4-0, 2.33 in four starts.

A good decision; it just didn't work.

Now it's Pettitte's turn, and his record on short rest isn't quite so good: 4-6, 4.15. The ERA isn't out of line with his career stats, and this is still a tolerable decision.

Meanwhile, Charlie Manuel has his own decisions to make.

*Can he trust Cole Hamels in a Game 7?

*Should he start J.A. Happ on Wednesday (Game 6) and save Pedro Martinez for Game 7?

* Can he use Brad Lidge to close a game after Sunday's disaster?

Pedro, by reputation, prospers on long rest. The career numbers don't really bear that out, however, and this year's numbers are too skimpy to put any weight on.

Hamels has not fared well this postseason. The stat mavens suggest it's been tough luck, that the key ratios of walks, strikeouts and innings are all in line with last year. Luck or bad pitching, it's added up to a lot of opposition runs.

There's there's his now notorious quote after Game 3: "I can't wait for it to end. It's been mentally draining. At year's end, you just can't wait for a fresh start."

My guess is that Manuel will go with Pedro on Wednesday and Hamels on Thursday if needed. Hamels did it for him last year. And off Monday's pitcher use, I expect Ryan Madson to get the ball late — but at this point, it's all hands on deck for the Phillies.

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