The key element to a World Series-caliber team is dominant starting pitching. The Yankees definitely had this last season. By the time the 2010 season started, the Yankees made moves to strengthen their rotation. But will the starting rotation be good enough to bring home #28?

Every Yankee starter has at least 6 wins. Their ERAs vary from 2.48 to 5.01. Two of them may earn themselves trips to Anaheim for the All-Star Game. But fans cannot help but to wonder if this success will carry over into the second half.

CC Sabathia is currently 8-3 with a 3.68 ERA. He has completed at least 6 innings in 12 of his 15 starts. But these numbers may be misleading: CC has recorded 4 of his 8 wins against the Baltimore Orioles - the team with the worst record in baseball. And of the 3 games where he failed to complete 6 innings, 2 were against the Red Sox - a team the Yankees know they may face in October. Will CC be worth his money this year?

Historically, Sabathia has been a second-half pitcher. His last start against the Mets, where he pitched 8 shutout innings, may have been his turning point. I know that CC will be the C "Cy" type pitcher he was last season - if not better. He hasn't even heated up yet, and his numbers are fantastic. Once CC gets going, he is going to be unstoppable, even against teams like Boston.

2010 has been a Tale of Two Pitchers for A.J. Burnett. In April, Burnet went 3-0 with a sparkling 2.43 ERA. In May, he was 3-2 with a still-respectable 4.03 ERA. But so far in June, things have been ugly for A.J. He is 0-4 with a frightening 10.35 ERA. Should we be worried?

Just like CC Sabathia has seasonal trends, A.J. Burnett does too. Throughout his career, Burnett has been an incredibly streaky pitcher - something he is not proud of. His stuff has always been nasty, but sometimes, like now, too nasty for him to command. The numbers don't lie. A.J. Burnett will straighten himself out, and carry the team again. He has to - he is too good not to.

Andy Pettitte has been the most consistent Yankee starter this season. He is currently 9-2 with a spectacular 2.48 ERA, which is even more amazing since he is 38 years old. In his 16 year career, Andy has never gotten off to a better start than he did this season. Pettitte will most likely be at the All-Star game. But will his success continue in the second half?

There is no doubt in my mind that Andy will continue to be Dandy. Unlike many in the business, Pettitte is an intelligent pitcher. He is able to make in-game adjustments, which enables him to win games even if he doesn't have his best stuff. Andy, like good wine, seems to be getting better with age. His success is no fluke.

Javier Vazquez's 2010 has been quite a thrill, almost like a storybook. He rejoined the Yankees in the offseason, with nightmarish thoughts of 2004 still lingering in his and the fans's minds. He got off to an atrocious start, going 1-3 with a 9.00 ERA in his first month. Javy was so bad that the Yankees had to skip over him so he could straighten himself out. Vazquez did get better, going 2-2 with a 4.91 ERA in May, but was still not the Vazquez the Yankees invisioned when they traded for him. June has been a blessing of a month for Javier. He is 3-1 with a gorgeous 2.25 ERA. He is pitching with confidence and conviction once again.

Javier Vazquez has found it, and I believe he will hold on to it. He has improved in every month so far in 2010, so I think his dominance will continue throughout the second half. Most importantly, Vazquez believes he can do it. I think he will.

Phil Hughes has gotten off to a remarkable start. The 23 year old phenom is 10-1 with a 3.17 ERA. He's probably going to be an All-Star. And he's only the 5th starter in this rotation. He has received a lot of run support from the potent Yankee offense, which contributed to his record, but still has pitched above and beyond my expectations this year.

I strongly believe that Hughes will continue to shine this year - if the Yankees let him. But he does have an innings limit, and the Yankees are going to obey that. The Hughes Rules have begun. Hopefully, the rules won't affect Hughes the way they affected Joba Chamberlain. The sporadic starts altered Joba's routine in a negative way, and it showed on the mound. Hopefully, Hughes won't let that happen. 

In my opinion, the Yankees have the best starting rotation in the Majors. Some have had ongoing success throughout the whole season, others are soon to turn around, while others are just heating up. Combine this with the explosive offense, and you have the perfect recipe for a championship.

by Virginia Califano

Virginia also writes for Fan Huddle at http://fanhuddle.com/newyorkyankees and has her own Yankee blog, "Live, Eat, and Breathe Yankees" at http://southernbelle.mlblogs.com

Questions? Comments? Contact Virginia at southernbelle816@gmail.com