Going into the postseason, one of my biggest concerns was the state of the Yankees starting rotation. I knew they had CC Sabathia, (who worried me a bit when he didn't pitch well in game 1 of the ALDS). Then there was Andy Pettitte, who was inconsistent after his activation off the DL. Finally, there was Phil Hughes, whom overall had a nice season, but struggled toward the end. And in the postseason last year, he struggled as well. But after the Yankees swept the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS, I no longer worry about the starting rotation. In fact, the rotation seems so dominant, that I don't even have a preference to who the Yankees face in the ALCS. With pitching like this, they can beat anyone.
After witnessing the starts of CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and Phil Hughes during the ALDS, I've come to the conclusion that the New York Yankees have a beyond-formidable starting staff in these three pitchers. In a short ALDS, this 1-2-3 punch proved to be fatal for the Twins. I think these three will have similar success - no matter which team the Yankees face. Each three of them bring a different aspect to the 1-2-3 punch. And looking at the big picture of the three of them together, I'd say the Yankees' next opponent has a lot to fear.
#1 CC Sabathia - The Powerful
C"Cy" Sabathia, my Hefty-Lefty, is of course the ace of the staff, and he will start game 1 of the ALCS against either the Rangers or Rays. His 21 wins this season led the AL. Sabathia can attribute his success to his power fastball and power changeup, which when used together can baffle even the most prolific hitters. CC will go up against either Cliff Lee or David Price, either of which will make a great pitching matchup. CC has led the Yankees to wins against dominating pitchers in 2010, including, most recently, Francisco Liriano, Mr. Perfect Dallas Braden, Justin Verlander, John Lackey, James Shields, Trevor Cahill, Johan Santana, Roy Halladay, Clay Buccholz, C.J. Wilson, Wade Davis, and many more.
Surely, Lee and Price are more dominating than some of those guys, but the point is, when CC knows the Yankee lineup will have a tough time against the opposing pitcher, he gets even tougher. CC Sabathia embraces the pressure. He is a true ace. Whether the Yankees face Lee or Price in game 1 of the ALCS, I am confident in CC Sabathia's ability to lead the Yankees to a win.
#2 Andy Pettitte - The Crafty
The Game 2 starter for the Yankees will be Andy Pettitte. The crafty lefty got off to the best start of his career, but was sidelined with that groin injury for the majority of the second half. Pettitte proved to me that he was healthy, tossing 7 innings of 2-run ball in his Game 2 start against Minnesota. It was silly of me to actually worry about Andy Pettitte, especially in the postseason. Andy Pettitte is the greatest postseason pitcher of all time.
What makes Andy Pettitte so good, is that even when he doesn't have his best stuff, he finds a way to win. Andy Pettitte is the gutsiest pitcher I have ever seen. He adjusts in-game when he has to, and does whatever he has to in order to get his team through the game - usually on the winning end. I don't care who the Yankees face in the ALCS, because I know Andy Pettitte will pitch his heart out, go deep into the game, and shut down the opposing offense. One important skill that Pettitte possesses is his ability to neutralize the running game. He has the most career pickoffs of any pitcher. In a year where everyone criticized the Yankee catchers for their lack of defensive success, this skill of Pettitte's is even more important - especially because the Rangers and Rays both run wild on the base paths. Thanks to Andy, I don't think stolen bases will be too much of a factor in the ALCS.
#3 Phil Hughes - The Philthy
Phil Hughes became the youngest pitcher in Yankees history to win a postseason game since Andy Pettitte did so in 1996. The 23 year old phenom pitched a gem in Game 3 of the ALDS, tossing 7 innings of shutout baseball. The All-Star won 18 games this year, which is impressive for his first real season as a starter. Hughes can attribute his success to his hard fastball, and filthy 12-6 curveball. That combination earned Phil the title of "Philthiest" Yankee starter, in my opinion. Include his unmatched composure on the mound, and you have quite the package of a pitcher.
Phil Hughes has pitched well against Tampa Bay this season, winning 1 of his three starts. He was the hard-luck loser in the other two games, losing 3-2 and 4-3. And everyone remembers 2007, where in his second career start, Hughes carried a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers, before injuring himself. Hughes is the kind of pitcher who has the stuff to throw a no-hitter every night.
The Rangers and Rays will battle it out in a Game 5 to determine who faces the Yankees in the ALCS. Honestly, I couldn't care less who wins. My Yankees have the pitching to do amazing things this year...
by Virginia Califano
Questions? Comments? Contact Virginia at firstname.lastname@example.org