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Layoff Payoff?

The Yankees rested comfortably for the second consecutive day Monday, and when the American League Championship Series begins Friday night, either in Arlington or St. Petersburg, they’ll have gone five full days without game action. Not even the All-Star break presented such a respite.

Much has already been written about the long layoff and whether or not it will benefit the Yankees. The consensus is that it could either help them, or hurt them. Well yes, but which one?

The facts are these: CC Sabathia will be pitching on eight days’ rest. Whatever their assignments — we’ll know officially later today — Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes will be pitching on similar rest. Kerry Wood, Boone Logan, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera will be rejuvenated. Joba Chamberlain will be woken up and told he may be called for duty in the ALCS.

As for position players, Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira, Jorge Posada, Nick Swisher, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez, all of whom played through injuries and other struggles in September and collectively helped the team limp into the wild-card position, are using this time to heal. (Based on the latest news from Esquire Magazine, Jeter might be healing the best out of all of them.) For guys like Curtis Granderson, the long layoff may kill the mojo he had going against the Twins.

I thought the layoff would prompt Joe Girardi to consider shelving AJ Burnett and going with a three-man rotation for at least this next round. With three well-rested arms, Sabathia could go on three days’ rest if necessary, as could either Pettitte or Hughes. But alas, my thought — ah, hell, let’s be honest, wish — was that Girardi would take that risk. He did not.

From GM Brian Cashman, on a conference call yesterday, as reported by the locals:

“I don’t think it will be a secret that (a four-man rotation is) probably the best route for us to go. Is (a three-man rotation) the best way to go? I don’t know if it’s the best way to go. I do think we’re deeper than that. I think we need to prepare to go with a four-man and see where that takes us and prove that we’re not just built for a division series with off days that are beneficial to us. In this round and probably the next round, we’re going to have to prove that we’re deeper than that.

“…October can bring out a competitive side in people, and I know AJ’s got a lot of competition in him. I know he’d like to eradicate everything that’s occurred here in the second half. A terrific start would go a long way toward doing that.”

Cashman is right. He’s diplomatically defending a five-year, $82.5 million investment, and he should. The Burnett signing was Cashman’s, and he’s holding himself accountable to the media. Even the AJ naysayers in the Banter community would like to see Burnett eradicate the bomb that the 2010 regular season was. But we also know he can eradicate the playoff run with a “Bad AJ” performance that features a lot of looks over his shoulders, and facial expressions normally reserved for the bathroom. Both Girardi and Cashman seem too conservative to hedge this risky of a bet.

Burnett told MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch that “I can go out there and throw a no-hitter at any time, so I’ve got that in the back of my head, too. My confidence is not lost, but I know there’s questions. I’m not oblivious to that.”

We’re not oblivious to the fact despite the best efforts of Dave Eiland, Burnett likely has no idea where the ball is going once it leaves his hand. When Burnett threw his no-hitter on May 12, 2001, he walked nine batters. If Burnett’s breathing out of his eyelids the way he’s supposed to, and he doesn’t drink Jobu’s rum, he may be able to right himself.

If Burnett starts Game 3 or 4 and the Yankees are down, is he the guy you want to rely on to potentially save the season? To be fair to Burnett, it’s not like Game 7 of 2004, where Wonder Twins Kevin Brown and Javier Vazquez put the cherry on the worst postseason collapse in baseball history. That year, the next best options were El Duque on fumes, and maybe Esteban Loaiza. In other words, Joe Torre had zippo. Here, Girardi had a choice, and he threw Burnett a bone.

The other thing to consider: if Burnett starts, do you dust off Francisco Cervelli to catch him, and make Posada the DH? Or do you plug in Posada in the middle innings if and/or when Burnett is yanked? Neither is a good fielding throwing option, but one is a better option to placate Burnett.

It’s too much to think about, and it’s too many days without baseball. If we’re getting this antsy, the players have to be champing at the bit even worse. The only real benefit to the layoff is that either CJ Wilson or Matt Garza will oppose the Yankees in Game 1. The Yankees were successful against both pitchers this year, and that could give an advantage.

We’ll know a lot more at this time tomorrow.

Categories:  Bronx Banter  Will Weiss  Yankees

Tags:  A.J. Burnett  New York Yankees

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1 Alex Belth   ~  Oct 12, 2010 9:40 am

I think starting Cervelli depends on how the series stands at that point.

2 Dimelo   ~  Oct 12, 2010 9:40 am

I think AJ will be fine, as bad as he has pitched this year, for some weird reason I have a lot more confidence in him than the other options we've had in the past: i.e Javy, Pavano, Jaret Wright, Kevin Brown or Aaron Small.

Regarding Granderson, I think it's much better to have success on the brain so it becomes easier to imagine yourself continuing that success versus constantly beating yourself up over: "how am I ever going to get out of this funk? will i be on the roster? will I start against Price or Cliff Lee?". Basically, I think he'll be just fine.

3 RIYank   ~  Oct 12, 2010 10:04 am


Both Girardi and Cashman seem too conservative to hedge this risky of a bet.

Hm, conservative investors/bettors/etc. do hedge their bets. Did you mean, they're too conservative not to hedge? (And what is the 'hedging' move in this situation, anyway?)

4 OldYanksFan   ~  Oct 12, 2010 10:12 am

The layoff might form a thin layer of rust on the boys, but I think, especially for our elder citizens, that they will be strong and anxious to play baseball... which may ultimately be better. I might have preferred 3 or 4 days off instead of 6 but what the hey.

There is some pretty serious pitching happening for the other playoff teams. SF reminds me of the 2001 DBacks... great pitching and little else. The thought of seeing Tim L. doesn't please me.... although I highly doubt they make it past Philly.

Do we have a consensus of whom we'ld rather face... Texas or TB? As good as Cliff Lee is, a 7 game series wth him (only) going twice, I think will be easier then TB. Hammy is in their lineup, but it seems he's still hurt and definitely hampered.

So.... who do I root for tonight?

And I'm OK with AJ. We can lose 3 games, and it's better to have the rest of the troops well rested. And as we all know, AJ could surprise us and throw a gem... so it's not like throwing Javy out there.

5 Will Weiss   ~  Oct 12, 2010 2:38 pm

[3] You're right, RIYank. Poor word choice on my part. "Hedge" was definitely the wrong way to go.

6 YankeeAbby   ~  Oct 12, 2010 3:04 pm

[0] {{Esteban Loaiza}}

Jeez! I totally forgot about that dude!

7 Crazy8Rick   ~  Oct 12, 2010 3:56 pm

When it comes to AJ (who always gives me the willy's when he is on the mound cause you just don't know which AJ will show up) I liked the comment made by Joel Sherman in The NY Post today:

"Instantly, my mind flashed to something Paul O'Neill used to say: "When you win a championship, everyone had a good year."
He meant that a title motivated people to fondly remember what you had done to contribute to the title. For example, there is a general recollection that Burnett pitched well last postseason. That is because the Yankees won and Burnett had three strong Game 2 outings. Had they failed to win it all, Burnett's 5.27 postseason ERA and miserable showings in two Game 5s would be recalled more prominently.

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/sports/yankees/burnett_notice_2qrV78TbCiVOmyCotTuUzJ#ixzz12B0BfZix

8 Start Spreading the News   ~  Oct 18, 2010 11:52 am

As an aside, did anyone see this episode of the Simpsons?

It uses Lisa and Bart to illustrate the conflict between sabermetrics and "the way it was" folk. Included Bill James and Mike Sciosia.

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