<
>
Insider

Who replaces Javier Vazquez in rotation?

On Wednesday's Baseball Today podcast, my co-host and partner-in-crime Seth Everett criticized the New York Yankees' rotation. It's clear the Yankees have some starting-pitching issues, and fantasy baseball owners have every reason to be concerned. Javier Vazquez is in the bullpen, Andy Pettitte is on his sofa and A.J. Burnett ... well, he's pitching, but certainly not very well. All three pitchers are owned in a lot of leagues -- although they're being dropped in some of them -- so now seems an opportune time to analyze the rotation of a team that entered Wednesday tied for the best record in baseball.

CC Sabathia: Sabathia has a nice 3.02 ERA. The only season in which he finished with a lower ERA than that was 2008, when half his work came in a stirring, end-of-season contract run with the Milwaukee Brewers. In seasons in which Sabathia was a full-time AL pitcher, he never was this good. Enjoy it. The top-10 fantasy pitcher's success should continue for years.

Phil Hughes: He's the least likely of the three Yankees pitchers owned in 100 percent of ESPN.com standard (10-team) mixed leagues (Sabathia and Mariano Rivera are the others), and he's not likely to be sent to the bullpen any time soon. Forget those innings limits! What else can the Yankees do? Hughes is their second-best starter, 33rd among starting pitchers on the ESPN Player Rater. (Sabathia is ninth, by the way.) I say he'll continue to pitch well and won't tire in September, although I certainly will be on the lookout for potential arm problems by the middle of next season. He'll end up throwing a lot of innings, if you include the postseason.

Javier Vazquez: Ugh. I'm ready to punt. I thought Vazquez had turned his season around in June, when he posted a 3.23 ERA with 35 strikeouts. But in no other month this season does he have even 20 strikeouts. Now Vazquez and his slipping velocity are bullpen-bound, and there's really no telling when he'll start again. He has to be hurt, right? Vazquez has made four August starts, none of them longer than 5 1/3 innings. I realize many of you invested a top-100 draft pick on him, in some cases making him your No. 2 starter, but forget about the draft. And forget about Vazquez being one of the most underrated fantasy starting pitchers around for the past decade. Time to move on in standard formats and in head-to-head leagues in which the playoffs are a mere two or three weeks away.

A.J. Burnett: I would argue that until recently, Burnett has been doing about what we expected. He was a 14th-round pick in ESPN average live drafts. His ERA was an inflated 4.52 when August began, but he had nine wins, his WHIP was lower than last season's 1.40 mark, and he does rack up strikeouts. The point is, if you thought Burnett was going to win 18 games with a 4.07 ERA and 231 strikeouts, as he did in 2008 for the Toronto Blue Jays, you're in the minority. I expected numbers like last season, with 13-15 wins, probably an ERA in the 4.30 range and fewer than 200 strikeouts. Burnett is not hurt. Two of his starts this month have been very good, actually. The Yankees haven't scored in his past two starts, but that shouldn't be a trend. If you own Burnett, I wouldn't haphazardly cut him unless there are clearly better pitchers out there. In July, this guy had a 2.00 ERA and 3-1 record. The month with his best career ERA and WHIP just happens to be September, and last season he closed out the season just fine, with a 3.83 ERA. He is what he is.

Andy Pettitte: He's still owned in 79.9 percent of leagues, just a bit more than Burnett, but I think that's a mistake. Certainly Pettitte has superior statistics this season, but he's not likely to pitch for at least two or three weeks. In fact, he might not pitch again this regular season at all if his left groin continues to be a problem. In head-to-head leagues, it's just not worth it. In roto formats, I'd stash him in the DL slot, just in case. But as Everett noted on our podcast, if Pettitte isn't throwing pain-free by this weekend, he just might be done for the regular season.

Dustin Moseley: Really? Hey, in six starts, he's 4-2 with a 4.63 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. Sounds like Burnett numbers to me. Regardless, there's little upside here. Those in AL-only formats sure could use the wins, though.

Ivan Nova: He has made just one start, and I remember it not for his pitching but for buzzing the major league homer leader's (Jose Bautista's) noggin with a pitch and starting a fracas. The minor league numbers don't show ace potential here, but like Moseley, he should get more starts. Avoid him for now. If he had a big strikeout rate, I would feel differently.