When the Red Sox signed John Lackey, there was no question the Yankees’ biggest rivals had the better rotation. But after the Yanks picked up Javier Vazquez in a trade with the Braves, the rotations look even again from a distance. Since I don’t expect any more additions to either rotation, I thought I’d take a closer look at the situation.
To make the overall comparison as close as possible, I will give each comparison a ranking from 1-10. Five means the two are dead even, and 10 is a huge edge to whomever I list.
(2009 numbers are used in tables)
CC Sabathia vs. Josh Beckett
Edge: Sabathia, 7
Why: Looking at both pitchers’ ERAs recently, Sabathia holds a clear advantage. His 3.37 ERA tops Beckett’s by nearly half a run last year, and that was CC’s highest in the past three years. Beckett’s numbers lie in a small tier below Sabathia’s. Another key advantage the big lefty has over Beckett is his durability. Beckett has been fairly healthy in recent years, but Sabathia has just been healthier, starting 14 more games in the past three years. There’s no reason to believe Sabathia is going to slow down, as both starters are 29 years old.
Why: Lester is coming off two excellent years and will be 26 years old on Opening Day. Burnett, a very inconsistent starter over the course of a season, has posted very consistent numbers recently. And quite simply, they fall well short of Lester’s. Lester would have matched up pretty evenly against Sabathia, but since he is still considered the No. 2 of the staff I felt it was important to compare each pitcher like they would match up in a series.
Andy Pettitte vs. John Lackey
Why: Durability is key once again in this comparison. Lackey has been posting better statistics recently, wile Pettitte has pitched in more games. Lackey’s numbers are better, but if you factor in his replacement’s statistics the two are very close. Lackey has pitched to an ERA below four in five straight seasons, while Pettitte’s ERA has been above four for four years in a row.
Javier Vazquez vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka
Why: Vazquez has started at least 32 games for 10 years running. He showed he could dominate the National League last year, and has had some success in the American League pitching for the White Sox. His last stint with the Yankees in 2004 ended sourly, and it will be interesting to see if he can forget about the past. Daisuke was awful in 12 starts last year, missing time in April, May and all of July and August. There is very little doubt he can return to his 2008 status of top 5 in Cy Young voting, but most expect some sort of an improvement from him.
Joba Chamberlain/Phil Hughes vs. Clay Buchholz
Why: It hasn’t been decided yet, but Chamberlain looks like the favorite to take the job because the Chien-Ming Wang booted Phil Hughes — not Chamberlain — out of the rotation last year. I wouldn’t project Hughes to post drastically different numbers than Chamberlain anyway if Hughes wins the job. Although, I’d project an improvement for Chamberlain because he won’t have to worry about an innings limit. On the other hand, take a look at Buchholz’s game log last year. If I subtracted his four worst starts, his ERA becomes 1.91. If he can work out those kinks next year, the Red Sox might have the best No. 5 starter in the game.
Edge: Red Sox, +1
Why: Because I can add. Nothing is final yet, but this should serve as a nice side-by-side look at the two rotations heading into Spring Training.
Note: If you’re a Yankees fan and trust my rankings, you should still be happy. The Yankees have a far more dangerous lineup right now, and will still hold an advantage even if the Red Sox sign Matt Holliday or Jason Bay.