Posted on: March 10, 2011 1:04 pm
Does age and treachery always overcome youth and skill? New York Yankees Bi-polar pitching
Going into the home stretch preparing for opening day, Joe Girardi's most talked about struggle is his starting rotation and the absence of an off-season acquisition to replace Andy Pettitte or take possession of a clear #2, 3 or 4 spot to follow CC Sabathia. Sure, there are two other starters from last year on staff but they highlight Girardi's bi-polar disorder: Can both youth and experience be blended into a winning combination?
One side is illustrated by the sweet bird of youth: energy, promise and green. Phil Hughes (24) has shown unhittable stuff but inconsistent success despite poise beyond his years. Experience, potential but disappointing headcase is the other side. A.J. Burnett (34) was horrible last year though his talent is pointed to as the evidence of potential, unfulfilled in so many painful outings last year. While Burnett may bounce back, he's the more risky of the two because like a golfer who's game disintegrates after a lame shot, AJ's inner voice strangles his presumed ability and control as his anger replaces his guile producing the league lead in hitting
batters. Both of them have to find their stride for the Yanks to compete in an improved AL East this year.
The two most likely additions tip the scales toward the long-of-tooth side: Both Bartolo Colon (37) and Freddy Garcia (34) have pitched surprisingly well this spring, with an ERA/Avg against (through less than 9 innings) of 3.00/.250 for the weighty Colon along with 12 K's and 0.00/1.25 for the sly Garcia. The sample is too small so let's see what happens after going through a lineup more than once but it's likely one of these two will start at the end of the rotation and hopefully benefit from the strong offense and bullpen. A trade down the road for another established starter is still very probable since the cornucopia of catching talent can attract clubs like the KC Royals. Does experience trump youth and desire?
On the other end of the spectrum is Ivan Nova (24) and following at a later date could be one of the much touted "B's", Dellin Betances (22) and Manuel Banuelos (19). Nova went 1-2 in limited use last year, posting a so-so 4.50/.268 in 42 innings but 0.00/.188 in 5 innings this spring. Nova will head north even if he isn't nicknamed "Super". To a manager he's a risk, but for fans there's a thrill in following a rookie with a strong upside who might emerge as a phenom. The Stephen Strasburg effect was electric (while it lasted) even understanding the realistic odds are extremely long. That's why the 6' 8" Betances is very appealing for a look and the Ron Guidry-like Banuelos would electrify fans though he needs more triple-A time.
I'd rather watch the youngsters with all the mistakes and letdowns for the rare excitement of a wondrous game. Like finding a treasure at a flea market, I can hope despite the odds every time. Safer decisions will prevail for now as the old guys cover the back end pitching until either the "B's" are ready or age takes its toll. Is there a chance time runs backwards and Colon becomes this season's Ponce de Leon stumbling into a fountain of youth? Hoard the antioxidants and put pomegranate juice in the water cooler. Antiques Roadshow is a fine balance - amazing discoveries get found among well-used pitchers with a chip or two.