Yesterday, Joe Girardi was asked which factors he would take into account when choosing his five-man rotation. What he came up with was a five-part checklist. It seemed to be off the top of his head — I don’t think he’s literally checking these things off as he goes — but it might give some glimpse into the things he’s thinking about.
1. “I think you look at track record”
This is the first thing Girardi said, and it’s more or less the reason Andy Pettitte is in camp. It’s also the reason Hiroki Kuroda is guaranteed a spot, and the reason Freddy Garcia provides some level of comfort. Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and Michael Pineda have each proven they can be successful in bursts, but their track records are quite a bit shorter.
2. “What the guys did for you last year”
This is obviously the biggest knock on Hughes, and it’s factor most heavily favoring Nova and Garcia. Recent history means more than ancient history, and that’s why Hughes is not a lock despite a terrific spring training and an 18-win season in 2010. Pineda’s second half of last season surely counts against him just as much as his first half counts for him.
3. “The way you see the ball coming out of their hand”
For the most part, this is either subjective or difficult to quantify. Unless you’re charting every pitch and keeping a lengthy record, it’s hard to definitively say who’s stuff is the best. Ultimately, the Yankees seem to be happy with the raw stuff coming from every one of their candidates. Nova has lacked some consistency, but he’s been occasionally dominant. Pineda’s velocity is down, but his offspeed stuff has been impressive. He seems to be more of a pitcher, less of a thrower, than the Yankees expected.
4. “The command that they have at this point”
The easiest way to measure this would be walks, and Pineda has easily the most with seven in 16.1 innings. Next closest is Garcia with four walks in 12.1 innings. Nova has walked only one and Hughes has walked two. But obviously command also matters within the strike zone. Nova has struggled with that a few times. Garcia and Hughes seem to have done well in that area.
5. “Where we’re going as an organization”
This is the biggest negative for Garcia, who’s strictly a short-term solution. Long-term, the Yankees are clearly better off with Hughes, Nova and Pineda — three players in their mid-20s — rather than a veteran who’s a decade older. The future matters, and that’s a check mark in favor of the young guys. If everyone is pitching well and there’s no wrong answer for the present, the Yankees might make their choice with an eye on the future.