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The Yankees' World Series rotation problem

So many reasons why this World Series is going to be fascinating:

*A matchup of ace lefties, CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee, in Game 1. That's the 2007 and 2008 American League Cy Young Award winners, mind you. I'll have a story on the Web site shortly, and in the paper Tuesday morning, showing just how historic this matchup is.

*Alex Rodriguez's first World Series.

*A showdown of the two most powerful lineups in the game -- both teams led their respective leagues in homers this season -- in two of the most extreme hitters' parks in baseball.

*And double miles on Amtrak all fall!

To me, where things will get really interesting is in the way each manager chooses to set up his starting rotation. At this point, we don't know anything official beyond Game 1. Both Philadelphia's Charlie Manuel and New York's Joe Girardi are in similar situations, in that their rotations include one lock-down ace and a handful of good pitchers who are no slouches, but who simply aren't as good as Sabathia and Lee.

The major difference is that the Phillies -- beyond their front three of Lee, Cole Hamels and Pedro Martinez -- have a legitimate fourth option in Joe Blanton (if not a fifth option in J.A. Happ), whereas the Yankees, right now, are only three-deep. And perilously so, I might add. Chad Gaudin, their (theoretical) fourth starter, has pitched exactly one inning since the end of the regular season. Even if the Yankees wanted to send him out there for a start, I'm not sure they could anymore. As for Joba Chamberlain, the fact that the Yankees used him as the set-up bridge from Andy Pettitte to Mariano Rivera in Game 6 on Sunday night underscores his value to them in the bullpen.

That leaves one last option: Could the Yankees make it through the series with only three starting pitchers? Obviously, this would require Sabathia to start on three days' rest in Game 4 and, if it goes that far, Game 7. That doesn't seem to be a giant problem -- Sabathia pitched extensively on short rest in 2008, and the Yankees were smart about resting him in September with this possibility in mind.

But a three-man rotation would also require A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte, in whichever order, to start on short rest in Games 5 and 6. Pettitte hasn't pitched on three days' rest at all since 2006 -- and the Yankees have actually tried hard to give him an extra day of rest as often as possible down the stretch. Burnett has done it as recently as 2008.

As scary a proposition as this is, I think it's the Yankees' best chance for winning the series.

By Dave Sheinin  |  October 26, 2009; 3:00 PM ET
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The Yankees may opt to pitch Gaudin in game 4 believing that they could score runs off Blanton to stay in the game. Cliff Lee is a very good pitcher, but Hamels is a question and the Pedro certainly does not scare them so I am not as sure that the Phillies rotation is that much better.

Posted by: mscanlon | October 26, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

The Phils have recent success against CC in their back pocket. Last year's NLDS and they also won a game at Yankee Stadium against CC in May of this year - not sure if he got a decision though.
The Phils also have great numbers against Burnett from his Florida days and lefties had a significantly higher average against Pettite this year than righties.
The Phils bullpen is back in place and Lidge hasn't allowed a run in the post season. You can give Rivera the edge there but the rest of the Phillies pen is better.
The pitching match-up favors the Phillies.

Posted by: PhilliesPhan | October 27, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

After the first two games, my guess now is CC does line up for games 1, 4, and 7, Burnett is penicilled in for Games 2 and 6, Pettite goes game 3, and that Gaudin is pencilled in for Game 5. If there is a rain out for game 3 or 4, Burnett can pitch game 5, and possibly Pettite game 6.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | October 30, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

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