Number Four Starter- Ian Kennedy/Clay Buchholz- Kennedy is generally considered the one with the lowest ceiling of the Yankees three big pitching prospects but he is also considered the most polished and ready right now. Kennedy is going to have to be an innings eater for the Yankees (along with Wang and Pettitte) if they are to do well since Joba and Hughes both have innings limits and nobody trusts Mussina. Kennedy was actually a September call-up who took Mussina's spot in the rotation after Mussina struggled. During this time he did very well but this was only a month and I`m not going to use any stats from that time. Kennedy has a low 90's fastball, a very good changeup, and a good curve. However, he relies a lot on his control. Kennedy is not going to strikeout a ton of guys like Joba or Hughes but he will have better control. Buchholz also came up late in the year with a lot of hype and comparisons to Hughes and Joba. He also delivered. He threw a no-hitter during his callup. Buchholz has a low 90's fastball, a very good curveball, a changeup, and a rarely used slider. Sound familiar? Buchholz is very similar to Hughes both in potential, stuff, and readiness.
Conclusion- Clay Buchholz- Both are very young prospect but like I mentioned before Buchholz is comparable to Phil Hughes and I think everybody agrees that Hughes and Kennedy are not on the same level. Obviously, they`re both very young and either one could best or be the next great pitcher.
Number Five Starter- Mike Mussina/Tim Wakefield- Mussina had a poor 2007 during which he was replaced by Ian Kennedy. Mussina came into the season throwing a bit slower than usual. He seemed to be doing better midseason but he ended awfully sometimes throwing only an 84 mph fastball in September. His curveball also slowed down. The results weren`t pretty. He struck out more than 2 less batters every 9 innings in 2007 even though his control didn't really fall off. His GB% stayed about the same to. The reduced amount of strikeouts lef to an ERA over 5.00. After a rest when Kennedy took over for him while he went on the DL he seemed to be throwing a little harder and pitching better. To be honest, I don't think he`s going to get back that extra velocity or that he can reinvent himself and I have little trust in him. Throwing slowly has never been a problem for Tim Wakefield though. For some reason knuckleballers seem to go against the norm with DIPS stats. They can survive with a low K/BB and low GB% for some reason. Wakefield is what he is and with his knuckleball he can probably go on like this indefinitely. He`s not great and tends to be inconsistent but he`s fine for a 5th starter.
Conclusion- Tim Wakefield- Wakefield had a 4.52 RCA in 2007 compared to Mussina's 4.86. Mussina could possibly do better than Wakefield this year but I wouldn't bet on it. As I said before, Mussina just needs to get a few extra miles on his fastball. Maybe the answer is to go to a 6 man rotation so he can get more rest. Maybe their`s nothing they can do about him and they just need to move Joba to the rotation.
Overall Conclusion on Starting Pitching- Red Sox- This was Boston big edge in 2007 and it looks like it will unfortunately continue into 2008. Of the pitchers with a large enough sample size for it to be worth anything (this counted Hughes and excluded Kennedy and Buchholz) the Yankees had a 2007 RCA of 4.52 and Boston had one of 3.90. On the bright side though the Yankees do have a few things going for them. Hughes mgiht do better without an injury shortened season, Joba should be in the rotation a few months into the season and would likely be a boost, Kennedy could help lower that number. Joe Girardi also seems to have less patience for Mussina and if Mussina struggles then he will not continue to give him starts. Also, Josh Beckett probably won't repeat his unbelievable 2007 and Schilling could miss a big chunk of the season. All that`s left of this series of posts is the bullpen and then my final conclusion about the two teams. :)