We have discussed the Red Sox and Yankee rotations a bit over the off-season but not at length yet. It should be a pretty fun discussion now that the Yankees have put together a rotation that on paper could edge the Sox starting five.
We’ll make this easy and start at the top. Both teams feature a strong ace and both happen to be left-handers. Some may argue with the order of which I’ve seeded these pitchers, but for further reference these are the match-ups for this week:
Jon Lester vs. CC Sabathia
Josh Beckett vs. A.J. Burnett
Daisuke Matsuzaka vs. Chien-Ming Wang
Tim Wakefield vs. Andy Pettitte
Brad Penny vs. Joba Chamberlain
And now onto the first match up of Jon Lester vs. CC Sabathia:
Some may think that Beckett deserves to have this number one spot in the Sox rotation, but I disagree. If Lester is healthy during the regular season he is a superior pitcher to Beckett and his value as a left-hander emphasizes that point. You probably want to give the ball to Beckett in a big game, but you want Lester to lead the way through the summer.
Throwing out their salaries compared to the performance (Lester would win hands down) these two pitchers are just downright nasty. There is obviously a much smaller sample size for Lester over the course of his career since he is three and a half years younger than Sabathia and has missed significant time during his short major league career while dealing with his cancer.
But Lester has already made a significant name for himself during the 2007 playoffs and the 2008 regular season. He has quickly risen to the top of the Red Sox rotation and is on track to becoming one of the best lefties in the game.
Most of us already know the track record for Sabathia: Great 2007 and 2008 regular season performances, followed by post season flops. I am one who is less inclined to discount Sabathia in the post season because in both seasons he was forced to pitch a ridiculous amount of innings for teams that had shaky bullpens. Both instances wore him down to the point where his effectiveness in the post season was compromised.
Both pitchers have mid-90s velocity on their fastballs and both have a wicked breaking pitch to back it up. Each has stellar command of their pitches and in spite of Sabathia’s bad track record in big games, I’m going to say that those three starts he made on three days rest to personally deliver the Brewers to the playoffs give him some credits in the clutch department.
Verdict: Sabathia has an edge over Lester. Lester can pitch with the big guy any day of the week but Sabathia has the more established track record of dominance over the past eight seasons. Lester could pass him in the years to come but for 2009 CC is the better lefty to have on your staff. Yanks lead 1-0.