I think everyone agrees that the Yankees lost the division this year because they did not have the quality starting pitching that they had in previous years.  The bats still hit, A-Rod and Jeter weren’t having their best years, but overall the lineup did its job.  Ken Davidoff wrote a column in Newsday making the point that the Yanks need a “killer instinct rotation.”  I could not agree with him more.  Check out the column below.

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What the Yankees missed most of all in 2008, you sense from talking to people around the team, is that intimidation factor one gets only from possessing a strong, deep starting rotation.

When the Yankees rode the bus from their Toronto hotel to the Rogers Centre, for instance, and knew they would have to deal with Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett and Dustin McGowan (before his injury) in the next three days, it took something out of them before they even saw a pitch.  So even though the Yankees allowed fewer runs (727) this past season than they did in 2007 (777), they lacked the pitchers – either big names or big stuff – who made clubs dread coming to the ballpark.   That’s what they’re trying to recapture, in addition to the obvious: tangible improved pitching.

“I think the intimidation factor comes from the performance. It doesn’t matter if they have a name,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Friday. “Last year, A.J. Burnett was performing. So Toronto could say, ‘Burnett, Halladay, Magowan – we’ve got those three guys.’ Tampa Bay, out of the blue, had guys like [Scott] Kazmir, [Matt] Garza and [James] Shields. Boston has [Josh] Beckett, [Daisuke] Matsuzaka and [Jon] Lester.

“When we ran into guys like that, there was no breathing room. We could go a full month and not face a layup. If the starters lined up properly, we would’ve had that. We had a rotation, in theory, of [Chien-Ming] Wang-[Joba] Chamberlain- [Mike] Mussina-[Andy] Pettitte.”  Of course, injuries to Wang and Chamberlain and Pettitte’s ineffectiveness ruined that hope.

With that thinking in line, it might make more sense to sign Burnett over Derek Lowe, who is more dependent on the defense behind him. Although Lowe is more reliable, Burnett instills more fear in opposing hitters. Yankees people think Burnett is willing to play in New York.

Would it be worth a five-year investment to get, say, 3 1/2 years of Burnett’s excellence? So far, the Yankees don’t think so. This space doesn’t blame them. But it is interesting to ponder the fear the Yankees would strike in the hearts of opponents with a lineup of CC Sabathia, Burnett, Wang and Chamberlain.

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I would agree with Davidoff that based on last season Burnett would create more imtimidation, but intimidation can be created after just 3 great starts.  No one expected Tampa to have the season they did last year.  They made it to the World Series because of their pitching, but their pitchers did not intimidate anyone until they started pitching as well as they did.  Just because Burnett had a good season last year, does not mean he will have a good season next year, and his career stats prove how inconsistent he is.

Is Lowe a better choice?  Who really knows, but I do know that with some of the young pitchers we have in the system, there is no need to get a guy like Burnett or Lowe for more then 2-3 years.  Sabathia is younger and much more consistent and is definitly worth a 6 year committment.