Yesterday, I started my analysis of the Red Sox and Yankee rotations. Today, I’m going to finish off the analysis by looking the #4 and #5 starters for both squads. While the Red Sox will send out John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Yankees aren’t quite sure who will occupy the last two slots. Personally, I think we’ll see Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia pitch at the back end of the rotation. Despite the uncertainty at the back end of the rotation, who holds the advantage heading into the 2011 season?

Super Nova

Fourth Starter

Red Sox: John Lackey (2010: 14-11, 4.40 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 156 Ks, 215 innings)
Yankees: Ivan Nova (1-2, 4.50 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 26 Ks, 42 innings, 7 starts)

John Lackey’s worst season came right after he signed the largest contract of his professional career. After signing a lucrative five-year, $82.5 million deal with Boston, Lackey proceeded to set career highs in the wrong categories. His 4.40 ERA was his highest mark since 2004 and his 6.5 K/9 was tied for the lowest mark in his career. Some were wondering whether Lackey’s elbow issues from 2009 hindered him last season. Lackey missed 50 days that season with an inflamed right elbow and showed an obvious decline in fastball velocity.

Lackey can attribute his struggles to his declining strikeout rate and his even more concerning uptick in free passes. Lackey saw his unintentional walk total jump from 47 in 2009 to 72 last season.

Lackey has always been tough in the post-season, posting a 3.12 ERA in 12 career starts. Outside of his elbow injury in 2008/2009, Lackey has given his teams at least 32 starts per season. The guy is durable and will give the Sox a lot of innings.

Bill James’ Projection: 14-11, 3.89 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 179 Ks, 227 innings.

I always have soft spot for homegrown players. I’m obsessively Loyal to the Core Four** and Joba (Don’t ask me why). The same goes for the 24-year-old Ivan Nova. Nova, who was never a highly regarded prospect, features a mid-90s fastball and a nasty power curve. The 6’4″ Nova just looks like a big strong dude (Check out the picture above).

While Nova’s 2010 numbers don’t seem that impressive, let’s remember that Nova only made seven starts last season. Five of those seven starts came against the best offenses in the American League (Boston, Tampa Bay, Toronto). Nova always seemed to give the Yankees five strong innings, but was never able to get into the seventh inning. With the Yankees beefed up bullpen, Nova only needs to give the Bombers five, six innings per start before giving way to the pen.

Nova made his spring debut on Monday, tossing two shutout innings.

Bill James’ Projection: 6-7, 4.62 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 82 Ks, 115 innings

Verdict

Edge: Red Sox

No real surprise here. Lackey is an established Major League arm while Nova is still trying to make it into the seventh inning in one of his starts. If Nova continues to develop, I could see him surpassing Lackey in a few years. However, there’s really no contest heading into 2011.

Fifth Starter
Red Sox: Daisuke Matsuzaka (2010: 9-6, 4.69 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 133 Ks, 153 innings)
Yankees: Freddy Garcia (12-6, 4.64 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 89 Ks, 157 innings)

When considering the $150 million cost associated with acquiring him, Daisuke Matsuzaka and his gyroball garbage have been a huge waste for the Red Sox. Matsuzaka has won 46 games in four seasons with the Red Sox, but carries a 4.18 ERA and has posted a seasonal ERA under four only once. For the majority of his hitters, Matsuzaka has either walked them or struck them out. His career 4.3 BB/9 and 8.3 K/9 rank right near the top.

Matsuzaka has dealt with a plethora of injuries over the last two seasons. Last season, he dealt with neck and forearm strains while he missed 90 days in 2009 with a shoulder injury. Some are wondering if Matsuzaka’s taxing workload is finally starting to catch up. Since he started pitching professionally in 1999, Matsuzaka has posted at least 146 innings in all but two of his seasons.

Matsuzaka finished fourth in AL Cy Young voting in 2008, going 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA.

Matsuzaka’s talent is evident. It’s just a matter of him staying healthy and limiting walks.

Bill James’ Projection: 11-8, 3.86 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 158 Ks, 173 innings

Rounding out the Yankee rotation is Freddy Garcia. Garcia only has a minor league contract with the Bombers, so he will have to make the team. If Garcia makes the team, he’ll earn a $1.5 million base and if he hits all of his incentives (30 starts), the deal could be worth $5.1 million. Garcia has publicly stated that he wanted to join the Yankees and well, his wish was granted.

In 28 starts for the Chicago White Sox last season, Garcia posted a 12-6 record with a 4.48 ERA. Garcia posted a 5.19 K/9 and 2.58 BB/9, which are right around his career averages.

This is another low-risk investment for the Yanks. If Garcia does not pan out, the Yanks can simply cut him after Spring Training.

One cool stat about Garcia: He had more regular season wins that Andy and just as many quality starts as Cliff Lee (18)!

Bill James’ Projection: 8-9, 3.89 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 97 Ks, 148 innings

Verdict

Edge: Red Sox

We don’t even know if Garcia will be the Yankees’ fifth starter yet. Garcia is solid, but Matsuzaka offers a lot more upside.

Score to Date:

Red Sox 8
Yankees 7

The Red Sox won four out of the five pitching match-ups, which puts even more pressure on the Yankee offense. The Yankees have until July to make a trade to beef up their rotation, but as of March 3rd, the Red Sox easily have a better starting rotation.

Check back here on Monday as I begin to look at the bullpen.