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If all goes as planned, the Yankees are depending on Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain to combine for about 60 starts in the 2008 regular season. Going into the season with that much riding on three rookies (Hughes isn't technically a rookie) is a risky proposition, to say the least. If the Yanks stick to their guns, and win the series, it will be virtually unprecedented.

First, let's take a look at the number of starts by rookies for the Yanks since their last World Series title, in 2000.

  • 2001 - 15
  • 2002 - 1
  • 2003 - 2
  • 2004 - 10
  • 2005 - 20
  • 2006 - 10
  • 2007 - 52
Obviously, the Yanks didn't go into 2007 planning on getting 52 starts from rookies and the 60 starts they're hoping for in 2008 will come from Joba, Hughes and Kennedy, not Igawa, Clippard, DeSalvo, Rasner, Chase Wright, Henn and Karstens. That being said, these numbers illustrate exactly how much faith the Yanks are putting in these guys. To illustrate the risk a little further, let's take a look at the number of starts by rookies for the World Champions every year since 1990.

  • 1990 Reds - 13
  • 1991 Twins - 9
  • 1992 Blue Jays - 3
  • 1993 Blue Jays - 1
  • 1995 Braves - 3
  • 1996 Yankees - 20
  • 1997 Marlins - 38
  • 1998 Yankees - 24 (21 by El duque)
  • 1999 Yankees - 2
  • 2000 Yankees - 6
  • 2001 Diamondbacks - 6
  • 2002 Angels - 25
  • 2003 Marlins - 29
  • 2004 Red Sox - 1
  • 2005 White Sox - 10
  • 2006 Cardinals - 1
  • 2007 Red Sox - 53 (32 from Dice K)
In the past 18 years, only two world series winners have used rookies for more than 30 starts. If you take Dice-K out of the equation, which he really should be, he was hardly a rookie, the number goes down to one. Look at those numbers again, only two teams filled the equivalent of one spot in the rotation with starts from a rookie. The Yanks are planning on filling two, maybe even more.

Is this cause for concern for Yankee fans? Yes, and no. Yes, because you never know what you're going to get out of a rookie. You never know if/when they're going to hit the wall. Usually, you can't project how they're going to handle the hitters at the big league level from start to start. If they aren't up to the task, the damage they do to the team will carry over beyond their spots in the rotation, they'll overtax the bullpen and you'll wind up paying for it over and over again. These are just a few of the things we need to worry about.

The reason this isn't a cause for concern is the underlying philosophy that got us here. The Yanks had ample opportunity to rectify this situation. In fact, many fans think they should've pulled the trigger on the Johan Santana trade, which would've lessened the load on the rookies dramatically. But they didn't, they stuck to their guns and chose to go with youth in their pitching staff. 2008 will probably see the Yanks take some lumps as the Big Three (River Ave Blues doesn't have a trademark on The Big Three, but they should. They coined the phrase) grow into their roles, but if all goes according to plan, next year they'll have 4 young, experienced starters in the rotation in Wang, Joba, Hughes and Kennedy. They're building for the future here.

Don't get me wrong, I'll be disappointed if 2008 ends with anything less than a World Series ring, but we need to go in with our eyes wide open. If the Yanks are able to stick to their plan and win it all, they will have done something no one else has been able to do. It will be a testament to Brian Cashman's plan and the magical right arms of the Big Three.
by Brian on Feb 15 2008
Tags: Ian Kennedy | Phil Hughes | Spring Training |