The Yankees continued to need to re-jig their starting rotation and still had problems filling the last spot or two in their bullpen. Add this to their on-going struggles with the bat and this was always going to be a difficult month and that’s just how it proved.
|New York Yankees – Pitching – Month – May|
C.C. Sabathia was the big loss in May but in retrospect, we should have seen it coming. During his last two starts combined, he pitched only 9 innings, conceded 18 hits, carried an ERA of 6, with an additional 3 runs crossing the plate which were scored as unearned. His WHIP was the highest of any Yankees pitcher who appeared in more than one game and it was self-evident that his health was breaking down. On the 11th of May, he was added to the disabled list with fluid on his right-knee and his return is not imminent.
The surprise call-up replacement for Sabathia was Chase Whitley and Whitley who has more experience as a reliever has needed time to nestle in and work on his ability to carry the team past the all-important 5th inning. By the end of May, he had a very respectable ERA and 3 no-decisions and is beginning to look like one for the future.
The four remaining starters, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka, David Phelps and Vidal Nuno are a combination of the improving, the excellent and the make-do.
Let’s begin with the excellent! Masahiro Tanaka gave the Yankees six starts – five wins and one loss, whilst averaging more than 7 innings per game. If we combine this information with an ERA of 1.88 and a WHIP of less than one, it is clear what a crucial signing he has been for the Yankees and just how well he has adapted to the American game.
Hiroki Kuroda is improving and took two wins, one loss and three no-decisions from the month with an improving ERA of 4.00. He is capable of giving the team a good 6 innings per start and is a perfectly adequate number three starter but without Sabathia, they are lacking a player who is capable of being number 2 in the rotation at this stage and there is precious little below him.
Four and five are Phelps and Nuno who both delivered 1-2 months in the win/loss columns and whilst Phelps is significantly better than Nuno, my guess is that the Yankees would be more comfortable with him in a long relief role.
The Yankees typically carry 7 relievers. Of these, three are pretty much set in stone and are performing as advertised. Dellin Betances, Adam Warren and David Robertson are doing all that the Yankees require of them and more.
The imposing Betances struck out 28 batters in just over 17 innings. With 2 wins and a 1.04 ERA, it is difficult to see how he could have improved on this.
Adam Warren is also doing tremendously in his relief role, so much so that it must be a temptation for the Yankees to switch him to the starting rotation. I imagine that they don’t want to rock this boat unless they absolutely have to as, like Betances, his ERA is significantly below 2 and he is really an asset who seldom lets the team down in this role.
Robertson has had one or two below par games during May but those eight saves outshine the one loss and the management team must be very happy with how the transition from Rivera to the new guy has gone.
However, not all is smooth amongst the other established players in the ‘pen. Shawn Kelley started the month with significant struggles and then found himself on the disabled list with back stiffness from the 13th of the month, a move that was backdated to the 7th. His ERA of 6.75 on the month will mean that the coaching staff will be keeping a close eye on him in coming weeks. Matt Thornton, the left-handed specialist, is even more worrying as there seems to be no physical reason to account for his mushrooming ERA and the bullpen is very thin for other left-handed relief options.
Even if these last two guys were performing well, it would leave the Yankees two more spots to fill. Preston Claiborne was the hot guy in the second half of April but by May he was running into some of the same problems he experienced in the latter part of 2013. May was a very good month for Matt Daley and he looked like a solution for one of the gaps (although this would change in early June). Alfredo Aceves was back in Pinstripes but disappointing performances saw him designated for assignment and accepting a role at Triple-A Scranton where he will join Chris LeRoux who was simply awful in his one appearance for the major league club and ran up a 45.00 ERA.
The Yankees called up Jose Ramirez when they could expand the roster to 26 because of a double-header and he is clearly going to be tried out, even though on that occasion his move from Scranton lasted all of one day.
So there remains lots of questions unanswered for the Yankees roster and they have done well to remain in contention but there is a strong chance that there will be significant moves before the trading deadline.