The starting rotation has, probably, been less than the Yankees wanted it to be in April. And it has lost one very notable player through injury. However, it has been bolstered by a stellar bullpen which has done very little wrong.
Let’s look over the pros and cons in the second half of our monthly survey…
|New York Yankees – Pitching – Month – April|
The starting rotation delivered up one surprise when it was set at the end of Spring Training. CC Sabathia, who in previous years has been recognised as the ace of the staff, was marked down to number three with not only Masahiro Tanaka being placed ahead of him but more surprisingly Michael Pineda also.
As we stand at the end of the month, it is easy to see the Yankees got it right. They’ve needed to make very few changes to their pitching staff until almost the end of the month when they decided because of a run of 30 games in 31 days, they would expand to a 6-man rotation. This was quickly reversed when Tanaka needed to go on to the Disabled List. Beyond this, the only change around has been a peculiar revolving door situation for the 25th man on the roster which began after an extended game against Boston early in the month. But more of that in a moment, let’s concentrate on those starters.
Masahiro Tanaka had a decidedly mixed month. His first two starts were decidedly sub-par with big questions being asked about his lack of velocity and whether it was due to the injury that kept him off the roster for a fair portion of last season. Despite those problems, he managed to pick up a win in the game against Boston, the second of those starts.
Then there was a dramatic upsurge in performance with his third start as Tanaka went 7 innings for no runs and only 2 hits in Tampa Bay on the 18th. His start against Detroit on the 23rd wasn’t as strong but was still much better than his first two appearances. It was what was to come next which threw the plan out of sync. Tanaka reported to coaches with problems with his wrist and right forearm. Whether this is as a result of over-compensating for the earlier injury or over-exertion in his transition in that Tampa game or something else remains to be seen but the Yankees are not ruling out Tommy John surgery and that partial tear in the ulnar collateral ligament is on everybody’s mind. He will be out at least a month.
2nd on the rotation, Michael Pineda has an higher ERA than Tanaka (3.73 vs 3.22) but a better win-loss record (3-0 vs 2-1). Pineda has had a little luck on his side with strong run support and a very, very good bullpen.
Next is CC Sabathia who has not been good but has also been more than a little unlucky. In his 4 April starts which included one complete game, he was 0-4. His ERA of 5.96 shows that he doesn’t deserve much more than that but with a little more help that win-loss record could have looked a lot better.
Nathan Eovaldi is the 4th starter and he came out of April with a 1-0 record despite the highest WHIP on the team. He’s averaging a little over 5 innings per start and almost a strikeout per innings pitched but is giving up more hits per innings than anyone else.
Last of the regular starters is Adam Warren who like Eovaldi has an ERA of over 4 and is not going deep into games. He is 1-1 and a little fortunate not to have more in the losses column.
Before Tanaka went down injured the Yankees had declared their hand to move to a six man rotation – a decision which it became necessary to almost immediately reverse. That 6th starter was Chase Whitley who was very unlucky not to get a spot on the opening day roster after a strong Spring. In his one start as 6th starter, he got out of some sticky situations after allowing 7 men to get on base in 5 innings. He finished out the game with a win and a 1.80 ERA and now by default becomes the fifth starter. Whether the Yankees want to follow through on the six man rotation idea remains to be seen but if they do then the most likely idea would be to call up Bryan Mitchell who was 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA in a brief stint in the Bronx last year and is doing well in Scranton (Triple-A) so far this year. He is 1-2 with a 2.84 ERA in 5 starts including 1 complete game during his assignment there.
The two relievers that the Yankees needed to deliver in 2015 both struggled to some degree in Spring Training but have both swept aside any lingering doubts in the regular season. Perhaps part of this is the fact that the club made Spring Training an open competition between the two, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, to see who would obtain the closer’s role and both, particularly Betances, felt under pressure. In the season so far, with great wisdom, Joe Girardi simply let the pieces fall where they would without any big announcements. Miller had the first chances and took them and Girardi has kept things in that order without closing the door on making adjustments if they become necessary. for the moment though it does seem that it is Betances where he was last season in the 8th and Miller taking over for Robertson in the 9th.
Frankly, it is good that it is working out that way because otherwise the Yankees would have been left with egg on their face as Robertson as exploded into the season with 2 wins, 3 saves in 3 opportunities and 0.00 ERA with only 3 hits conceded in 8 games.
Thankfully, the Yankees have their own 0.00 ERA men and Betances can also show 5 holds and .97 WHIP whilst Miller has 8 saves and a team-leading .62 WHIP.
And they are by no means the only success stories coming out of this re-structured bullpen. Esmil Rogers, despite my lack of conviction that he should be on the roster at all before the season started and one loss, is doing very well, with a 2.35 ERA and .91 WHIP with more than 1 strikeout per innings pitched.
Chris Martin is the one of only two pitchers besides Miller who has been called upon to convert a save opportunity (David Carpenter blew his) and aside from his one save has been pretty consistent. He has given up only 3 runs in 11 innings and like all those we have mentioned so far as a WHIP which is below 1.
Another one in that below-1 WHIP category is Carpenter who aside from his blown save has done little wrong. His ERA was perched exactly on 3.00 in April which will do nicely.
Justin Wilson has a 1-0 win-loss record but closer examination shows he has been the least successful of the players coming out of the bullpen which is not to say he hasn’t been good just that he has been up against tough competition.
Then we come to the strange story of the 25th man. The final reliever in the bullpen at season start was Chasen Shreve who had come over from the Atlanta Braves in the close season. He struggled a little in his debut against Toronto but did much better in his second appearance in the extra innings game against Boston. The length of the game meant that Shreve was left on the mound for 3.1 innings and with a daytime game the following day and the Yankees needing an extra arm to replace the tired ones, he was shipped to Scranton which meant he could not be recalled for 10 days.
His replacement on the roster was Matt Tracy who pitched 2 innings in the next game giving up 3 runs albeit none were earned. This meant that the Yankees then decided to reassign Tracy who because of his situation needed to clear waivers and was claimed by the Miami Marlins. The Yankees decided to fill their gap with Kyle Davies who pitched 2.1 innings himself before also being reassigned.
Next on the roundabout was Branden Pinder who was given a whole two games before his period as a Yankee came to an end after 2 innings, 2 hits and no runs. By now it was possible for Chasen Shreve to return and retake up his pinstripes. He has performed respectably since then with a further five appearances and his debut remains his least satisfactory outing. He is now 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA.
And then in one final bizarre twist to this saga, on the day after Shreve was recalled, Matt Tracy was placed on waivers by Miami to complete a reassignment to Triple-A… and who should step up to claim him off waivers but the Yankees so a week and a half after leaving New York, Tracy found himself back in the Yankees system and finally arriving at Scranton.
So this nonsense aside, the bullpen is the Yankees’ principle strength. Whether it can retain that consistency remains to be seen but it is clear the Yankees need some of their starters to improve and ease the burden – or there will be more Chasen Shreve situations in their future as relievers get over-tired.