One of the interesting factors for the New York Yankees over the last several seasons is how they handle the roster expansion in September. This year, as in the past, Joe Girardi seemed to feel under an obligation to try to use everybody, almost as though the season was already over and it was just a case of giving people game time. But this wasn’t Spring Training, it was a crucial chase to catch the Blue Jays and watching players like Chasen Shreve, and Bryan Mitchell coming apart at the seams wasn’t helpful to them or to the cause. Let’s see what happened:
|New York Yankees – Pitching – Month – September / October – Regular Season only|
The first thing to notice is the Win/Loss line which saw the Yankees coming under .500 for the period in question which did their chances no good at all. And then we begin to notice that a cobbled together starting rotation left the relief corps with too much to do and too few capable arms.
The Yankees used 7 starters during this period of the 10 they had need to call upon during the whole season. Of the remainder of that 10, Chase Whitley was on the disabled list, recovering from surgery, Bryan Mitchell was being used in occasional relief and Chris Capuano (and his $5 million contract) was rescued from his 4th time of being designated for assignment only by injuries that followed a few days after the September expansion. The Yankees wisely chose to limit him to the bullpen to see how desperately they needed him.
C.C. Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka were both battling injuries during this late period of the season. For a time it looked like Tanaka wouldn’t be available for the playoffs – he didn’t make a start between the 19th and 29th of September but was available to pitch 5 innings on the 30th and consequently became the go-to guy for the one game playoff. Given all this and the fact that he headed for surgery immediately on the conclusion of the Yankees’ season, his 3.06 ERA with 2 wins and a WHIP of just .90 (second only to Justin Wilson) in the period under our consideration was more than acceptable.
Sabathia, on the other hand, was out from the late period of August and for a time it was suspected he would not pitch again in 2015. However, with the aid of a leg-brace he bounced back by the 9th of September and made regular starts the rest of the way. He pitched 5 starts with 2 wins and a 2.17 ERA. He let more players on to base than his Japanese team-mate but otherwise their performances were comparable. However, no-one outside of Sabathia’s immediate circle saw what was to come next with alcohol problems and need for rehabilitation depriving him of the opportunity to play in the playoffs, and depriving the team of one of their strongest post-season options. Sabathia has one more year remaining on his contract but for now he has much bigger issues to deal with.
Another player that the Yankees found themselves without by the end of season, albeit for very different reasons, was Nathan Eovaldi. Eovaldi had the kind of debut season in Pinstripes he could probably only have dreamed of in April. In the end, he took fourteen wins but made only one start in this closing period – a mediocre performance against Tampa Bay which gave him his third loss of the season. There are legitimate questions about whether that win-loss line looks a little more polished than it could have done with even a little less run support but Eovaldi is another that the Yankees will be hoping can bounce back in 2016.
Michael Pineda and rookie, Luis Severino were the two starting pitchers who were scheduled to be starters who performed well, on the whole, and had no injury questions hanging over them. Pineda was a rock: at least, in terms of giving Yankees innings on the mound. This wasn’t his best pitching of the year but he did give the team 7 starts which was crucial. He limited his opponents to very few walks but conceded too many hits. He came out with a 3-2 win/loss record. Severino was a real bright spot except in the game when the team really needed him to deliver. He fell apart in the crucial September 11th game against Toronto which was pretty much to end their hopes of catching their nearest rivals. On that day he couldn’t get out of the 3rd inning and this raises questions about his big game temperament that he will need to answer next year.
Someone else with big questions to answer is Ivan Nova who was wretched in September and only held onto his spot in the rotation when Tanaka went down injured. On the day after Severino’s debacle against Toronto, Nova gave up 6 runs in 1.2 innings but whereas the younger, less experienced Severino was to bounce back in less pressurised games, Nova’s pattern for the rest of the season didn’t really improve that much. He really hasn’t returned to being the pitcher he was prior to his 2014 surgery. It’s not obvious where the Yankees go with him next.
Adam Warren was always expected to bounce between starting and relieving in 2015 and this was his role. He was pressed into 3 starts at the end of the season as the Yankees ran close to running out of starting options and he delivered well again. The question is whether the Yankees need to make a decision on his role for the future or whether they are content to have him as a 4th man in the Wilson-Betances-Miller arrangement and an optional 5th starter. It’s a nice luxury to have because he can deliver in both roles.
The Yankees used 14 relievers in September and October! One we have already mentioned was Adam Warren who doubled as a starter and a reliever. Three more were the consistent trio of Wilson-Betances-Miller who were the best 7th, 8th, 9th innings troupe in the league all season. Seven of the remaining ten had ERAs of over 5.00. Let’s consider that motley crew first.
Worst of the bunch were Bryan Mitchell and Chasen Shreve who lost their way the longer the season went on and Joe Girardi and his coaches seemed to be able to do nothing to restore either their mechanics or their confidence. So, for some reason, they were regularly put out on the mound, seemingly unable to get anyone out and watch their little ability to handle situations dissipate into the dust of the hot September days. Shreve, who at times this season had been able to keep his ERA below 2, gave up 16 hits and 8 walks in only 6 innings. It was horrible and excruciating to watch and leaves the coaching staff to pick up the pieces in March. Mitchell finished with a higher ERA but was less noticeably all-at-sea.
Next, we might consider Chris Capuano and Andrew Bailey. Capuano had been struggling all season and if there wasn’t someone more deserving of an opportunity to prove themselves at the Major League level then there is something seriously wrong with the Yankees farm system. In reality, he should have been let go in mid-season and to keep promoting him back from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was doing no-one any favours. Bailey, on the other hand, was perhaps on a journey in the other direction. He is coming back from some major injury problems and after a good season at Triple-A, deserved his call-up and one final chance to prove that he could hold his own at this level. He couldn’t. But it was worth the experiment and it is perhaps now time for him to admit this and retire gracefully. It will be interesting to see whether he comes back here or elsewhere in Spring Training.
The two Nicks, Nick Goody and Nick Rumbelow, rounded off what been mixed first seasons in the majors with, well, mixed final months. There is no reason to presume that they are not ones for the future but they will have something to prove in 2016.
Chris Martin had spent an extended period in the minors prior to his September call up and was used in those games where the Yankees needed a few guys to mop up innings in games they were going to lose. He didn’t do it well. In less than 5 innings, he put 11 men on base which didn’t help matters. I would be surprised to see him back in the Bronx in 2016.
Just above that 5.00 ERA line were Branden Pinder and Caleb Cotham. Both had split the season between Triple-A and the Majors and their performances in this last month showed why. Pinder was perhaps the more impressive but, when I checked his stats, his WHIP was the higher and indeed way too high. They both also have much to do in Spring 2016.
Aside from the established names, the only relief pitcher who really shone was the left-handed specialist, James Pazos. He proved that if the Yankees are looking for a situational pitcher then he is a more than capable candidate. He gave them a good option coming out of the ‘pen, when a left-handed batter was due. He really wasn’t given enough chances against right-handed batters to show what he could do against them so it is obvious that the Yankees see him as a niche pitcher. His 0.00 ERA over this period is a little deceptive as he did allow 6 runners to get on base but if the Yankees are tempted to carry someone in such a limited role next year then I would have the coaches working hard with him from the moment the catchers and pitchers report.
And then we come to the triumvirate of Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller who looked a little ragged and over-used as the season came to an end (as indeed they were) but still looked the best partnership in the majors. This tiredness showed itself in the fact that although Wilson had the best WHIP on the team, he also had the weakest ERA of the 3. When he allowed a runner, the tendency was that Betances and Miller would be unable to shut the situation down as cleanly as they would have done earlier in the year and Wilson’s runner would score. Anyway, Miller has already been acknowledged as closer of the year, Betances has matured into the player that the Yankees wanted him to be and will own the 8th innings when he is fresh and Wilson has done much more than the Yankees hoped they were getting when they acquired him from Pittsburgh. The seventh, eighth and ninth innings seem to be sorted if only the Yankees can find a couple of consistent arms out of the bullpen and a much deeper, injury-free rotation.
|New York Yankees – Pitching – Month – October – Wild card only|
In the final game, the Yankees did enough from the mound but as noted in our earlier article the bats were crucially silent, handing the game to the second-best wildcard qualifier, the Houston Astros. Tanaka looked competent, Wilson was like he has been most of the season, Betances was tired but did well enough except for the run he conceded and Miller was lights out. And there was no-one there that Girardi could trust for the sixth innings when Tanaka could only manage five which is perhaps the story of the season from a pitching point of view.
Being in the playoffs is good and probably what the Yankees season deserved although if they could have maintained the form of the first half from a batting point of view, they could have achieved more. Where do they go from here? Well, that depends on lots of things – not least how keen the Steinbrenners are keen to keep what is good about this team together and strengthen where there is very substantial weakness.