So if the batters were worse than terrible, it must have been the pitching staff who picked up some of the slack and gave the team a chance in the May games – leading to the Yankees achieving that surprising 16-13 record on the month.
12 of those 16 wins came from the starting staff so we’ll be considering them first.
|New York Yankees – Pitching – Month – May|
The Yankees, as we mentioned in our previous column, came under due criticism from Hal Steinbrenner during the month of May. One of the players most criticised was young phenom, Luis Severino, who after a great second half of the season in 2015, seems to have had huge problems with locating his pitches so far in 2016. By the 14th of the month, he was headed to the disabled list in a move that looked suspiciously timely given his poor performance. On the 29th, he headed for a rehabilitation assignment at Class-A (advanced) Tampa Yankees. One day later, he was reassigned to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders. It was what happened prior to that which caused Mr Steinbrenner’s consternation. Severino’s starts all resulted in losses in May giving him a 0-3 record on the month and a 8.22 ERA. We may see him back in the Majors after the All-Star break.
At least Michael Pineda picked up one win in May but he also faced Steinbrenner’s public ire. His 7.52 ERA and three losses weren’t much better than Severino but he has survived because the Yankees liked the look of his efforts to overcome his problems (and no doubt the fact that they have to pay him $4.3M this year, come rain or come shine).
But amongst the regular starters there was little else to grumble about. Nathan Eovaldi produced an immaculate 5-0 record (6 starts) on the month. There could be a suggestion that, like last year, he was on the receiving end of some timely run support but the Yankees will take the wins where they find them.
Masahiro Tanaka, by contrast, took three no-decisions amongst his 5 starts but had a marginally better ERA than Eovaldi which emphasises my point about the difference that run support on any given day can make. Tanaka was giving the Yankees nearly seven innings per start and his arm troubles seem to be in the past for the time being.
Somewhat surprisingly, CC Sabathia was perhaps the pick of the Yankees starters, as he bounced back from injury and last season’s personal problems. With his leg in a brace, he produced an unexpected 1.04 ERA in May and .81 WHIP %. Somehow, he contrived to only produce a 2-2 record in May from all this good pitching. What were we saying about run production?
Ivan Nova saw himself promoted to the starting rotation when Sabathia went on the disabled list and retain his position when CC returned as Severino’s struggles took him out of the reckoning. Nova was solid if unspectacular in May with 2 wins and 3 losses and an ERA which allowed the Yankees to be in contention in most of his appearances – which with the Yankees’ bullpen is no bad thing.
Chad Green, who came over from Detroit in December of last year, made the Majors earlier than expected. He gave them one start in May when the Yankees were working through injuries and performance problems. He gave them only 4 innings and gave up 8 hits. His time is not yet.
One of the major changes in May was the arrival of Aroldis Chapman, who had been suspended by Major League Baseball throughout April but was now able to make his Yankees’ debut. There is no question that Chapman is a fine and intense pitcher (as well as an intense individual) but there is a question as to whether he is the right man for the Yankees. In short, did the Yankees need him? Or would they have been persisting with Justin Wilson in the 7th and Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller to follow which produced the best 7-8-9 in baseball last season. Well, the initial evidence suggest that Chapman is excellent but that Miller is better and that Betances is wobbling a little in his new role – but, to be frank, it is way too early to tell. Ask me again at the end of the season.
Elsewhere in the bullpen, there are some interesting developments. Nick Goody‘s ERA has increased but his WHIP has decreased. There doesn’t seem any logical reason for this so again we must wait and see.
Johnny Barbato who started so well in April began to fade at the end of the opening month and that trend continued into May and saw him reassigned.
Kirby Yates had a much better May than April. Of course, dividing the figures by month is rather artificial but we have to have some way to make comparatives and there is no question that his ERA leads the regular relievers on the month when looked at from this angle.
Chasen Shreve started well in 2015 and then endured a horrible September. This year, his golden streak lasted at least half of April but the later part of April and all of May were very poor. He then went on to the disabled list.
The 25th-man on the roster alternated between being a spot for someone who would sit in the bullpen and warm the bench and a shuttle between the majors and the minors.
One of those who spent most time on the roster but saw little action was Luis Cessa who was given only 3 appearances in April and May. He did quite respectably and will hopefully get more time to prove himself in the future.
Less successful in his very brief visit was Conor Mullee, who stayed around very little time and gave up three walks in his one appearance. One of those runners on base was later brought home, giving Conor a 9.00 ERA to take back to Scranton as a going away present.
A surprise returner to the Bronx was Phil Coke. He last played for the Yankees in 2009. This time the left-hander made three appearances. The first was good, the second okay and the third not good at all. He was out-righted to Scranton.
Journeyman minor-leaguer, Richard Bleier finally made his Major League debut. Aged 29, he delivered up a solid performance on 30th May against Toronto as the Yankees needed someone to cover Shreve’s spot on the roster.