The Yankees’ pitching rotation, going into the season, looked quite evidently their greatest weakness.
By contrast, their bullpen looked like their greatest strength.
What would happen if the bullpen lived up to its billing and the rotation was more consistent than expected?
That would be April 2017, which is the way that it has worked out in practise!
|New York Yankees 2017 – Pitching – Month – April|
Going into the first week of the season, the Yankees had three pitchers they knew that they could count on as starters.
There was staff ace, Masahiro Tanaka, aging vet. C.C. Sabathia, and last season’s under-performer, Michael Pineda. Fourth starter was pencilled in as Luis Severino who had a diabolical time of it last season as a starter but proved a solid reliever. Fifth starter appeared to be anyone’s guess although there were a few who had done well in Spring Training.
On opening day, their best bet, Tanaka went 2.2 innings and gave up 7 earned runs. This was not what the Yankees hoped for. Two days later, Sabathia pitched 5 innings without giving up a run. Just what the doctor ordered. On the following day, it was Pineda’s turn to pick up the loss and only last 3.2 innings. After another day off, Severino did enough to keep the Yankees in the game but was no better than that.
It was not looking promising and all my prophecies of doom were kicking in.
And then things began to turn around…
On the 12th, the Yankees selected Jordan Montgomery to be their other starter. He has slotted into the rotation between Pineda and Severino.
The figures on the table (above) may not look stunning but we have to take into account those weak performances in the opening week. It is better to note that both Pineda and Tanaka have garnered three wins. Pineda gave up only 6 runs in the 4 starts after that first week, Tanaka only 7. On the month, Severino led all the Yankees’ starters in ERA and picked up two wins, whilst 3 times going seven innings or more. Montgomery, arriving in the majors for the first time, was never over-powering but he is deceptive and a solid presence, adding a win to the total whilst twice making it into the seventh inning.
Only Sabathia faded as the month went along, culminating in him giving up 7 runs on the 28th to their division rivals, Baltimore but it is too early to tell whether he will bounce back to greater consistency.
One reliever who started last season on the major league roster is no longer in the Yankees’ reckoning. Johnny Barbato was reassigned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders before Spring Training ended and was traded to Pittsburgh before April was out.
The rest of the players in the mix resulted in the Yankees having a combination of old and new faces in the bullpen including two – Aroldis Chapman and Adam Warren – who were in their second stint with the Yankees.
Warren and Chapman were very much at the forefront of what the relievers achieved in the first month of the season. Warren delivered a 0.68 ERA over 13.1 innings in long relief with nearly a strikeout per innings and led the team in WHIP. Chapman picked up his first five saves and struck out 15 in just over 9 innings.
Tyler Clippard’s .78 WHIP indicated just how well he was doing and both he and, set-up man, Dellin Betances delivered ERAs that were only a fraction over 1.
Jonathan Holder delivered a solid 3.38 ERA. Only Tommy Layne and Brian Mitchell struggled and Mitchell particularly faded as the month went along. He was expected to be in the starting rotation at the beginning of 2016. He has not really returned to that level since his injury.
Chasen Shreve was very unfortunate to be the one re-assigned when Montgomery was brought up from extended Spring Training. To that point, the previously inconsistent Mr Shreve had not given up a run. No doubt he will be back in pinstripes when the opportunity presents.
So the batting, fielding and pitching staff are somewhat exceeding expectations. It would be naïve to expect this to continue at the same level but a decent approximation will be enough to keep the Yankees strongly in contention.