If those assessing the Yankees chances in the 2018 season picked out one flaw, it was the starting rotation which they saw as middling at best. The bullpen, they argued, was going to be the best in baseball.
In the opening period of our analysis (the last few days of March and all of April), it didn’t quite work out that way. The starters delivered up a very respectable 13 wins, 5 losses and 10 no-decisions. Of those 10 no-decisions the bullpen won 5 and lost 5 and 5 members of the bullpen produced an ERA of 4.50 or over. Confused? You will be…
|New York Yankees 2018 – Pitching – Month – March – April|
The expected no. 1 starter for the Yankees this season was always going to be Luis Severino and he hasn’t been letting anyone down. In these first weeks, he made six starts gathering 4 wins, 1 loss and 1 no-decision. The loss crucially came against division-leading Boston at Fenway Park, giving up 5 runs in 5 innings on 8 hits but this was one stumble in an otherwise exemplary month with Sevvy producing a .89 WHIP.
There was a bigger question mark over the expectations the Yankees had for returning veteran CC Sabathia but Sabathia has achieved all the Yankees might have hoped for and then some. His .95 WHIP resulted in 2 wins and 3 no-decisions. Jordan Montgomery also had 2 wins of his 5 starts but with a higher ERA of 3.76.
Masahiro Tanaka was a little below the standard that the Yankees were looking for. His 4-2 record in 6 starts with an ERA of 4.37 is something that New Yorkers hope he can improve on as the season moves along.
The only truly weak link in the Yankees’ rotation though was Sonny Gray who the Bronx Bombers thought it was worthwhile bringing back on a new one year contract worth $6.5m. His ERA of 6.67 in the last days of March and the whole month of April gave him 1 win, 2 losses and 3 no-decisions. If he continues in this vein, the Yankees will be looking to strengthen their pitching staff by bringing someone in from a trade with a team who have drifted out of contention in the early running and are looking to clear their decks.
Most of the central elements of the Yankees’ bullpen have performed to expectation but not all. One of the significant under-performers has been Dellin Betances. He has achieved a strikeout per innings pitched but has still managed more than a hit, on average, per innings and also 5 walks. His ERA is a small fraction under 5 and will be a huge disappointment for the Yankees. Another disappointment will have been Tommy Kahnle who had a seriously below par first half of April and then spent the second half of the month on the disabled list.
Thankfully, some of the major pieces of the puzzle were all the Yankees could hope for. Amongst these were closer Aroldis Chapman and Chad Green, who is normally given the 7th inning to handle. Chapman’s 1.50 ERA and WHIP which was significantly below 1, helped him to achieve his first 6 saves. Green achieved 19 strikeouts in 13 innings and turned 2 of the team’s starting no-decisions into wins.
David Robertson appeared in more games than any other Yankees’ pitcher with 14.1 innings spread over 14 games. He gave up only 8 hits and leads the team in WHIP.
Adam Warren started the season reasonably well but followed Kahnle onto the disabled list, leaving the Yankees to depend on a number of call-ups from the Minors like Domingo German, Luis Cessa, David Hale and A.J. Cole. In addition a very disappointing opening to the season for Jonathan Holder resulted in him being sent back to Triple-A Scranton.
The notoriously inconsistent Chasen Shreve chose to have one of his better periods in the opening weeks of the season. A 0.79 ERA, and .97 WHIP conceals 5 unearned runs and let’s just say I wouldn’t want to predict what will happen with him in May.
So there are question marks as to whether Sabathia and Shreve can maintain their early form. There is the hope that Betances and Gray must improve. And there is the question of what will happen when Kahnle and Warren are available. There is still an awful lot of ifs, buts and maybes in this pitching equation.