In September the Yankees had a team batting average of .232 and a team ERA (earned run average) of 4.05. If it wasn’t for those home runs that the team kept coming up with bundles of, then they would probably be looking at a win-loss record under .500 for the month. As it was, they came through 15-13 but some of their big name pitchers struggled majorly.
Let’s look at those pitching statistics for September:
|New York Yankees 2018 – Pitching – Month – September|
During the month, they used 9 different pitchers to open games. This covered most of the starters that they had used during the season and one who wasn’t really a “starter” at all.
Pick of the bunch was J.A. Happ, the second-half acquisition who has barely faltered since changing clubs. This month, he made 5 starts for a 1.86 ERA and a WHIP of exactly 1. He was unfortunate only to add 2 wins to his total but there were three no-decisions when the batters weren’t really helping his cause. Next, amongst the starters was Masahiro Tanaka. He also made 5 starts. However, he achieved more wins than Happ (3) and more losses (1), and so a higher ERA and higher WHIP.
CC Sabathia really looked his age. His knees were troubling him and his 5 starts saw him come in with the weakest performance of the regular starters. He did manage 2 wins but also 2 losses but an ERA of nearly five and a half and a WHIP of over 1.5 revealed more of the truth. Also, with 2 wins and 2 losses and also struggling was Luis Severino whose 4 starts saw him as a shadow of the pitcher he looked before the All-Star break.
The last of the regular rotation was Lance Lynn who also made 4 starts but came out of it slightly better than Severino finishing the month 2-1 albeit with a worse ERA and WHIP.
So then, there were the spot starters and peculiarly an opener as I’m going to refer to Jonathan Holder. Holder was a sign of a phenomenon which has spread throughout baseball this season – an opening pitcher who is taken from the relief corps and who is only expected to pitch the amount of innings he would if he was coming on in relief. This has most extensively been seen at Tampa Bay and, ironically, it was against the Rays on the 24th that he was used in that capacity. He pitched one inning, gave up no hits and no runs – he did concede a couple of walks – but really there didn’t seem to be any thought given to bringing him back out for the second. I suspect whereas this is regular practise for the shoestring Rays, it will be a novelty for the Bronx Bombers.
The other starters were much more predictable – Sonny Gray, Domingo German and Luis Cessa. Cessa had a terrible outing after a mostly successful month as a reliever. He was elected to start the final game of the season and succeeding in gaining only one out whilst giving up 5 hits and 4 runs (3 earned). Both Gray and German were better in relief than in their single spot start and it will be interesting to see if any of the pitchers mentioned in this paragraph are back in pinstripes next year. I, for one, doubt it.
So, leaving Cessa, Gray and German to one side, let’s consider the rest of the bullpen. Zach Britton hit a rich vein of form for the first time since he donned the Yankees’ uniform as he pitched in 9 games, largely taking over the closer role from the injured Aroldis Chapman. He didn’t give up a run all month and was second in the team in WHIP (Walks and hits per inning pitched). He lost that role when Chapman was deemed to be ready to take on the extra burden and the likelihood is that Britton will be hunting for a team who need a top-level closer before next season but one who have a slightly better chance of finishing in the honours than his previous club, the Orioles.
Chad Green was the most used of any of the Yankees’ pitchers that were used strictly in the relief. He handles that role commendably. He found his groove in 2017 and has seldom faltered since. Dellin Betances was another pitcher used extensively and who also stepped into the closer’s role. He had an inconsistent time of it but by the end of the season, he had found his strike-zone again. He does rather lose his way like this from time to time and Yankees’ fans’ hearts sometimes flutter when they see this big guy approaching the mound wondering which version has turned up this time.
David Robertson was another pitcher who experiencing more than his share of struggles. The usually strong pitcher gave up 6 runs in less than 11 innings. Chapman was also not himself when he first returned from injury. Despite Aaron Boone trying to lighten his burden by using him typically in the 7th inning, his ERA ballooned to over 6 on the month.
Aside from this there were a group of players who were added around the time when the rosters expanded. These could probably be divided between the successful and the unsuccessful but also between young hopefuls and older make-weights. Tommy Kahnle struggled through what are likely to be his last games as a Yankee. A.J. Cole had a pretty torrid time of it for Washington early in the season and was then cut loose and ended up with the Yankees. His performances for New York have generally been a good deal more respectable (even if he did always seem to be used as Boone’s last choice) but that was before the season reached September and everything went wrong. He sunk to the bottom of our chart, his September stats were wretched, and he was booed from the field on more than one occasion.
Of the younger pitchers, things took a surprising turn-or-two. Highly rated debutant Justus Sheffield was fortunate to get away without giving up a run in his first two outings and then ran out of luck on the third time out. Whether this is beginner’s bad luck or a prospect taking a step too far too soon, remains to be seen. Jonathan Loaisiga was if anything slightly worse. The less-touted left-handed reliever, Stephen Tarpley rebounded from a bad debut to show some accomplished pitching. Chance Adams who has won few rave reviews in recent months was called up and closed out the final game of the season and did reasonably well.
The Yankees’ pitching will need a major overhaul once the playoffs are finished. There are questions about the aged Sabathia. They will try to get something (anything) in return for Gray. Some will become free agents and they must decide whether to attempt to re-sign them. Others have been on the fringe of the squad for too long and will simply be headed elsewhere.