The Yankees said, as the 2016 season came to an end, that they were targeting pitching for the coming season and that particularly strengthening their bullpen was their big target. As Spring Training approaches, it would seem that they have failed to even come close to meeting either of those two inter-related targets.
The New York Yankees started the season with the best bullpen in baseball. When they gave up expecting to make the playoffs at the trading deadline, they gave up much of what gave them that quality. They stripped the bullpen bare and further weakened a starting rotation which hadn’t look good when the season started. Surprisingly, despite all of this, they didn’t do too badly over the last weeks of the season. On the other hand, they didn’t do too good.
The Yankees had more outgoing pitchers than batters in the trade deadline clear out but there were less new faces on the pitching staff than there were batters with starters, Luis Cessa and Chad Green who had been around on and off since the beginning of year suddenly thrust into the limelight. Let’s see who over-achieved and who under-achieved…
If the Yankees made some radical changes to their batting line up in July with the departure of Carlos Beltran that was nothing to the way that they changed their pitching staff around.
Let’s recap… At the end of last year, the Yankees signed Aroldis Chapman for 4 minor league prospects including Caleb Cotham who had seen some action in the Majors in 2015. Now, Cotham has hardly set the world alight since joining the Cincinnati Reds (0-3, 7.40 ERA) but even so Chapman was a controversial signing. He was being investigated under the Major Leagues’ domestic violence ruling, was likely to be suspended and anyway, he was a closer – and the Yankees had one of the finest closers in all baseball, in 2015, in Andrew Miller.
In June, some of the pitchers that the Yankees felt they could rely upon started to creak. Meanwhile, some of those who looked like they weren’t going to perform began to improve. Rollercoaster. The team ERA during June increased from 3.75 in May to just below 5. No point in your batters improving if this is going to happen!
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.
Whilst the batters showed few highlights in April, you could almost divide the pitchers into two groups…those who were starters (bad) and those who were relievers (good). As we shall see, there were some exceptions but not many!