The Yankees had set out their stall for 2018 with a starting rotation of Luis Severino – Masahiro Tanaka – CC Sabathia – Sonny Gray – Jordan Montgomery. Now this looked a little weaker than a team who were hoping for a World Series booth might field but it became a more pronounced lack when Jordan Montgomery went onto the disabled list in May. Further problems lay ahead when it was announced that Montgomery would need season-ending Tommy John surgery. What would carry the Yankees forward? Fortunately, the bullpen had begun to meet, if not exceed, all expectations.
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…
So, moving on from the batters, we come to survey the pitchers who have made the opening day roster and those who were around in Spring Training but didn’t quite make it. No real surprises here and once the team had decided to re-sign CC Sabathia, everything was settled except the last couple of relief appointments.
Including 1st October (End of regular season)
The Yankees’ pitching has been amazing in 2017. Every time someone under-performed, someone else stepped up to fill the gap. When Aroldis Chapman lost his way, it just happened that Dellin Betances was on form. When Betances struggled, Chapman regained his form. Adam Warren injured? Chad Green pitches phenomenally to fill the gap. Masahiro Tanaka not quite up to the ace billing? Then here’s Severino doing everything as a starter he couldn’t do in 2016 and CC Sabathia doing more than his aging limbs should allow. Let’s look at the whole picture
The Yankees’ pitching staff continued, in August, to do more than enough to keep the team in the game on most days. After the signings of Jaime Garcia and Sonny Gray, they had given themselves 6 regular starting options – most of whom are more than holding their own. The bullpen has been more than solid with the exception of Aroldis Chapman. Chapman is perhaps the reliever that the Yankees expected most from but who is delivering least.
In July, the Yankees strengthened their bullpen by adding David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle although these moves meant they had to subtract Tyler Clippard. Then right on the deadline they strengthened their starting rotation with the addition of Sonny Gray from Oakland and Jaime Garcia from the Minnesota Twins.
Whilst it would be in August that we will see whether Gray and Garcia provide an upgrade, the arrival of Robertson and Kahnle was evidently a master-stroke especially since Clippard’s season was falling apart at the seams.
The Yankees pitching in June finally settled to a level much closer to what might have been expected when the season began. Add into the mix a few significant injuries and it was not a sweet recipe that was cooking as the month went along.
As we pointed out in our last column, the Yankees are having a steady, productive and successful season so far. The same can be said of their pitching. With the exception of Aroldis Chapman whose struggles led to further medical examination and then to the 10-day disabled list, most everyone is living up to or exceeding expectations. Let’s look in a little more detail:
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!
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.