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!
(up to and including March 23, 2016)
At the time of our last column, the Yankees stood at 5-8. Since then they have improved to 9-10 and they have seen Brett Gardner able to take regular at-bats and gain his first hits and RBI, and Jacoby Ellsbury take a pitch off his wrist which has limited his participation but, in general, the roster is taking shape.
Let’s survey the pitchers and who is likely to be on that roster as March turns into April.
One of the interesting factors for the New York Yankees over the last several seasons is how they handle the roster expansion in September. This year, as in the past, Joe Girardi seemed to feel under an obligation to try to use everybody, almost as though the season was already over and it was just a case of giving people game time. But this wasn’t Spring Training, it was a crucial chase to catch the Blue Jays and watching players like Chasen Shreve, and Bryan Mitchell coming apart at the seams wasn’t helpful to them or to the cause. Let’s see what happened:
What: The New York Yankees vs the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays
When: 7th September to 13th September 2015
Where: Yankee Stadium, New York, New York
Stood outside Yankee Stadium on the 10th of September as the rain begins to gently fall, you realise that perhaps this is not going to go to plan. When the series with the Orioles had opened and a Yankees win meant that the lead that Toronto had in the American League East was cut back to half a game, the world seemed filled with optimism. Even when Baltimore took the next two games, things hadn’t seemed so bad – results elsewhere had gone in the Yankees favour. And after all, one and a half games behind doesn’t look so bad when the team ahead of you is just about to arrive in town for four games and anything could happen.
So whilst the bats were labouring the New York Yankees really needed the pitchers to pick up the slack. As it worked out their ERA was only marginally worse – 3.70 to 3.83 but the lack of batting left them with only a 14-14 record on the month which left the field wide open for the Toronto Blue Jays to steal the lead in the American League East which they were quite happy to do. Lurking behind the stats were impressive months for Masahiro Tanaka and Adam Warren particularly but let’s see what the rest of the picture reveals: