The New York Yankees decided in the second half of 2016 that they were going with youth. It was a little surprising therefore, to see their two major signings in the first half of the post-season be a 36-year-old who would be designated hitter and one of the relief pitchers they traded away in the movements that took place around the trade deadline
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: New York Yankees versus Tampa Bay Rays
Where: Yankee Stadium, New York, New York, USA
When: September 4 to 6, 2015
New York City is one of my favourite places in the world. London, Whitby (UK not Canada), Stratford-upon-Avon and New York are the places I love and not necessarily in that order. Being back there is always a good thing.
They call it the City That Never Sleeps and you can see why. But I guess in a city that never sleeps then sometimes changes seem to happen at double the speed. Some of my favourite things about this city are gone forever.
There was Mickey Mantle’s restaurant on 59th Street and its mashed potatoes and chicken. It’s not there are any more. There was the food and idiosyncratic shopping at the South Street Seaport. It’s been demolished. Of course, there was the old Yankee Stadium which you will look for in vain. It’s a long time gone. It’s not only Joe DiMaggio who we must ask where he is gone, some other favourites are gone too.
I first caught the baseball bug in the mid 80s but it was the mid 90s before I journeyed to New York to sit in that old Stadium that Ruth built. Then there was a players’ strike but like them I was to be back the following year. 1995.
1995. The year that a still developing centre-fielder called Bernie Williams was joined in the majors by four more developing stars. Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. Somebody told me a few days ago that the New York Yankees buy their success. That’s fine rhetoric and oft repeated but the evidence won’t bear it. The Yankees are at their strongest when their farm system is at its strongest – whether it be the “Core Four” of 1995 or the debuts of Mantle, DiMaggio, Gehrig or Munson. Growing internal greats has always worked out best.