Midseason report card: pitchers

The pitching staff for the New York Yankees in the first half has shown signs of encouragement with some, and has shown extreme disappointments with others. The inconsistency of the starting rotation has somewhat plagued the Yankees as it has contributed to the team’s struggles to string together wins. Of course, the Yankees have the best trio of relievers in the league at the back end of the bullpen with ‘No Run DMC’ in Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman. Although these three have been everything the Yankees have hoped for, the bridge to getting to them has been well below average, which has prompted yet another year of the infamous ‘Scranton Shuttle.’ Pitchers are graded on a standard A, B, C, D, F scale, with A for exceeding expectations, C for meeting expectations, F for failing, and I for incomplete.
Starting Pitchers
Masahiro Tanaka:
Chad’s grade: A ; Steven’s Grade: A-


Chad: This season has been an incredibly good one for the Yankee ace, Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka has pitched to a 6-2 record with a 3.23 ERA and WHIP of 1.11. What is really intriguing about Tanaka are his home and road splits. At home, Tanaka is 2-1 with an ERA of 5.05, whereas he is 4-1 with an ERA of 2.50 on the road. He has nine starts each at home and on the road, so while we’d obviously like to see him pitch better in Yankee Stadium, I am more than pleased with what I have seen from Tanaka. He’s also been healthy, which is always encouraging.


Steven: Masahiro Tanaka has undoubtedly been the Yankees most consistent starter this season. That being said, he’s still failed to perform to his enormous contract. The last hurdle he has to overcome is pitching on regular rest. The numbers are quite clear. On normal rest, Tanaka is 1-2 with a 5.28 ERA. With extra rest, he’s a markedly improved 5-0 with a 1.72 ERA. Since the Yankees cannot ensure that Tanaka will get an extra day of rest every start, he must find a way to pitch better on regular rest. Although I’ve been one of Tanaka’s more vocal critics, it’s been comforting to know the Yankees have at least one starting pitcher they can count on for a quality outing.


Michael Pineda:
Chad’s grade: D ; Steven’s Grade: D


Chad: I come into every season with reasonably high expectations for Michael Pineda. I do not expect him to be an ace, but I do expect him and Tanaka to provide a strong 1-2 punch in the starting rotation. Unfortunately, that is not the case as evidenced by Pineda’s 3-8 record and 5.38 ERA. He’s also walked more batters this year (26) than he did in all of last year (21), in 10 fewer starts. Pineda was one of the worst starting pitchers in the big leagues during the first two months with ERAs of 6.33 and 7.52 in April and May, respectively. As Steven touched on (he wrote the pitchers part before me), Pineda was much better in June pitching to a 2.75 ERA. So, I’ll give credit where credit is due: Pineda has been better of late, but still an utter disappointment.


Steven: Michael Pineda is quite the character. After getting off to a dreadful start to the season, Pineda seems to have somewhat turned his season around. In ten starts in April and May, Pineda had a 6.93 ERA. In June, he pitched to a 2.75 ERA over six starts. Although Pineda’s 3-8 record may indicate otherwise, he appears to have finally gotten on the right track. His first July start against the White Sox, where he allowed a five run rally to occur with two outs, was disconcerting, but hopefully he can get himself grounded in the second half. Pineda has consistently been plagued by the “big inning.” When he fails to mitigate his damages, Pineda seems to become unhinged. With Pineda, half the battle is psychological. He certainly has the talent to succeed, however seeing him execute on a consistent basis will be quite the sight, if it ever occurs.


Nathan Eovaldi:
Chad’s grade: D+ ; Steven’s Grade: D-


Chad: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Did I jinx Nathan Eovaldi? I surely hope I didn’t. After Eovaldi’s Arrieta-esque May (slight hyperbole), I had officially jumped on the Eovaldi bandwagon. I even wrote an entire piece about why it was time for everyone to join me on the Eovaldi bandwagon. But since May where he went 5-0 with a 3.25 ERA, with opposing hitters hitting .241 against, Eovaldi has been one of the worst pitchers in Major League Baseball. He then went 0-3 with an 8.65 ERA and horrendous 1.81 ERA. Batters against Eovaldi hit .339 off him which is unbelievably bad. Eovaldi has since earned himself a demotion to the bullpen where he can hopefully figure himself out and revert to his May ways. Until then, Eovaldi gets an unsatisfactory grade, though I will give him the benefit of the doubt for his still stellar stuff (alliteration, I know), and his great May.


Steven: Unlike the co-author of this piece, I refused to drink the Nathan Eovaldi Kool-Aid. During the month of May, Eovaldi was amazing. He went 5-0 with a 3.25 ERA in six starts. Many Yankees fans, including the aforementioned, were raving that Eovaldi had finally put it together. While I was certainly encouraged by his performance, I maintained a high degree of skepticism, which turned out to be warranted. As soon as the calendar turned to June, Eovaldi’s luck ran out. He pitched so badly that the Yankees were forced to remove him from the rotation for the better good of the team. His two scoreless relief appearances, especially this past Sunday in Cleveland, were a step in the right direction. If Eovaldi does find his way back into the rotation, lets hope he can use his demotion as a learning experience to continue growing as a pitcher.

CC Sabathia:
Chad’s grade: A ; Steven’s Grade: A-

Chad: CC Sabathia gets an A because frankly, I expected absolutely nothing from him. Sure, coming out of alcohol rehab had to be a good thing for his health, but having endured that struggle along with his aging arm, I anticipated an all-out fallout for the former ace. At the same time, Sabathia is one of my most beloved Yankees, so I found myself rooting for him as hard as any other Yankee player. In 2016, Sabathia has come to play. Currently, he is 5-6 with a 3.77 ERA (which has gone up rapidly since June 16 where it was 2.20). Sabathia has held his opposition to hitting just .249 against him this year, compared to .285 in 2015, .301 in 2014, and .272 in 2013. While Eovaldi had an incredible May, Sabathia was even better going 2-2 with a 1.04 ERA and 0.81 WHIP. Sabathia is no longer the ace of the New York Yankees, so for the team’s fifth starter, he has been fun to watch.

Steven: I never expected that Sabathia would pitch to the level he’s pitched to in 2016. For a certain period of time, it appeared as if Sabathia had found a time machine and brought us back to 2009. While he has regressed as of late, he’s been far better than anybody could have hoped for heading into the season. Prior to his recent struggles, Sabathia was making a solid case for an All-Star nod. He’s been a solid number two behind Tanaka in the rotation this year. To expect him to pitch at the elite level we saw in May, where he posted a 1.04 ERA in four starts, may be expecting too much, but as long as he can provide a quality start every fifth day I’d be more than content.

Ivan Nova:
Chad’s grade: D ; Steven’s Grade: D

Chad: I never really know what to say about Ivan Nova. He has a knack for returning to the Yankees rotation, having two or three great starts, then turning back into - well - himself again. Nova joined the Yankees rotation on May 9 with a 5.14 ERA, which through three starts, he had lowered to 3.26. However, just three starts later, it was back up to 4.41. This is the kind of pitcher Nova is. He has good stuff, but he’s hittable, and not a long term solution as a starting pitcher with the Yankees.

Steven: To put it simply, Ivan Nova has been Ivan Nova. Whenever we think Nova has turned the corner, he once again regresses to the mediocre pitcher he’s been throughout the course of his career. If it weren’t for the Yankees’ lack of starting pitching depth, Nova would have been removed from the rotation. Since there are no viable options to replace him, the Yankees have no choice but send Nova to the mound every fifth day and hope for the best. With Nova, it’s a roller coaster ride. Considering he’s a free agent at the end of the season, we can only hope his desire for a new contract will prompt him to have a solid second half.

Luis Severino:
Chad’s grade: F ; Steven’s Grade: F

Chad: Although I was not expecting Luis Severino to jump out of the gates of 2016 and become the full-fledged ace of the staff, I was expecting Severino to build off his 2015 campaign and put together a very solid sophomore season. Instead, Severino has been victimized by the infamous sophomore slump. The 22-year-old righty made seven starts with the Yankees going 0-6 with a 7.46 ERA, with opposing batters hitting .327 against him. He had a tendency to throw sliders that spun, but didn’t break, so without a reliable offspeed pitch, hitters could key in on the hard stuff. Despite his struggles in the MLB, Severino has been good in Triple-A Scranton going 5-1 with a 3.18 ERA in nine starts. He’s also held hitters to a .221 clip against him. With the recent struggles of the Yankees rotation, he should have his number called again soon, and maybe he can raise his grade by season’s end.

Steven: The 22-year-old Severino struggled profusely during his time in the majors this season. After setting the bar high for himself based on his rookie performance last season, Severino struggled out of the gate, forcing the Yankees to subsequently send him to the minor leagues after his DL stint. In seven starts, Severino went 0-6 with a 7.46 ERA. I hope Severino will be able to replace Nova in the rotation at some point in the second half and prove that he’s got what it takes to succeed at the big league level. The Yankees’ future is contingent on a number of younger players enjoying such success, and Severino happens to be one of the most important in that regard.

Chad Green:
Chad’s grade: I ; Steven’s Grade: I

Chad: While Chad Green has a great first name, he has not had a great time with the Yankees. In four appearances (three starts), Green is 1-2 with a 7.04 ERA, but he has been hurt by two bad outings. In San Diego on July 3, Green had one of the best starts of any Yankee pitcher this year across six innings where he allowed just three hits, one run, zero walks, and eight strikeouts. He followed that up with an outing in Cleveland where he went just 4.1 innings allowing five hits and seven runs, on four home runs. If you look at Green’s minor league numbers, you’re going to be blown away by his 1.54 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and .207 BAA. This has shot him up a few prospect boards, including ours, but he still does not appear to be big-league ready.

Steven: I’m not quite sure what to make of Chad Green. Acquired from the Detroit Tigers in the Justin Wilson trade, which still puzzles me, this offseason, Green has spent most of the season in the minors. His three major league starts have been all over the place. He followed up a disappointing start against the Diamondbacks, with a solid performance against the Padres, which allowed him to temporarily replace Eovaldi in the rotation. His horrific start against the Indians prompted his subsequent demotion, and Eovaldi’s probable return to the rotation.

Bullpen
Photo Credit: Cliff Welch | Icon Sportswire
Conor Mullee:
Chad’s grade: I ; Steven’s Grade: I

Chad: In three outings, few and far between, Mullee allowed just one earned run in three innings. Still, he has yet to allow a hit in the big leagues (three walks in his major league debut hurt). He then went down with an injury, but when he comes back, he could rejoin the bullpen.

Steven: During his three games in the major leagues this season, Mullee actually showed some potential. I was genuinely disappointed to see him land on the disabled list. That being said, it’s impossible to rate a player off of a sample size as small as three games. Hopefully, he’ll be back sooner rather than later to help this team in the second half.

Phil Coke:
Chad’s grade: I ; Steven’s Grade: I

Chad: Phil Coke was just a bad idea from the start. He only lasted three games pitching six innings with a 6.00 ERA and one strikeout before being sent to Triple-A. He just isn’t a serviceable major league pitcher anymore.

Steven: I actually forgot that Phil Coke had a stint with the Yankees this year. Since CC Sabathia turned the clock back to 2009, maybe the Yankees thought bringing some of the cast members back would help change the team’s mediocrity. Well, it didn’t.

Luis Cessa:
Chad’s grade: C+ ; Steven’s Grade: D

Chad: For a pitcher who has been subjected to the Scranton Shuttle, Luis Cessa has taken advantage of his opportunities in the big leagues. In six outings, he has a 3.95 ERA with a BAA of .231. It’s only a matter of time before he gets a spot start somewhere, and maybe then we can see exactly what he can do for the Yankees.

Steven:  Now we can begin assessing the players who I have labeled as members of the “revolving door of clowns.” The last few years the Yankees have made a habit of constantly calling up, and subsequently sending down, mediocre middle relievers, instead of investing in solid relievers who could consistently get the job done. Notice that I’ve given each of the next five players the same grade for this exact reason. Thus far, Cessa has posited a 3.95 ERA in his six major league games. That’s not too shabby, but every time I see him pitching he gives up runs, therefore prompting my subjective evaluation.

Richard Bleier:
Chad’s grade: C ; Steven’s Grade: D

Chad: I had not heard of Richard Bleier before the season began. Bleier is a pitching to contact pitcher with five strikeouts in 10.2 innings, and he has not been too bad with a 4.22 ERA. Do I trust Bleier out of the bullpen? Not necessarily. Is he better than some of the other options? Maybe.

Steven: In ten his 10 games with the major league club, Bleier has pitched to a 4.22 ERA in 10.2 innings. This isn’t awful, but, similar to Cessa, I subjectively associate him with the middle relief circus.

Anthony Swarzak:
Chad’s grade: C- ; Steven’s Grade: D

Chad: Anthony Swarzak has been given the opportunity to play a pivotal role in the bridge to ‘No Run DMC’ with the struggles of Kirby Yates and Chasen Shreve, but he has flopped. He’s had a decent career, and hasn’t been incredibly awful if you dig into his numbers. He has a very nice WHIP of 1.11 and a semi-respectable BAA of .261. He also has 14 strikeouts in 12.2 innings giving him the ability to put hitters away. Still, a few bad outings recently may have him back in Scranton soon.

Steven: Swarzak has not been very good this year at all. In 2016, Swarzak has a 5.28 ERA in 11 games. He’s simply another member of the revolving door that has become the Yankees bullpen, with the exceptions of Betances, Miller, and Chapman, of course.

Johnny Barbato:
Chad’s grade: D+ ; Steven’s Grade: D

Chad: I was riding the Johnny Barbato bandwagon in full force in April, 2016. Barbato was one of the team’s pleasant surprises in spring training winning a job on the opening day roster. He carried that momentum into the season not allowing a run until his sixth appearances. However, a bad outing in Boston where he managed to get just one out allowing three hits and four runs upped his ERA from 2.53 to 5.73, and the pressure was on from there. Perhaps he was fatigued as he made 12 appearances in just over a month, but I really do hope to see him again soon as I trust him over most of the other Scranton Shuttle pitchers.

Steven: I’m actually torn on Johnny Barbato. Having made the squad out of spring training, Barbato showed some promise early on. After he hit some struggles, the Yankees chose to send him down. While this was a reasonable position to take at the time, I’m curious as to why the Yankees have not called him up again in the midst of all the changes they’ve made with the bullpen thus far. He’s only 24-years-old so I’d much rather see him get a shot than the 30-year old Swarzak.

Nick Goody:
Chad’s grade: C- ; Steven’s Grade: D

Chad: Nick Goody has made 19 appearances thus far in 2016 which is the most of any Scranton Shuttle reliever, While he hasn’t excelled, he has been terrible with a 4.91 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 22 innings. He also carries a solid 1.36 WHIP, but a .287 BAA. I can’t give Goody a good grade, but he is not failing by any means.

Steven: Nick Goody exemplifies what’s wrong with the Yankees middle relief situation. This is nothing against Goody personally, however I have vivid memories of him and Brendan Pinder losing games for this team last year. Thus far in 2016, Goody has pitched to a 4.91 ERA in 19 games. Nothing special here.

Chasen Shreve:
Chad’s grade: D+ ; Steven’s Grade: D

Chad: When the Yankees traded Justin Wilson, it opened the door for Chasen Shreve to establish himself as the team’s best option out of the bullpen other than Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman. Shreve has not capitalized on this opportunity as he sports a 4.64 ERA in 21.1 innings with only 18 strikeouts. His 0.98 WHIP is an encouraging outlier, and he still has the potential to be a good option out of the bullpen. However, since the last few months of last season, carrying into this season, Shreve has not been at his best and it has resulted in a temporary demotion to Triple-A after his injury.

Steven: It appeared as if Shreve were on track to establish himself as a premier reliever in this league following his performance for most of 2015. Unfortunately, he imploded during the last two months of the season. Thus far, due to injury and ineffectiveness, Shreve hasn’t been given a sufficient opportunity to redeem himself. Now that he’s back on the major league roster, hopefully for good this time, he may become a weapon to help bridge the gap between the inconsistent starting rotation and no run DMC.

Kirby Yates:
Chad’s grade: D ; Steven’s Grade: D-

Chad: Kirby Yates had me fooled into thinking he was a go-to guy out of the bullpen for the Yankees until his disastrous June where he has a 14.04 ERA in 10 outings before being demoted to Triple-A. He’s likely to stay in the minors for the foreseeable future.

Steven: My memory of Kirby Yates will forever be associated with the 2am loss to the Texas Rangers, where he hit three batters! He had a few good games in the Bronx, but I’m happy he’s no longer on the major league roster.

Dellin Betances:
Chad’s grade: A- ; Steven’s Grade: B+

Chad: There is not enough to say about Dellin Betances. The only reason he gets an A- is to show that he has been the most erratic of the big three. At the same time, Betances earned his way to San Diego for the All-Star game (where he had one of the most dominating appearances of any pitcher), through 43 games with a mind-boggling 78 strikeouts and just 10 walks. Betances is striking out an unreal 16 batters per nine innings pitched, and his BAA is just .209. While he has a tendency to throw a hanging breaking ball, Betances is still one of the best releivers in the game, in a somewhat down year for the 6’8” righty. With the trade deadline looming, it may be a matter of time before he is the Yankees closer.

Steven: Though Betances was named to his third straight All-Star game this season, I’ve been slightly disappointed with the homegrown star. My evaluation of Betances is based primarily on a comparison of his performance this year with years past. Let me clarify by saying that he’s been amazing this year, however he hasn’t been as good as he’s showed he can be over the last few years. He’s exhibited alarming signs of erraticness. At times, he’s also been very hittable. From my observations, he’s the weakest link of the Yankees three-headed monster at the backend of the bullpen. By no means am I saying Betances hasn’t been very good this year, because to say so would be misleading, but I will admit that he hasn’t looked like himself. Hopefully I’m looking too much into it, and he’ll respond with an even better second half.

Andrew Miller:
Chad’s grade: A+ ; Steven’s Grade: A+

Chad: Steven and I are in agreement that Andrew Miller is the best reliever in all of baseball. Not only that, he is my favorite player on the New York Yankees, so I will be disappointed if he is dealt at the trade deadline. Miller has pitched 38 games out of the bullpen for the Yankees converting seven out of eight save opportunities with a 1.37 ERA, 0.71 WHIP and .159 BAA. The crafty lefty with the most devastating slider in baseball is also striking out 15.8 batters per nine innings pitched with 69 strikeouts on the year, and just six walks. In the event that the Yankees do trade him, they will receive a massive return, as he is signed through two more seasons after this one.

Steven: In my mind, Andrew Miller is the best reliever in baseball. He’d more than likely be the closer on any other team. There’s nothing not to like about Miller. He’s a consummate professional both on, and off, the field. This season, statistically speaking, Miller has been the best of the “big three.” While Betances and Chapman have had a few mortal moments, Miller’s have not been as pronounced. Miller has rightfully been named to the All-Star team this season due to his elite performance. If the Yankees do choose to trade Chapman, as will be discussed below, I have no doubt that Miller be able to seamlessly ease back into the closer’s role he flourished in last season. Click HERE to read my recent article, where I advocate against trading Miller.

Aroldis Chapman:
Chad’s grade: A ; Steven’s Grade: A

Chad: After serving his suspension, Aroldis Chapman has returned, and he has been the pitcher that he was advertised to be. When watching him pitch, you can hear the crowd’s “oooo’s” and “ahhh’s” after every 100+ MPH fastball. Chapman is 17 of 18 in save opportunities and has struck out 38 batters against just six walks, good for 13.5 K/9. He’s also held batters to a sub .200 BAA. In a contract year, Chapman may be traded to a contending team as well, but don’t rule out the Yankees signing him this offseason when he hits the open market.

Steven: Aroldis Chapman has been everything the Yankees could have expected him to be after acquiring the fireballer from the Reds this winter. Due to his ability to reach triple digits on the radar gun, Chapman has been accompanied by a sense of thrill. When Chapman takes the mound at Yankee Stadium, it’s easy to forget he’s playing for a mediocre baseball team. In all likelihood, Chapman will be traded by this year’s deadline. If this indeed turns out to be the case, it’s been a pleasure and I hope the Yankees can get as much as they possibly can for him.

Conclusion
While the back-end of the bullpen has been elite (the best in the MLB), fans may begin seeing changes to the Yankees pitching staff during the second half of the season. It will be shocking if Chapman is not traded, and Miller has also been subjected to trade talks with multiple teams interested in the Yankee left-handers. There’s also a chance the Yankees have an all-out fire sale, which would result in a starting pitcher or two being dealt as well. Click HERE to see part one of our midseason report card to see our grades for the Yankees’ position players.

Article by: Chad Raines and Steven Eareckson
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