Starting pitching now a strength for the Yankees

Heading into the 2017 season, the Yankees had a lot of doubts and concerns, especially surrounding their starting rotation. Luis Severino followed his breakout 2015 rookie season with a thud in 2016. C.C. Sabathia was another year older. Michael Pineda was still the inconsistent of inconsistencies. Jordan Montgomery was an unknown rookie, while Masahiro Tanaka was the only starter that fans weren’t worried about after his Cy Young-caliber 2016 season. Well fast forward to the last month of the season and a lot has changed in this rotation.

Photo Credit: Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Tanaka went from the pitcher everyone trusted the most to now being arguably the least. He was the worst pitcher in baseball through the first few months, but has rebounded nicely in his last 12 starts up until Friday’s horrible outing against the Rangers. Before the start, he had lowered his ERA in the past 12 starts from 6.34 to 4.54.

Elsewhere, Severino has become a true ace in his third season, as he’s been the third-best AL starter throughout the season. Montgomery impressed in the first few months of the season before being demoted to Scranton, but has struggled to regain that form since coming back to the Bronx as a September call up. Sabathia has been incredible considering his loss of power as a pitcher. Pineda looked like he was turning things around before he returned to his inconsistencies followed by having Tommy John Surgery.

The new guys to the rotation have had mixed results a few starts into their Yankees career. Jaime Garcia has struggled in pinstripes, proving he’s almost guaranteed to be just a rental. He hasn’t pitched in about two weeks now. Was he worth Dietrich Enns and Zack Littell, two guys who were packed behind the crazy depth of the Yanks farm system? Probably not, as Littell has been amazing in the minors and let’s be honest, Montgomery is better than Garcia. Despite the struggles though, he does bring leadership to the clubhouse, as he’s been to the playoffs before with the Cardinals. What about Sonny Gray? He’s been totally worth everything New York gave up for him, even despite the poor run support he receives. The former A’s pitcher has been crazily consistent in his first few starts and you could make a case that he’s been the fourth-best AL starter.

The rotation has come a long ways since Opening Day and now they have a reliable sixth starter in case of an injury, rather than someone like Luis Cessa or Bryan Mitchell. Virtually all these starters are trustworthy in a playoff game and despite his struggles, Tanaka is still a very good fourth starter. Sabathia’s been there before and has proved to be a big-game pitcher in the playoffs before. This rotation can put up with any rotation in the AL on the road to the World Series. Yes the Astros’ Keuchel-McCullers-Verlander trio is potent, but the first two have proved to be injury-prone and the Yanks trio isn’t far behind anyways.

The other top competitors include the Red Sox, who have a very good top four in Cy Young favorite Chris Sale, breakout lefty Drew Pomeranz, veteran David Price, and 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello. Three of these being lefties creates even more matchup problems for opposing offenses, but the Yanks would still fare well having faced them a lot this season and Severino showing he can go toe-to-toe with Sale. In fact, the Yanks have gotten their best outings of the season from these guys, as Sevy, Montgomery, and Sabathia all threw gems while pitching against Sale. The last would be the Indians, who have the biggest competitor to Sale winning the Cy Young in Corey Kluber. In addition they have Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco, who are both very injury-prone, but are really good when healthy. Mike Clevinger has broken out, helping them make up for the injuries.

Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images

Overall though, the Yankees rotation stacks up pretty well against the top AL competitors if they make the playoffs. As we know, the bullpen is capable of being the best in the playoffs. Especially with more days of rest, this bullpen should thrive with six guys capable of shutting down opposing offenses for an inning or two.

The offense also has the potential to do damage, especially with Starlin Castro, Matt Holliday, and Greg Bird returning to the lineup. The biggest concern about the lineup continues to be Aaron Judge’s second half slump, as he’s been one of the worst hitters in baseball since he won the Home Run Derby. He’s been better this past week though, hitting four homers, including a multi-homer game against the Rangers on Sunday.

At this point in the season, it’s crazy to think the Yankees biggest strength may be their rotation. It’s certainly been the most consistent part of the team, as the offense tends to disappear for multiple games and the bullpen has improved but still has far too many blown games for how good they should be. With a stout foursome of Severino, Sabathia, Gray, and Tanaka, the Yanks could have the potential to make some noise in the playoffs.                       

Article by: Spencer Schultz


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