Yankees Postseason Pitching Overview
October is here and 11 wins and 297 outs separate the New York Yankees from their 28th World Series title. To get there, Aaron Boone will have to get creative with his pitching staff. Gone are the days of counting on a starter to go more than five innings in a postseason start, and the Yanks just won 103 games despite having a starting rotation that was, at times, shoddy. In last year’s postseason, New York got 27 innings out of the bullpen and just 17 frames from their starters. Ideally, it will be more of a 50/50 split this season, but the team only has three true starters heading into October due to injuries, ineffectiveness and a suspension.
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Two weeks ago, the Yankees appeared set with their four-man rotation of James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino and Domingo German. However, a wrench got thrown in that plan when German was suspended for violating the league’s Domestic Violence Policy on September 19th. As a result, the 27-year-old will not (as should be the case) throw another pitch this year. German was the team’s most consistent starter throughout the season, finishing with a 4.03 ERA in 143 innings. His absence means the bullpen will be leaned on even more heavily.
Because of German’s suspension, Luis Severino becomes even more important now. He needs to be a true starter, rather than a multi-inning reliever/opener. While it’s hard to trust the 25-year-old after he pitched in just three games (12 innings) this season, he showed flashes in those tune-ups and posted a 1.50 ERA, while striking out 17 batters. His postseason track record is a little troubling (6.26 ERA in 23 innings), but the Yanks need Severino on top of his game if they’re going to win it all. Expect the young righty to pitch between three and five innings, whether it’s as a starter or following an opener.
Four shutout innings for Luis Severino in his season debut.— BetMGM (@BetMGM) September 18, 2019
4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 K
In addition, Boone will most likely turn to Chad Green as an opener in the games German would’ve started. In 15 games as an opener this season, Green had a 3.72 ERA in 19.1 innings. However, the ERA was largely inflated by the five-run blowup he had against the Indians on August 15th. In 12 of the 15 outings, Green didn’t allow an earned run, and the Yanks went 11-4 in those contests. It was a successful strategy, and it’s one that Boone could conceivably go to in any game. Boone even had Tanaka follow Green in his final game last weekend to get some experience in that position.
As for the other pitchers that will follow Green, there are plenty of options. CC Sabathia and J.A. Happ both pitched out of the bullpen at the end of the regular season, and any October appearances they make will probably be as relievers. There are also two or three remaining bullpen spots and I would give them to Luis Cessa and Jonathan Loaisiga. Cessa has been solid in the long-relief role all year, pitching to a 4.11 ERA in 81 innings. As for Loaisiga, he turned it on late in the season by posting a 3.00 ERA in 15 innings since August 20th. Both could be used for multiple innings in middle-relief.
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Out of the bullpen, it’s all about the four horsemen: Adam Ottavino (1.90 ERA), Tommy Kahnle (3.67), Zack Britton (1.91) and Aroldis Chapman (2.21). New York was 25-1 in games where all four relief aces pitched. The lone loss came on the last day of the regular season in Texas. There might be games where Boone goes to his big four as early as the third or fourth inning and asks for upwards of 18 outs from them. While it hurts to not have Dellin Betances in the fold as well, having the division largely locked up by September allowed Aaron Boone to rest his bullpen for the stretch run.
Having a sizable lead in AL East gave Yankees the freedom, if they so chose, to rest big 4 relievers. And, man, have they rested them. These pitch counts are eye-popping. Chapman: 30 pitches in last 16 days. Britton: 24 in 15. Ottavino: 44 in 15. Kahnle, the workhorse: 69 in 15.— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) September 29, 2019
Moving onto the ALDS starters, I think Boone turns to James Paxton in game one. The big lefty hasn’t lost a game since July and has a 2.51 ERA in 61 innings since the beginning of August. He has turned into the ace the Yankees had hoped for when they acquired him in the off-season. In game two, Masahiro Tanaka seems like the easy choice due to his home/road splits (3.10 at home and 6.05 road). Tanaka also has a postseason pedigree, with a 1.50 ERA in 30 innings (five starts). That leaves Luis Severino for game three and then an opener in game four.
Aaron Boone has to be ready to do whatever it takes to win games this postseason. We could see games where multiple starters are used one after another, openers being featured multiple times in a series and the bullpen called upon as early as the third or fourth inning. Boone will have to combine what the numbers say and what his gut tells him like Alex Cora did last Fall with Boston. Mistakes are going to be made, but Boone has proven he knows how to manage this pitching staff. This team has the talent and the coaching to win, now it’s all about execution.
Roster Spots (12):
Starters (3): James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino
Bulk Relievers (4): Jonathan Loaisiga, Luis Cessa, J.A. Happ, CC Sabathia
High-Leverage Relievers (5): Chad Green, Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, Zack Britton, Aroldis Chapman
Article by: Jake Graziano