The expression that good pitching will defeat good hitting has always been true in baseball. Instead of chasing top free agent pitchers Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, and James Shields, the Yankees decided to stand pat with their 2015 starting pitchers. The only guy they brought in was Nathan Eovaldi via trade. Gone from the 2014 roster are Brandon McCarthy, Hiroki Kuroda, David Phelps, and Shane Greene. With the opening of spring training around the corner, the projected five starters for the Yankees are Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi, and Chris Capuano.
Recently, both pitching coach Larry Rothchild and GM Brian Cashman declared their projected number one and number two pitchers CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka will both pitch complete seasons in 2015. In spite of their optimism, let’s look at reality. Sabathia, 34, is a large man coming back from off-season surgery to fix a degenerate knee condition. In his first season last year in New York, Tanaka, 26, had a 12-4 record before he was diagnosed with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament, an injury that often requires Tommy John surgery. Hoping to avoid a procedure that would sideline him 12 to 18 months, he chose a rest and rehabilitation program. Eovaldi is regarded as a lot better pitcher than the 4.37 ERA he put up last year. Capuano, resigned as a free agent, will be a temporary replacement for Ivan Nova, who is recovering from TJ surgery. No one ever questioned Pineda’s stuff but the table below reveals a real problem. He had the lowest ERA .189 of the seven starters but only averaged 38 innings pitched for 2013 and 2014. His average number of DL days for those two years was the highest of the seven starters at 98 days.
The table below (courtesy of LLSTATS,LLC) provides the ERA, average innings pitched and average days lost due to being placed on the DL list for the projected seven starting Yankee pitchers. The last two rows compares the Yankee starting pitchers AVG to the AL Playoff Teams starting pitchers AVG for the two years 2013 and 2014. Tanaka only pitched in 2014.
Looking at the ERA in the table below, if the Yankee starting pitching staff stays healthy they represent a playoff quality staff. However, the second and third columns show staying healthy is a real problem.
The uncertain state of the Yankee starting pitchers will be bolstered by a very strong bullpen. In spite of the loss of David Robertson, the acquisition of Andrew Miller, Justin Wilson, David Carpenter, and Chasen Shreve along with the return of Esmail Rogers and Adam Warren give the Yankees one of the best bullpens in baseball. Not matching the White Sox offer of four years $14.6 million for Robertson was a big mistake. If George was still alive this never would have happened. If the Yankees had kept Robertson as their closer, Betances would have been the eighth inning pitcher and Miller would be the seventh inning pitcher. This would have represented the best late-inning trio in baseball.
Without Robertson, Betances will become the closer and Miller the setup man. Please don’t worry about Betances as the closer he is a power pitcher who has demonstrated he can perform under pressure. The signing of Miller and the trading for Wilson and Shreve gives the Yankees three left-handed strikeout pitchers which is very rare in baseball. Warren performed well in his first year in relief and can be a part-time starter, long reliever, or even a one-inning pitcher. Another good candidate for long relief is Esmil Rogers.