A few days ago, we took a look at the first two months of the Yankees season, grading the team’s hitting and defense, position by position. Today, we are going to focus on starting pitchers.
While the hitters have supplied lots of muscle, Yankees pitchers have fared quite well, for the most part. Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia each have six wins. However, if you watched Tuesday night’s game against the Boston Red Sox, you’ll see why everything isn’t completely well in the rotation. Let’s dig in.
Masahiro Tanaka – (5-6, 6.55 ERA, 1.50 WHIP) After three seasons of dependable starts and a career record of 39-16, the sky is falling. Or are those just all the home runs balls landing around us? In seven of Tanaka’s 12 starts, he has allowed a minimum of four runs. In 66 innings, he’s allowed 17 home runs (!), which would translate to 51 over a 200 inning season. Tanaka insists he is healthy, which has been debated since July 2014, Tanaka’s rookie season. His velocity is not down, in a start against Baltimore on April 8, he was 96 mph or above three straight pitches. His BB/9 innings is 2.5, a career high. His first three seasons were between 1.4 and 1.6, a telling sign pointing to lack of command. Tanaka has shown signs of his dominating self in three separate starts against the White Sox, Red Sox and A’s, allowing 2 runs and 14 hits over 23.1 innings, proving his stuff and ability are there. The Yankees will need “the good Tanaka” if they want to contend long-term in 2017.
CC Sabathia – (7-2, 3.66 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) Sabathia has provided strings of dependable in 2017. Since he started wearing the knee brace on his right knee at the tail end of 2015, he’s pitched better and shown a more velocity. He’s made the transformation from an all power guy to more of a finesse pitcher. But he can still reach back for a little extra when he needs it, touching 93-94 when needed.
CC can be a bit streaky. He allowed three earned runs total in his first three starts, while allowing 22 earned runs in the following four. Sabathia has pitched to the tune of a 1.11 ERA since May 16, winning all five starts, including a masterful performance against Boston on June 7 (0 runs in 8 innings). With Tanaka having his problems, the Yankees need this to continue.
Michael Piñeda – Updated stats: (7-3, 3.39 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) Piñeda has as many wins right now as he had all last season, which says quite a lot about how poorly 2016 went for him. He still gives up lots of home-runs (13) and still strikes out a lot of batters, but a big difference is in his WHIP, which is lower than the last two seasons. His walk rate is down from 2.7/9 IP in ’16 to 2.1, and his hits per 9 IP is down from 9.4 to 8.4. He’s doing much better at locating and keeping away from the big inning. He’s still prone to getting rattled out there, so it’s something to monitor, but bottom-line Piñeda is giving the team a chance to win.
Pineda pitched a strong outing tonight vs. Boston, his updated stats after beating the Red Sox stand at: 7-3, 3.39 ERA, WHIP 1.13. As a result, I also upgraded his report card grade from C-plus to B-minus.
Luis Severino – (4-2, 2.90 ERA, 1.07 WHIP) What a difference from last year. In 2016, Severino was tattooed early and often as a member of the starting rotation, to the point where he was sent back to Triple-A Scranton in mid-May. He ping-ponged back and forth between New York and Scranton, but never seemed settled. Luis spent a lot of time over the winter with Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, who worked with him with on several facets of the game and are paying dividends. He has struck out 76 over 68.1 innings and lowered his walk rate from 3.2 per 9 IP to 2.1. Severino has provided length as well, giving seven innings or more in six of his 11 starts. Sevy seems to have come of age.
Jordan Montgomery – (3-4, 3.67 ERA, 1.28 WHIP) Rookie starter Montgomery has done a very nice job as the 5th starter in the rotation. In his ten starts, Monty has gone at least six innings and has limited any damage when things haven’t gone well. In his last start, Montgomery shut down a hot Blue Jays lineup that scored 37 runs in their previous five games. It’s easy to see why the Yankees are very high on him.
In our final installment of Yankees Report-Card, we’ll tackle the bullpen.
See ya next time!