Yankees Can Use Another Starter, But Who?

UPDATE (6-5-2018):  It was announced this afternoon that Jordan Montgomery will undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his 2018 season and probably the majority of 2019 as well.

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It’s almost Memorial Day, and we are almost 50 games into the regular season. The New York Yankees are one game behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East division. The next closest team (Tampa Bay Rays) is nine games back, and the Rays just traded Alex Colome and Denard Span to Seattle for minor league pitchers. It appears the AL East will likely become a two-horse race between Boston and New York.

Both the Red Sox and the Yankees are displaying a potent lineup that can overpower opponents. A stark difference between these two clubs is starting pitching. Chris Sale and David Price are perennial Cy Young Award candidates, and Rick Porcello won the AL Cy Young Award in 2016. All three can easily get deep into games every time out, and ease the strain Boston’s bullpen.

The Yankees have Luis Severino whom they can count on to give them innings and get deep into the game, but he’s the only one who has pitched consistently well. Masahiro Tanaka can be lights out when he is on his game, but he can also easily get pounded and is extremely home run prone. CC Sabathia has pitched well at times and doesn’t give up much hard contact, but he is averaging five innings per start, has allowed 15 runs in his last three starts and will be 38 years old soon. Sonny Gray has been very inconsistent with location, walking too many hitters and is also averaging five innings per start. Young Domingo German dazzled in his May 6 start against the Cleveland Indians, allowing no hits over six innings before leaving because he was on a pitch-count. Since then, he has allowed 12 runs in his following two starts, covering 8.2 innings. That’s not going to work when your rotation already isn’t getting deep into games.

With Jordan Montgomery out for at least another month or two, and with the lack of consistency in the current rotation, it would be interesting to see if Brian Cashman might swing a trade to acquire another proven starter to help shore things up. There are several starters who will be (or potentially could be) free-agents after 2018. Let’s take a look at a few of them:

 

Gio Gonzalez (WAS) – The 32 year old southpaw is set to be a free-agent after 2018. He has pitched well this season in Washington (5-2, 2.38 ERA, 1.32 WHIP), but has had bouts of inconsistency with location. Gonzalez walks an average of 4.1/9 IP and routinely reaches 100 pitches after five innings. That wouldn’t fit well with a team who desperately needs a starter who can give length. Plus the Nationals are a contending team who likely wouldn’t look into making a trade unless their season went off the rails.

Fit for Yankees? Unlikely.

 

Lance Lynn (MIN) – The 30 year old righty has a reputation as an consistent innings-eater from his days with the Cardinals, but he’s been anything but in Minnesota. He signed a one year/12 million dollar deal late in spring training, and didn’t have much time to get in shape. To date, Lynn’s numbers are terrible (2-4, 6.34ERA, 1.86 WHIP) and is walking over 6 batters per nine innings.

Fit for Yankees? Not likely.

 

Patrick Corbin (AZ) – The 28 year old Corbin, a Syracuse native, grew up a Yankees fan. He’s pitched to the tune of a 4-1, 2.60 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and is averaging 6.2 innings per start. His walk rates are down and strike-out rates are up from last season, and he’s allowing a paltry 5.6 hits/9 innings. I think he’s probably the best choice of all the soon to be free agents, and Yankees GM Brian Cashman has made several good deals with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the past.

Fit for Yankees? TRADE FOR HIM ALREADY!

 

Brandon McCarthy (ATL) – Back in July 2014, Cashman swung a trade with Arizona to acquire McCarthy from the Dbacks for Vidal Nuno. It ended up being a steal, as McCarthy pitched very well in his three months in the Bronx, helping them stay in the playoff hunt until the last part of the season. The tall righty will be 35 in July, but still appears to have plenty in the tank. On the surface, McCarthy’s numbers aren’t great (5-2, 4.67 ERA, 1.57 WHIP), but two very ugly back to back starts in early May have skewed the numbers. I would think the Braves would gladly take a lower-level prospect or two for McCarthy, especially if they start to drop in the standings.

Fit for Yankees? Yes, as long as he stays healthy (which could be problematic).

 

Matt Harvey (CIN) – On May 8th, the 29 year old Dark Knight was swept out of Queens when the Mets traded Harvey to the Cincinnati Reds, ending his tumultuous stint with the Metropolitans. He hadn’t been the same since the end of 2015 due to injuries and his well documented problems with the team and it’s management didn’t help his cause. Since the trade, Harvey is 1-0, 2.57/0.93 WHIP, and his fastball velocity has rebounded, touching 97 mph in his May 22nd start against the Pirates. His 2018 overall stats still look ugly, but maybe this trade was the wake-up call he needed. If Harvey pitches well for the next two months, the Reds could easily flip him to a contending team looking to shore up it’s pitching. You know, like the Yankees.

Fit for Yankees? I don’t see it happening, given what’s happened over the last couple years in nearby Flushing, but stranger things have happened.

 

Clayton Kershaw (LAD) – Kershaw has an opt-out in his contract that could enable him to become a free-agent after the season, which should have some teams looking for Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi’s phone number. Currently on the DL with biceps tendonitis, Kershaw has missed time with various injuries in four of the last five seasons. When healthy, he’s pitched as well as ever, and at 30 years of age, is still in his prime. Kershaw’s stat-line (1-4, 2.86 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) shows how useless win-loss records are, and he’s still racking up strikeouts at close to his normal rate (9.8/9 innings). It makes for fun speculation, but I don’t see Kershaw leaving LA, whether he becomes a FA after this year or next.

Fit for Yankees? OF COURSE, but I don’t see it happening.

 

Bartolo Colon (TEX) – He just turned 45 yesterday, but Colon is still painting like Picasso! Granted, he didn’t look all that great against the Yankees on May 21, but for all things considered, he’s eaten innings pretty effectively. Colon (2-2, 3.51, 0.92 WHIP) would come cheaply if the Texas Rangers found a suitor for him.

Fit for Yankees? Possible, but not probable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s a Long Season, Yankees Fans

After yesterday’s 14-1 shellacking that the Boston Red Sox laid on the New York Yankees, I saw a lot of folks on Twitter in despair over the team’s 5-6 start.

I agree with half of Mr. Dunham’s tweet. The season is a marathon, not a sprint. There are 26.2 miles in a marathon. If you divide 162 by 26.2, you get 6.18. 6.18 games are the equivalent to a mile of the baseball season. Tonight’s Yankees game is the 12th game of the season, and with that we are just a hair under two miles of the 26.2 mile “marathon” of the 2018 season.

In 2009, the Yankees won the World Series, but that team also started the season 15-17 before they jelled and started winning regularly. In the year 2000, the Yankees won it all, but they were 38-36 at the end of June. The 1996 team started slowly, winning six of their first 13 games in Joe Torre‘s first season as Yankees skipper.

Don’t despair, Yankees Universe — this team will be fine. The weather will warm up (I hope!) and so will this team. Then we will see the balls of the bats of Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and yes, Giancarlo Stanton carrying deep over the walls at Yankee Stadium.

These Yankees Are Spoiling Us

After last night’s absolute bludgeoning of the Baltimore Orioles, the New York Yankees are sitting pretty atop the American League East, and have done so for 45 of the last 55 calendar days.

These Bronx Bombers are resembling Yankees teams from the late 1990’s and late aughts in terms of runs scored. As of this morning, they have scored 339 runs in 59 games, an average of 5.745 runs per game. That puts them on pace for 930 runs, which would equal production of the 2006 team and be the most since 2007, when the Yankees scored a mind-blowing 968 runs.

Yanks Bludgeon Tillman Orioles 6-10-17

As I sit here typing this, as I think about which video clips, gifs and photos to use to supplement this entry, I feel spoiled. Researching the amount of team runs scored over the past 20 years, it’s obvious this Yankees team is very special.

I’m pinching myself. I’m doing this as a reminder that they haven’t hit a wall yet, the same wall ALL teams hit at some point during the season. The Yankees haven’t done that yet, not in a way that’s lasted for any time. I remind myself Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez are 25 and 24 years old, respectively, and remind myself they have a combined career 621 MLB at-bats between them. It feels like Luis Severino has been here quite a while, but he’s still only 23 years old, with 34 career starts on his resume, the equivalent of one full season.

This is not to suggest pessimism, obviously I want this team to continue to roll over people with this offense and I would love to see Severino, Jordan Montgomery, and Michael Pineda keep shutting teams down and giving six or seven good innings every start. It would be great to have CC Sabathia continue defying Father Time. Masahiro Tanaka still has a 6.55 ERA.

Lastly, for the first time in quite a few years, the Yankees have enjoyed relatively good health. Having quality and productive depth has more than offset the few injury issues they have dealt with. All five starters have taken every turn to this point, and pushing back Tanaka a day is the reason Chad Green is making his first start of 2017 this afternoon.

The 2017 Bronx Bombers have been so much fun and so enjoyable to watch. Here’s hoping they stay healthy, productive and keep bringing joy to all Yankees fans everywhere.

Aaron Judge 3

See ya next time!

Charlie

 

 

Yankees Report Card: Starting Pitchers (Updated)

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.

Starting Pitching:

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.

Grade: D

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.

Grade: B++

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.

**UPDATE**

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.

 

Grade: B-

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.

Grade: A-

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.

Grade: C+

In our final installment of  Yankees Report-Card, we’ll tackle the bullpen.

See ya next time!

Charlie