With the first third of the New York Yankees 2018 baseball season about to come to a close, let’s take a level-headed look at their pitching situation. It is true that a handful of guys haven’t exactly performed up to expectations. Sonny Gray stands out as the poster child for that concept. With his 5.98 ERA you never know which Sonny will show up on any given start, but you can assume it won’t be the good one until you see otherwise.
We can acknowledge the fact that consistency has been an issue. There is certainly room for improvement. But just because improvements can be made, are they all that necessary? The entire Yankees’ pitching staff has been one of the better staffs in all of baseball.
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Here’s where Yankee pitching ranks among the rest of the league:
3.85 ERA – 4th in AL, 12th in MLB
3.72 FIP – 3rd in AL, 7th in MLB
.222 BAA – 2nd in AL, 4th in MLB
Not bad! I should note that the one AL team that is consistently ahead of them in those three categories is the Houston Astros, but you probably already knew that. Boston also tops NY in all but BAA. The Yankee bullpen ranks higher than the rotation in these categories, but that’s the identity we all expected. Oddly enough the Houston bullpen, at least statistically, ranks above the Yankee bullpen despite their well documented struggles. Huh, go figure.
Watch Yankee Closer Aroldis Chapman Throw the Filthiest Fastball You’ll Ever See:
The rotation keeps them in the game, the offense wears down good pitching, and the bullpen shuts the door. It’s a winning formula. The superior pitching in Houston and Boston would seem like a problem considering the road to the World Series most likely runs through both of those cities. But as we saw last night, and a few weeks ago, the Bombers care not for our silly hang ups.
With last night’s win they have officially won the season series against Houston, despite the Astros having the best pitching in the league. When a team is clutch, all bets are off. The Yankees have won 5 games where they were behind in the 8th inning (3 of those came against Houston), and that leads the AL. You know what other recent Yankee team walked-off a lot? The 2009 World Champs.
That said, the Yankees can, and should, improve their pitching. Texas Rangers’ lefty starter Cole Hamels seems to make sense. He’s still an effective pitcher on a losing team. He’s a veteran with post season experience. He’s an impending free agent and may not cost as much as some other names like the oft mentioned Michael Fulmer. He likely would not have the same impact that Justin Verlander had when he joined the Astros last year, but that doesn’t seem necessary.
A 4-man post season rotation of Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Hamels, and CC Sabathia/Jordan Montgomery/Gray should be able to compete in October. With a juggernaut offense and an 8-headed monster in the bullpen, winning should be a reasonable expectation.
There is no reason to panic right now. Sabathia will probably break out of his slump. Tanaka should continue to trend up after his gutsy performance against Shohei Ohtani and the Angels last week. Domingo Germán is good enough to build on his recent promising outing against Houston. Montgomery will return from his elbow injury and provide stability. Maybe even the good Sonny Gray will take over for a few weeks too!
That’s how it is going to have to be for the next few weeks at least. There is no point in panicking after every loss and yelling from the rooftops “they need pitching NOW!” because it’s not going to happen. There is not enough separation in the standings for that many teams to determine if they are buyers or sellers yet.
You can get Seattle hurler James Paxton out of your head as well. The Mariners have won 8 of their last 10, are 2nd place in the AL West, and have achieved all this sans Robinson Cano. Not to mention they probably think they can do that next year too. Paxton still has 2 years of control remaining after this year. He just threw a no-hitter. He’s not going anywhere.
How about Fulmer? Welp, those who have been hoping to see him in pinstripes in a couple months may find themselves disappointed. The AL Central is so bad that the Detroit Tigers and their 24-30 record currently find themselves in 2nd place and 4.5 games out of 1st. If you want Fulmer, root for the baseball team in Cleveland. Unless they create some separation, the Tigers may start to smell contention and hang on to their guys. Don’t get me wrong, that would be a terrible idea for them. Winning a bad division doesn’t mean they’ll be anything in October, but we should never doubt the ability of a front office to make horrible decisions.
Perhaps there are a couple teams, like the Texas Rangers for example, who are going to be sellers given their terrible records. However, the longer wait to make a deal by the July 31st trade deadline, the more leverage they have.
Another factor to consider is the longer the Yankees wait, the less salary they’ll have to pay to whomever they acquire. Hamels is making $22.5 million this year, but if the Yankees acquire him at zero hour of the deadline they only must pay a fraction of that. They’ll have roughly $10-15 million in cap space to work with and may want to make additional deals. Of course, they could get the Rangers to eat some money in the deal, but that’s neither here nor there at this point. Less money absorbed in a trade means more talented prospects are sent packing in the deal.
The Yankees could very well compete and still have a chance at a ring without making a single move. Consistency is an issue, but that doesn’t mean it always will be. We should take a deep breath and see where they stand in a couple months before pining away over someone else’s rental arm.
I’m a firm believer in improving wherever possible, whenever possible. But with this team I have a feeling Cole Hamels or [insert name here] will arrive in the Yankee clubhouse as yet another weapon in an already dangerous arsenal, rather than a life preserver for a drowning staff.