New York Yankees: Why The Pitching Unit Will Be A Strength In 2019

New York Yankees, Yankees, CC Sabathia

Heading into the offseason most believed that the New York Yankees needed to add several quality starting pitchers to bolster a unit that struggled at times in 2018. The Yanks traded for former Blue Jay J.A. Happ mid-season in search of a top option to aid the downward trending Luis Severino.

Happ finished the year 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA. Historically, Happ averages over a 3.00 ERA on a year-by-year basis, but his talents serve as a more than capable No.2 option. The Yankees don’t have a top “ace” to produce easy wins when it matters most, but they have numerous No.2 options that will provide immense value over the course of an entire season.

The starting rotation is more than capable of producing a dominant season — let’s take a look at how they performed in 2018:

1.) Luis Severino

Seve began the year on fire, earning a 2.31 ERA up until the All-Star break, finishing the year with a 5.57 ERA after the break. The Yankees’ top option was supposedly tipping pitches which contributed to his struggles, but the Bombers have employed Mariano Rivera to help eliminate these issues.

I believe that Severino will return with a bang in 2019, and could emerge as a true ace. Finishing the year 19-8 with a 3.39 ERA isn’t bad by any means, and if he can be consistent, he could be a CY Young candidate.

2.) J.A. Happ

Happ finished the year with a 2.69 ERA over 63.2 innings with the Yankees. He performed very well in the Bronx and undoubtedly helped the Bombers reach 100 wins. Bringing him back was a good move by GM Brian Cashman and should benefit the team in the long-run. He signed a three-year contract with the team this offseason.

3.) Masahiro Tanaka

While Tanaka suffered through the beginning of games, he consistently grew more effective as the game progressed. He finished the year with a 3.75 ERA and a 12-6 record. His effectiveness fell off just a bit in 2018, despite having a poor 2017.

The Yankees need him to take a step forward and provide consistent performances in the season ahead – it seems as if he lost a bit of his command in the past two seasons, walking twice the amount of batters (7 in ’17-18) (averaged 2.5 between ’16-14).

4.) James Paxton

Injuries have plagued Paxton’s career, as he only pitched 165 innings in the first three years of his career. The last three have been better as he’s averaged 139 innings per-season. He finished 2018 with a 3.76 ERA and an 11-6 record. His strikeout efficiency sky-rocketed as well, averaging 1.3 strikeouts per inning.

The Yankees will receive good value from the starter and giving up Justus Sheffield was a high price to pay. I would expect a No.2 value pitcher from the former Mariner, and we all know too well how the Pinstripes can bring the best out of players.

5.) CC Sabathia

At 38 years old, Sabathia is still chugging along. A heart issue has derailed his offseason and put his career in jeopardy, but it seems as if he will return in 2019 with a full bill of health.

CC finished last season with a 3.65 ERA over 153 innings. He finished 9-7 on the year with a strikeout rate of 0.91 batters per inning. Sabathia has never been a strikeout pitcher for the most part, but his numbers have taken a sizeable dip the past few years.

I would expect the veteran to see his role diminish a bit in the season ahead, and the Yankees could trade for a starter later in the season to help finish the year strong and carry the team into the playoffs. I would keep an eye on CC’s health going forward.

A well-rounded group:

The Yankees are in good hands with their current starting rotation. Each pitcher has specific skill-sets that will be used tactically throughout the season. Remaining healthy will be the trick for this group, and if they remain so, they could be one of the better units in professional baseball.