Yankees have a starting pitching problem brewing

clarke schmidt, yankees
Apr 23, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Clarke Schmidt (36) reacts during the third inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the 2023 season, the New York Yankees boasted one of the strongest starting rotations in baseball, at least on paper. However, their fortunes quickly took a turn for the worse with Frankie Montas being sidelined for most of the season due to shoulder surgery, Luis Severino grappling with a lat injury, and Carlos Rodon suffering from a forearm strain.

Both Severino and Rodon are making considerable progress, particularly Severino, who threw 40 pitches in a live session on Friday.

Nonetheless, the starting rotation is facing significant issues as the back three options are struggling immensely.

The Yankees are confronted with severe starting pitching troubles:

1.) Clarke Schmidt

As soon as Severino or Rodon return to the rotation, Clarke Schmidt will be promptly reassigned to the bullpen. Schmidt’s performance as a starter has been dismal, with a 6.84 ERA, 3.94 xFIP, 11.52 strikeouts per nine innings, and a 2.52 HR/9 rate. He has only a 39% ground ball rate and a 21.2% HR/FB ratio.

Despite possessing an excellent pitch repertoire, Schmidt’s pitches have not achieved the desired movement and location. His sweeping slider, thrown 31.5% of the time, has allowed a .242 average with three home runs and 13 strikeouts. His sinker has been one of his least effective pitches, yielding a .367 average across 24.5% usage. He has been fervently trying to incorporate a cutter at a 22% rate, which has resulted in a .458 average and 1.042 SLG, specifically allowing four home runs on that pitch.

Examining his pitch movement, his cutter generates 85% more horizontal movement than the average pitcher. However, most of his pitches are currently below average in terms of movement, suggesting that his pitches are simply not effective.

Schmidt would be better utilized as a 1-2 inning reliever instead of a starter, but the Yankees have little choice due to their limited options.

2.) Domingo German

The Yankees agreed with Domingo German on a one-year, $2.6 million deal through arbitration. At 30 years old, he is best suited as a reserve starter but has been thrust into a more prominent role to begin the year. He currently has a 5.54 ERA and 11.42 strikeouts per nine innings with a 38.1% ground ball rate. Once again, he is conceding an alarming number of home runs, with a 28% HR/FB ratio.

In his last two appearances, he has allowed a combined 10 runs, including five home runs and 14 strikeouts. The high strikeout rate is irrelevant if opponents are hitting with extraordinary power.

Ideally, German would not play a significant role in the rotation, but the Yankees have little choice until their injured players return.

3.) Jhony Brito

Jhony Brito was never intended to be a crucial component of the rotation this year, but he has been thrust into a challenging position. In 17.2 innings pitched, Brito has a 6.11 ERA and a 5.56 xFIP. He has allowed only a 4.8% HR/FB ratio, the best of the three, but has struggled with runners on base. He has a 58.6% left-on-base rate and a commendable 47.3% ground ball rate.

Brito is not known for his strikeout numbers, with a mere 6.11 per nine innings. However, he has been walking an extraordinary number of batters, with 5.09 per nine innings.

At times, his location has been inadequate, and it is evident that his confidence is diminishing, as he has surrendered 11 runs in his last three starts following two strong initial outings.

Given the current trajectory, the Bombers cannot depend on the back end of their rotation. With two injury-prone players making their way back, the remainder of the season will undoubtedly experience both highs and lows.

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