Yankees’ starting pitcher emerges from the ashes like a Phoenix

clarke schmidt, yankees
May 25, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Clarke Schmidt (36) pitches against the Baltimore Orioles during the first inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees afforded young right-hander Clarke Schmidt an extended opportunity to develop his abilities and establish himself as a starting pitcher.

Nevertheless, he faced significant struggles early in the season, ending April with a 6.84 ERA, surrendering seven homers and 19 earned runs. However, his performance significantly improved in May, posting a 3.52 ERA, allowing only one homer and 12 earned runs across 30.2 innings.

While Schmidt certainly needed a few weeks to hit his stride, he has only conceded three earned runs over his last three starts, spanning 15.2 innings.

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The Yankees are seeing the best version of Clarke Schmidt:

Against the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday night, Schmidt delivered 5.2 scoreless innings, struck out seven batters, and permitted just three hits. With only 84 pitches thrown, Schmidt performed exceptionally well in containing the Mariners, despite an unfortunate extra innings defeat.

Assessing Schmidt’s stats, his fastball spin rate falls in the 98th percentile, and his curveball spin rate in the 95th percentile. Despite opposing hitters registering a 47% hard-hit rate against him this year, this figure saw a significant improvement against the Mariners.

Among his 84 pitches, he threw a diverse mix, maintaining a near-even split between a sinker, sweeper, cutter, and knuckle curve.

Out of his 84 pitches, 40 were thrown in the strike zone and 44 outside the strike zone, with a total of 45 swings by the Mariners. They generated eight ground balls, exactly what Clarke’s sinker is designed to yield.

Regrettably, Schmidt’s fastballs have been somewhat problematic this season, but the numbers are gradually improving with each start.

There were strong suggestions that Schmidt would become an essential bullpen member, but having strung together three impressive starts, he’s certainly bolstered the Yankees’ confidence in his ability to fulfill a back-end rotation role.

With Carlos Rodon still recovering from a persistent back injury and Frankie Montas unlikely to pitch at all in 2023, Schmidt’s step-up was desperately needed.

General manager Brian Cashman now has greater leeway in deploying some of his valuable assets to reinforce other positions. The Yankees could seek a starting left fielder, but an argument could be made that acquiring an above-average starter on an expiring contract might be a better approach.

Ultimately, Schmidt’s success broadens their options, exactly what’s desirable at the trade deadline.