Each year it’s the same narrative: The Yankees need more pitching, but the reality is New York already have one of the best starting rotations in baseball.
The Yankees ranked fourth in the American League in bWAR and second in fWAR in both 2017 and 2018. But not only that. The team’s strikeout, walk, and home run rates are all in the top five in the league over the last two years as well.
So, to say the Yankees need more pitching isn’t exactly accurate. But to be fair, Sonny Gray, Luis Cessa, Domingo German, Lance Lynn, and Jonathan Holder combined to start 52 times in 2018. The Yankees still sustained their pitching success. Despite all that, it was clear the Bombers needed some rotation help to compete with those of Cleveland, Boston, and Houston. So, that’s exactly what they did.
Of course, the Yankees returned Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka, but the rest of the rotation was a big question mark going into the 2019 season. Slowly but surely, Brian Cashman has filled those holes throughout the offseason.
First, the Yankees decided to bring back CC Sabathia. This will be his 10th season in the Bronx. He has reinvented himself over the last few years and the results have been excellent. Last season, Sabathia pitched to 3.65 ERA (4.16 FIP) in 153 innings of work. He remains one of the best 5th starters in the game.
Next, the Yankees brought in James Paxton via trade. Justus Sheffield, the Yankees’ number one overall prospect, was sent to the Seattle Mariners in the deal, among others. Paxton’s had his injury issues over the years, but when he’s healthy, he’s one of the best pitchers in the league.
In 2018, Paxton pitched a career-high 160.1 innings, which resulted in a 3.76 ERA. And his peripherals show that his ERA was probably a bit of bad luck (3.24 FIP). Paxton threw his first no-hitter last year and he was my favorite addition of the offseason.
After that, JA Happ finally agreed to return to New York back in December. Happ was very effective last season, pitching to a 3.65 ERA (3.98 FIP) in 177.2 innings. However, he was much better after being traded to the Yankees before the 2018 trade deadline. In 11 games with the Yankees, Happ went 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA. It was a small sample size, but if he can continue to produce anything close to that level, the Yankees will be in good shape.
The only consistent thing about Masahiro Tanaka is that he’s inconsistent. But that doesn’t take away from how great he’s been. Last season, Tanaka was 12-6 with a 3.75 ERA (4.01 FIP) in 156 innings. He has a 3.59 ERA in 824.1 innings since he was signed in 2014.
He’s going to give up home runs. It happens. I just hope he can put together a full season, rather than being terrible in the first half and unhittable in the second half like he has the last couple of seasons.
Lastly, Luis Severino could potentially be a bonafide ace. Despite his miserable second half last season, Sevy still pitched to a 3.39 ERA (2.95 FIP) in 191.1 innings. He had a 19-8 record and even received Cy Young votes. I think fatigue set in last season, coupled with him tipping pitches. I’m hoping for a big bounce back this year from Sevy, as his peripherals also show he probably had a bit of bad luck.
Regardless, he’s still been excellent since his first full season in 2017. He owns a 3.18 ERA over 384.2 innings over that time, while striking out almost 30 percent of the batters he’s faced. If he can hold it together this year, he can be a top-five pitcher in all of baseball.
The front office gets a lot of complaints about pitching, but they have assembled a rotation that can compete with just about any other teams in the entire MLB. Bringing back CC on a cheap one-year deal was a no-brainer. Bringing in the “Big Maple” was a huge addition, as he basically replaces Sonny Gray and having a full season of JA Happ will be a huge help.
Not to mention, the Yankees already had two top-of-the-rotation arms in Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino, and that’s not even mentioning the possible return of Jordan Montgomery.
So, what I’m trying to say is: barring injury, the Yankees will have one of baseball’s best starting rotations in 2019.