Analysis

Do The Yankees Have Enough Starting Pitching To Win The AL East?

The Yankees will be competing heavily with the Boston Red Sox for the division crown in 2019, but do they have enough starting pitching to do so?

On paper, the Yankees have one of the top rotations in all of baseball.  A bonafide ace in Luis Severino, a lefty-hurler James Paxton, and Postseason hero Masahiro Tanaka.  The rest of the rotation is made up of the proven veteran J.A. Happ and former ace and clubhouse leader CC Sabathia.  Each one of these starting pitchers had a sub 4.00 ERA and had brilliant stints throughout the 2018 season.  If this core stays healthy throughout the entirety of the season, I can’t see how this isn’t the best rotation in the AL, heck the whole MLB.

Severino

He was the work-horse of the group pitching 191.1 innings in 32 starts.  His first half was as dominant as anyone in the league posting a 2.31 ERA and being selected to the All-Star game. He was ultimately the reason the pitching staff was such a cohesive unit for the majority of the season.  However, throughout the ladder half of the season, he posted an abysmal 5.57 ERA and was accused of tipping pitches. Fatigue also set in as he has stated he was getting tired down the stretch.

How will he fare in 2019?  The fact that he has been working on his endurance throughout the offseason is a positive sign that he is trying to attain the 200 inning threshold he so highly covets.  He can still be a top 10 pitcher in the game, fans forget he is ONLY 25.  Cashman used some of his magic and extended him four years with a 5th-year club option.  This is a team friendly deal, something the Yankees were looking to get done early.  He will most likely be the opening day starter and the ace of the New York Yankees.  That title carries a lot of weight and he has shown he can handle the load for the most part.  Expect big things out of Sevy this year.

Projections:

17-7

3.14 ERA

200.2 IP

237 SO

WHIP 1.02

Paxton

The biggest offseason acquisition for the 2019 campaign, James Paxton is a dominant lefty that can come into the Bronx, eat up innings, and strike out a ton of batters.  If he is healthy, he is without a question, a top lefty in the game.  The question is he going to stay healthy?

Last year he posted his most starts to date with 28.  The years prior is as followed:

2017:24

2016:20

2015:13

2014:13

While he is certainly trending upwards, there is always cause for concern.  His 160.1 innings pitched are the most he has ever thrown so one could wonder if he can handle a larger work-load.  The Yankees took a gamble on his ability to stay healthy because when he is, he has the ability and stuff to become an ace.  Giving up their top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield might sting if this doesn’t pan out but the Yanks are in win-now mode.

Look for Big Maple to adjust comfortably in his new role as he finally has something to pitch for. The talent is there to take home the personal accolades, but he has been about the team since arriving in the Big Apple.  Paxton figures to be making his postseason debut this upcoming October, will he have the jitters?

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If anyone has seen him pitch you’d notice a calming presence and knack for commanding the strike zone. He did throw a no-hitter against AL East foes the Toronto Blue Jays. A no-hitter in the postseason? Sign me up! He has the potential to be a huge piece for the Yankees and I think he steps up in a huge way.

Projections:

15-6

3.34 ERA

184.1 IP

214 SO

WHIP 1.07

Tanaka

The Yankees have had one pitcher for the past five years that for the most part has been a consistent factor in the rotation. Masahiro Tanaka has fought elbow soreness for the majority of his career in the Bronx and still pitches every start like it’s his last. He leaves everything out on the bump and has been a fan favorite for several years.

Last years numbers aren’t eye-opening but he has a pedigree of a being a big-game pitcher. The past two postseasons he has been LIGHTS OUT and his continued success should hold up over the duration of his contract.  Although a small sample size, he has undoubtedly been the Yanks postseason ace with a 3-2 record in 5 starts a 1.50 ERA in 30 innings pitched. Crucial in the 2017 playoff run, he turned out to be the lone winner in the ALDS against the Sox in 2018.  Count on him in an elimination game.

His 2019 will be his best yet as he seems to be an afterthought with the acquisition of Paxton and the re-signing of Happ. He very well might be the best pitcher on the staff this upcoming year.

Projections:

16-5

2.84 ERA

176.0 IP

187 SO

WHIP 1.01

Happ

What more could they ask from their biggest 2018 deadline acquisition than going 7-0 in 11 starts with a 2.69 ERA? I know, nothing. J.A. Happ was downright dominant from his first start in pinstripes.  He was comfortable from the get-go and seemed to mesh well with the clubhouse. It was a priority to bring him back and Cashman made it happen. A two-year $34M deal with a vesting option for the 2021 season could be a steal if he could replicate his performance from last season.

He might be on the wrong side of 30, but he has had his best years in the back half of his career. In Toronto, he had the added pressure of being the ace with Stroman and Sanchez not pitching as well as they should have.  However, Happ does not have to be the ace of this ball club. Eating innings and giving us quality starts is what is going to make him so valuable. It also helps out that he has a ton of experience pitching in the AL East. The expectations for fans should be fairly high.

Projections:

12-6

3.58 ERA

161.2 IP

173 SO

WHIP 1.19

Sabathia

Carsten Charles Sabathia has been the heart and soul of the Yankees and is in his final year on a $8M deal.  After being the flame-throwing lefty, he has learned how to pitch with diminished velocity and has been great in his last couple of years.

His leadership and dedication have helped the likes of Sevy, Tanaka, and young relievers that were trying to make a name for themselves.  His farewell tour will be nothing short of amazing as he has won them so many games including clinching the 2009 World Series.

As a fifth starter, he should be more than serviceable as he knows his role amongst the organization.  If he can stay healthy that is a huge plus for this team. Let’s hope his knee and heart conditions are a non-factor.

CC will leave behind a legacy few have been able to accomplish.  The future Hall of Famer will prove his worth by reaching the 250 win and 3000 strikeout milestones in the same season. In his age 37 season he logged 29 starts and 153 innings pitched. The unquestioned leader of the pitching staff will have one last ride to capture No. 28 for his ball club.

Projections:

10-9

4.18 ERA

143.1 IP

122 SO

WHIP 1.34

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