New York Yankees: An Assessment Of The Rotation So Far
An Assessment of the New York Yankees Rotation So Far
A little more than a third of the way through the season, the New York Yankees are 11 games over .500, over-performing in the beginning with the depleted team they had to work with, and slowly coming back to full strength in time for the second half of the season.
Since the bulk of the long-term injuries are position players, the team's offensive struggles can occasionally be overlooked, but starting pitching has been leaned on for the Yankees to be where they're currently at.
There have been some adjustments to the rotation since opening day, with Ivan Nova going on the DL and losing his spot to David Phelps, as well as some spot starts for rookie Vidal Nuno. The rotation as it stands consists of C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes, Andy Pettitte and Phelps.
One thing that has remained impressive about the starting staff is their ability to rebound from tough outings this season. All of the starters have had at least one rough patch, but they have managed to come out for their next start with a clean slate.
In short, the pitching staff thus far has been neither amazing nor awful. They have performed well enough to keep the team in the race and lead them to 37 wins, and they even rank in the top-10 in ERA and WHIP. If they can nail down some consistency to their starts, coupled with their already-proven tenacity, they can propel the team forward through the coming months.
Sabathia has been disappointing for Yankee fans to watch this season, but there are still some bright spots to his year.
He has six wins on the season, and leads the team in strikeouts with 80. In addition, he has kept up his workhorse ethic, going deep into games even when he doesn’t have his best stuff, with his 89 innings pitched ranking fourth in the American League.
Sabathia started off the season shakily, opening the season against the Red Sox with an average effort that earned him his first loss. He got three successive wins after that leading into May, however.
May was a difficult month for Sabathia, with him posting a 4.14 ERA for the month and not getting a win until May 31. In his first start of June, he saved the tired bullpen by pitching his first complete game of the season and getting his sixth win.
Sabathia is definitely not the same pitcher of old; his velocity is down, and he has given up more hits and home runs than he has in past years. But, his insistence that he throw at least 100 pitches per game show that even though his game might have changed slightly, his work ethic and attitude haven't.
Kuroda has a good season with the Yanks last year, going 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA, but has far surpassed last year’s successes with a superb start to 2013.
Though Kuroda’s 6-5 record is not glamorous, his 2.84 ERA and 1.10 WHIP indicate how effective he has been.
After his two initial starts to the season in which he labored and it was feared that he could be injured, he settled down in order to pitch a complete game shutout in his third outing of the year.
Since then, Kuroda has been the Yankees’ most reliable starter with a 4-1 record in April and a 2.56 ERA in May.
Kuroda’s two most recent starts in June have not been great; he clearly did not have his best stuff in a loss against Boston in which he gave up three runs, and then he had one bad inning in Seattle that his team was unable to make up, giving him another loss.
Overall, however, Kuroda has stepped into a role that he was never supposed to occupy: stabilizing what has been an unpredictable starting rotation.
Hughes has been the epitome of a roller coaster pitcher so far this season, his stuff vacillating between stymieing and hittable.
His numbers are for the most part unimpressive, with a 4.80 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP complementing a 3-4 record. His strikeout total at 62, however, is good for his 65.2 innings pitched.
Hughes averages more than a hit per inning, and his 12 homers allowed come out to an average of one home run every six innings. It's something he has always struggled with but seems no closer to improving upon.
The good news for Hughes is that when he’s on, he is really on. After his losing effort against Boston in which he gave up five in less than five, he went seven scoreless against Seattle.
His best outing came in early May in which he posted eight innings of no-run, four-hit ball, but came out in his next two starts with poor command.
Hughes clearly has the capability to pitch well every five days, but his inconsistency has cost the Yankees this year as they have lost seven out of the 12 games he has started.
If he can replicate his success in his last outing, it would be great; but given his track record, that seems unlikely.
The oldest member of the starting pitching staff, Pettitte has had some struggles of his own to overcome this season.
The lefty started his season off the right way, with a dazzling first start and three straight wins. After four quality starts, however, Pettitte hit a rough patch, allowing seven runs to the Houston Astros, then giving up two homers and four walks in a short start against Oakland.
But in typical Pettitte fashion, he was able to bear down and pitch through it. Since going on the DL with a neck strain and returning in early June, Pettitte has been what you want from your four or five starter, most recently pitching a solid seven-plus innings to get his 250th career win.
Pettitte is an experienced veteran with a career based on consistency; hopefully his last start will get him back on the winning track.
Conversely the youngest member of the staff, Phelps has done whatever the Yankees have asked of him this season. Starting the season as a reliever, a role in which he struggled at the onset of the season, Phelps kept working until he was asked to step up.
Phelps pitched in long relief early on for Hughes and Nova, and when Nova went on the DL, Phelps took his place in the rotation, impressing the Yankees enough to place Nova in the bullpen upon his return and then later moving him back down to Triple-A.
Phelps has steadily put together a good season as a five starter. Since May 1, he is 3-2 as a starter, and has brought his ERA down to 3.90 while notching 63 strikeouts in 62.1 innings.
Phelps is not able to go very deep into games, topping out at six or seven innings, but he keeps his hit count low, gets strikeouts, and doesn’t give up many home runs.
Most impressively, he followed up his worst performance of his career where he did not make it out of the first inning with two excellent quality starts, showing his resiliency and his desire to remain in the starting rotation.