While the New York Yankees have plenty of question marks in their infield and bullpen, one area that is looking as if it can be a strength for the team is the starting rotation. C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda not only make up one of the deepest rotations in the majors, but also have the potential to be the best starting five in the American League.
Every night the Yankees send a starter to the mound who can compete with just about any other pitcher in the majors.
The team really does not have a pitcher that qualifies as a true ace unless Sabathia returns to his pre-2013 form, or Tanaka proves he can handle the role on a major league level. But, every pitcher in the Yankees’ rotation is capable of winning over 15 games this year, which is something that very few other teams in the major can say.
One of the biggest things to like about the team’s starting five, is their low walk totals.
Nova walked five batters in an April 3 contest against the Houston Astros. But, in the Yankees other nine games this season their starters have only walked five batters. And this is not just an early season trend.
Sabathia has pitched over 200 innings in all five of his season with the Yankees, and never walked more than 74 batters in any of those years. Kuroda walked just 43 batters last season in 201.1 innings.
Tanaka also showed impeccable control during his time in Japan. During his last four seasons with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, he never walked more than 32 batters in a season.
The rotation’s ability to avoid base-on-balls often allows them to throw fewer pitches, and as a result go deeper into games.
All of the Yankees’ top four starters are capable of going seven innings every time they start. Pineda would also likely fit into that category if he was not just coming back from having shoulder surgery on his right arm, and having his pitch count watched carefully as a result.
But, Sabathia and Kuroda have proven to be effective innings eaters throughout their careers, and the Bronx Bombers are expecting the same from Tanaka and Nova in 2014.
While the Yankees’ starting group has looked mostly solid over the first few weeks of the season, it is far too early to declare that they have the best rotation in the league. The Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays and Detroit Tigers all feature rotations that are just as strong if not better at this point. And do not discount the Oakland Athletics, as they once again seem bound to string together a talented rotation filled with quality young starters that most fans have never heard of, like Jesse Chavez and Dan Straily.
The one thing that could give the Yankees an edge over those clubs is if C.C. Sabathia is able to bounce back in 2014. Whether it was a loss of velocity or a loss of weight that was the cause, it was clear that Carsten Charles was not his usual self in 2013.
And after a few promising Spring Training outings, Sabathia has once again struggled over his first two starts this season. But, if the slimmed down Sabathia can learn to pitch around his lack of velocity, and give his team a year more like his 2012 season, then the Yankees become a very dangerous team again.
Until the Yankees are able to shore up their middle relief corps, they will be need their starters to rack up quality starts of in order for them to win ball games. So far this season, they appear to be up for the task.