The New York Yankees are a good team, but they’re a flawed team. That is to say, they can hit, but their starting rotation is a question mark.
That isn’t to say they have a completely unproven pitching staff. They still feature Mashahiro Tanaka and C.C. Sabathia (as well as Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman in the pen), who are proven professionals with proven track records. Tanaka has finished with more than twelve wins in each of his first three years as a Major Leaguer, and Sabathia has crafted himself into a pitcher, rather than just a thrower, since he lost fastball velocity and collected an ERA over 5.00 in 2014. But its the tail end of their pitching depth chart, starters Michael Pineda and Luis Serverino, who worry Yankees fans. Pineda went 6-12 with a 4.82 ERA, while Severino went 3-8 with an ERA over 5 last season. Further, neither pitched well in their first starts of 2017. In five innings pitched against the Baltimore Orioles on April 7, Severino allowed five runs on six hits. Meanwhile, Pineda was touched for four runs over 3 2/3 innings of work against the Tampa Bay Rays (the first batter he faced hit a homer).
“Off-season, in season, midseason, every season,” Yankee manager Joe Girardi said, referencing Pineda’ puzzling habit for allowing two out rallies (batters averaged .328 with two out against Pineda in 2016). “As I said, it comes down to mistakes — missed location, he’s ahead in the count and misses location with his slider.”
Severino’s night went comparably well when measured against much of last season. He looked good entering the fifth inning having allowed just one run and retiring seven straight Orioles. But the wheels came off in the fifth when a two out walk and a Manny Machado home run knocked Severino out of the ballgame.
The bullpen would then allow the Birds to come all the way back and beat the Yanks, 6-5. It was the ninth straight Severino start that the Yankees have lost, dating have to last September.
“It’s a tough loss because I thought Sevvy really threw the ball well tonight,” Girardi said. “He made the one mistake, to a really good hitter, and he hit it out and it changed the complexion of the game.”
The offense, however, has been New York’s strength. In their new pinball stadium, the ball flies out to right and their young sluggers understand that. It seems like every other night their power is displayed on national television. Last season, they hit a combined 183 home runs. Gary Sanchez, who played in just 53 games, swatted twenty of those homers. Thus, Yankees fans were excited to see this young, power-hitting catcher play a full season. But Sanchez strained his right bicep in Saturday night’s game against the Orioles and was placed on the 10-day disabled list. Now, Yankees fans hold their collective breath and pray for the speedy recovery of that golden arm, because their playoff hopes may rest upon its health.
It’s that or find a way to improve their rotation, because playoff teams usually don’t boast pitchers who struggle to win five games a season.