Saturday, August 23, 2014


The Pitchers

As things with our Yankees seem to go from bad to worse (losing two to the Astros, really?), let’s take a look at the additions to the pitching staff and whether they’ve helped or hindered the team.

I’ll begin with the starting rotation. 

Ideally this season was to be one where we fielded a strong starting five consisting of: CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova, and Michael Pineda.   Of those five, Tanaka was the “new comer”; the addition to the puzzle that would give our rotation the stability and depth it needed to go well into October.  He was replacing the iconic southpaw Andy Pettitte who retired at the conclusion of the 2013 season.  The 41-year-old big Texan gave the Yankees 30 starts and 11 wins while posting a 3.74 ERA last season.

Tanaka came to the Yankees with much fanfare and high expectations.  The 25-year-old Japanese ace blew through the first three months of the season, going 11-3 with a 2.10 ERA.  Through June clearly Tanaka represented an UPGRADE at starting pitching; worth every penny of his contract.  But these are the Yankees, and with this version of the team it seems all good things must come to an end.

In two July starts Tanaka yielded 9 runs in 13.2 innings and shortly after revealed pain in his elbow.  Tests showed that he had a slight tear of his ulnar collateral ligament and he was put on the DL.  Where our 41-year-old workhorse gave us 30 starts in 2013, the young, future leader of our staff managed only 18 this season before breaking down.  Suddenly our upgrade became a DOWNGRADE.  What Tanaka’s future in New York holds is anyone’s guess.  He elected to try to recuperate without Tommy John surgery, and recently has been throwing off a mound without discomfort, so there is hope.  He may actually pitch again for the Yankees this season, but how effective he will be remains to be seen.

With injuries to Sabathia, Nova, and Pineda, the Yankees were forced to put together a patchwork rotation.  Vidal Nuno was moved into the mix and floundered to a 2 -5 record with a 5.42 ERA in 14 starts.  He was traded to the Diamondbacks for Brandon McCarthy.  McCarthy has had seven starts with the Bombers and has a 4 – 2 record with a 2.30 ERA.  I admit that I had my doubts about McCarthy, but he has proved me wrong and I now consider him an UPGRADE.

The team called up Shane Greene, and he has come from nowhere to post a 3 – 1 record with a 2.91 ERA.  On the other end of the spectrum, Chase Whitley was called up and went 4 -3 with a 5.43 ERA.  He was recently sent back to the minors.

On July 25th, Brian Cashman signed 36-year-old southpaw Chris Capuano to a minor league contract and added him to the 25-man roster.  His career ERA is 4.28 and he had been released by the Red Sox on July 1.  Over 10 big league seasons, Capuano has posted an ERA less than four just three times (the last time was in 2012).  Apparently “Cash” was hoping to harness a player’s rebirth, but the hurler has gone 0 – 2 with a 4.15 ERA in five starts with the Yankees (Left handed hitters are actually batting .318 against him).

I’m not going to call Capuano an UPGRADE or DOWNGRADE; I’ll label him a PLACE HOLDER and leave it at that.

In the bullpen there have been a number of players brought in. 

At the end of March the Yankees signed former Red Sox (and former Yankee) reliever Alfredo Aceves to a minor league contract, and on May 3rd they selected him to the big league squad.

The 31-year-old right hander had struggled the previous two seasons in Boston, posting a 5.11 ERA and giving up 19 home runs in 121 innings pitched.  Things only got worse in New York.  With the Yankees, Aceves appeared in 10 games and gave up six home runs in 19.1 innings while posting a 6.52 ERA.  Opposing batters hit .288 against him. 

Aceves was out-righted to Scranton on June 9th.  Yeah, he was a DOWNGRADE to the bullpen.

Matt Thornton was another Red Sox reliever that Cashman signed.  A lefty specialist, the 37-year-old was supposed to be the new “Boone Logan”.  Unfortunately, even though his had a decent ERA (2.55), left handed hitters batted .250 off him – a higher average than against right-handed relievers Adam Warren (.216), Dellin Betances (.147), and Shawn Kelley (.178).  What was the point? (Lefties managed to hit .221 against Logan in 2013).

Thornton was waived by the Yankees and signed with the Washington Nationals.  Like Aceves, the former Red Sox was a DOWNGRADE to the Bombers’ pen.

David Huff’s journey to the Yankees was a weird one.  He began 2014 as a Yankee, but on January 24th he was traded to the San Francisco Giants for cash considerations.  Last season with New York, Huff posted an unimpressive 4.67 ERA with 7 home runs in 11 games.

With San Francisco, Huff had a 6.30 ERA over 16 appearances.  He gave up 27 hits in 20 innings as a Giant.  Apparently that impressed GM Cashman enough to warrant a trade back to New York for the ever popular “cash considerations”.  The southpaw has given up at least one run in 8 of 22 appearances with the Yankees in 2014 (a 36% rate).   If you thought the .250 average left-handed batters had against Matt Thornton was bad, then you ought to consider the .255 batting average they have against Huff.  Can the Yankees not find an effective lefty reliever?

Huff is in the midst of three consecutive games where he has yielded a run.  It is without reservation that I label him a DOWNGRADE to the Yankees’ relief corps.

There have been numerous other minor transactions throughout the season and you can see all of them by clicking here.

As I reviewed my summary of upgrades and downgrades for both parts 1 (the players) and 2 (the pitchers), it became clear to me that the Yankees best stars of 2014 have been names I did not reference.  Why is that?  Well, it’s because they weren’t acquisitions; they were players already in house.

Guys like Brett Gardner and Francisco Cervelli have been the team’s best hitters, Hiroki Kuroda and Shane Greene their best starters, and Dellin Betances and David Robertson (in spite of Cashman’s doubts prior to the season) their best relievers.

In our minor league system we have Rob Refsnyder hitting .305 at Scranton while playing a solid second base.  Why then, have we been so desperate to bring in the likes of cast-offs Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew (who never played the position prior to the Yankees)?

If anything, I’ve concluded that our GM doesn’t trust what we have, and because of that has taken fliers on guys with the hopes that they’ll somehow resurrect their glory of days gone by.  It’s a strategy that, more often than not fails.

I hold out hope that somehow this team will put together one final run at a wild card spot before the season comes to an end.  If they are to do it, they’ll have to put some faith in what they already have.

We at BYB are interested in hearing what you think!  Please let us know your thoughts on the Yankees’ acquisitions of 2014!


--Steve Skinner, BYB Senior Writer
Twitter: @oswegos1

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