Tuesday, September 17, 2019

YANKEES PLAYOFF STARTERS: WHO SHOULD BE IN

Photo Credit: Associated Press
While the Yankees are working on securing home field advantage for the playoffs, they’re fielding questions on the starting rotation for the rest of the season, which will ultimately decide the starters for the postseason. They have to get this right. There are some obvious “automatics” for the front to the rotation. Masahiro Tanaka and Domingo German definitely have earned their spots. Thinking about starters 3 and 4 makes for some interesting conversation.

Photo Credit: USA Today Sports
James Paxton has woken up, finally. A month ago, I was wondering whether this guy was even going to make the postseason roster. A record of 5-6 with a 4.72 ERA at the end of July doesn’t exactly scream “playoffs”. Since then he has gone 9-0 with an ERA of 2.50, including 6 Quality Starts, zero no decisions, a K/9 of 10.17, and an opponents’ batting average of .170. Those stats, by the way, lead all Yankees starters during that time period. It took a while, but we finally see the starter we thought we were getting this past winter.

Photo Credit: Associated Press
Luis Severino’s readiness will be a critical point for the Yankees. Pay attention to his return when he starts on Tuesday night. That start is going to be huge. If he does well, the Yankees starting four will be Tanaka, German, Paxton, Severino. When I close my eyes and imagine what that front four looks like, the word that comes to mind is “dominant”. Severino is coming off a long recovery period, but when you look at what he’s done in the recent past, there is not much doubt. Consecutive seasons of 200+ strikeouts and top 10 Cy Young Award voting tell you this guy is a power pitcher who can win big games.

Photo Credit: Associated Press
J.A. Happ was someone I thought a was key to the plan this past winter when the Yankees worked at signing him. His 5.07 ERA would be the worst of his career since his first full season if the regular season ended today. The best thing I can say about Happ is that he’s pitched decently over his last 6 starts. His record is 3-1 with a 3.48 ERA. Still, if you look at his last start in Detroit, he was lucky to have only given up 2 runs in 4 2/3 innings. He allowed hitters to reach scoring position in every inning but the third. This was against the team with the worst record in baseball. If it were me, I’d have him in the bullpen as a long reliever and maybe a lefty specialist. He would only start if Severino’s starts go sideways.

Photo Credit: Associated Press
CC Sabathia has been a fixture on Yankee postseason rosters since we signed him 10 years ago. This is his final season, which makes this especially painful. His record cannot justify him starting a game in the playoffs. It may not even be enough for the postseason roster. I know he has said he would be fine with the role of a reliever in the playoffs, but you have to wonder. He hasn’t had a win since June 24 and the Yankees have lost every game he started since July 16. He hasn’t even been on the mound in the 5th inning since that July 16 start. Nevertheless, he is an established clubhouse leader who the Yankees will need when dealing with postseason pressure.

Photo Credit: Associated Press
Ultimately the decision rests with Aaron Boone. But I think most of these are pretty obvious. There is no way you’re going to win with bullpen starts in October. The starting rotation has to be more than solid. It has to be dominant. We expect the hitting to be there, but the starters set the tone for the game and keep the team in the game. They have to get this right.









--Ike Dimitriadis
BYB Contributor
Twitter: @KingAgamemnon 

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