Saved By A Knee?

You never want to see a player get hurt. And you really don’t want to see someone who has been a great pitcher for your team get hurt. But, CC Sabathia’s injury yesterday may turn out to be a positive for the Yankees. For one thing, Sabathia simply isn’t a very good pitcher anymore. Yankee management doesn’t want to admit that, but the numbers tell the story. Much was made about a recent surge in his performance, but four starts in August with a 3.80 ERA tell us very little about what the future holds.  But beyond his general ineffectiveness, the Yankees were about to adopt a six-man rotation because of Michael Pineda’s return and this injury should prevent that. (More on the “should” in a minute)

The Yankees have a mediocre rotation. There are flashes of brilliance from all of them, but the overall numbers show a team that gets about average results. Using ERA as a benchmark, the four starters other than Sabathia have ERA’s within 10% of the league average, plus or minus. Tankaka and Nova are ahead of the league, while Pineda and Eovaldi are below it. (I’m keeping Severino out of this conversation for the minute because he has only four starts.) Dig a little deeper and FIP flips those names around. Pineda has a 3.00 FIP, Eovaldi a 3.53, Tanaka a 4.11, and Nova a 4.12. But the Yankees have a really good bullpen. Of their five major relievers (Miller, Betances, Warren, Wilson, and Shreve) only Shreve has a FIP significantly higher than his current ERA. And they have employed a number of other arms effectively throughout the season. A “smart” team would emphasize the relievers and deemphasize the starters. The Yankees have mostly done that by pulling their starters early in games, or at the first sign of trouble.

And that’s the problem with a six-man rotation. Adding another starter to this mix gives the rotation more rest, but do they really need it? The Yankees are already leaning on their bullpen and minimizing starter innings. With an extra day off between starts, Joe Girardi might be tempted to push his starters deeper into games. That would be a mistake. Rosters are expanding in a week and the Yankees will be able to formalize their multiple-arms approach in the bullpen thanks to that. Keep pitching the starters for six innings and then bring in the bullpen to figure things out. It’s a good formula for this team.

As for the “should” part….It sounds like the Yankees might use Bryan Mitchell as a sixth starter if he is recovered from getting hit in the face last week. <sigh>