You Can Never Have Too Much Pitching

The Yankees keep trying to force a six-man rotation down our throats and they keep being thwarted by injury. Today we learned that CC Sabathia would be back in a six-man rotation Wednesday, but that quickly turned back to a five-man rotation when it was reported that Nathan Eovaldi was being shut down for the next two weeks with elbow inflammation. That doesn’t sound promising, and the Yankees may have lost him for the rest of the season.

That’s a potentially big loss, but also one that will be over-hyped because of Eovaldi’s recent numbers. Yes, he has pitched very well since the All-Star Break, but look at these comparisons:

2014 10.1 H/9 0.6HR/9 1.9BB/9 6.4K/9

2015 10.2H/9 0.6HR/9 2.9BB/9 7.1K/9

Basically, he has done the exact same thing when it comes to giving up hits and home runs, while increasing both his walks and strikeouts. FIP puts his ERA this year at 3.43 versus 3.37 last year. In short, he isn’t necessarily doing anything better than he did last year, but people seem to think he is. (And as a sidetone, his ERA last year was 4.37 and he went 6-14. This year it is 4.20, yet he his 14-3. Perhaps wins are not a great way to evaluate a pitcher?)

Now, I will make two caveats about my somewhat clinical evaluation of Eovaldi above. 1- He is pitching in a tougher league and ballpark, so the consistency in his home run rate and increase in his strikeout rate are encouraging. 2- He has developed a new pitch this year, the splitter (maybe that’s why he has elbow problems?) He has only been really throwing it in the second half of this year, but it accounts for 16% of all of his pitches. It has given him a fourth pitch to go along with his fastball, curve, and slider and if he can continue to hone it, he may become a much better pitcher in the future.

That was going to be the very interesting bet the Yankees would have had to consider making this offseason. Eovaldi will be two years away from free agency after this season. If you believe his FIP numbers are indicative of his performance and think he might be on the upswing, the smart play would be to extend him now before he gets too close to the big payday of free agency. This elbow inflammation may put an end to that idea.