After Michael Pineda put up another stinker, the notion that the New York Yankees have nobody in the rotation to trust is a serious one.
By Robby Sabo
Rewind those mental clocks back to last Fall. The night of Oct. 29, 2014 when Madison Bumgarner finished off one of the more remarkable pitching performances in MLB postseason history.
Bruce Bochy gave the ball to an overworked Mad-Bum prior to the fifth-inning on that fateful Kansas City night. The man who just pitched a complete game shutout in Game 5 took that ball and pitched five flawless innings out of the bullpen en route to becoming World Series MVP for the champion San Francisco Giants.
Remember though, aside from Bumgarner the Giants had very little else in the rotation. The important thing was, they had Mad-Bum.
In a very unique postseason a year ago, both league champions boasted very little by way of starting arms. The Royals were also in that bucket of needing a dominating bullpen and a fantastic defense to overcome their woes during the first few innings.
Most believe 2014 was the exception, not the norm. Starting pitching is always an incredibly important factor during fall ball. Therefore, at the very least, one guy needs to be trusted like Bumgarner was.
The sad thing in New York city at the moment is the New York Yankees are slowly finding out nobody in their rotation fits the bill.
When the chips are down and morale needs to be boosted, who will Joe Girardi turn to on that mound? Sure, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances are as good as it gets in the back end of any bullpen, but they can only pitch so many innings.
Better yet, who will the Bombers hand the ball to next Tuesday night as they play in a due-or-die AL Wild Card game for their playoff lives?
Conventional wisdom points to Masahiro Tanaka. He’s been the de facto ace since coming to the Bronx in 2014. Blowing away AL sluggers with his vicious split had him on easy pace as a genuine No. 1 starter of any club.
Injuries will derail that thinking every time.
Tanaka, of course, suffered through his ligament tear and opted not to get the very promising and famed Tommy John surgery. Japanese imports often operate under this line of thinking, and in Tanaka’s case he didn’t bat an eye.
Therefore, 2015 turned out to be a work in progress-type season for Tanaka.
His 3.38 ERA and 8.2 K/9 pales in comparison to a season ago. Add the current injury concern of his bum hammy – was banged up due to running in Citi Field a week ago – and Tanaka’s reliability doubles with concern.
After him it’s a crap-shoot.
Michael Pineda started to make some strides as he put together a string of solid outings, but Tuesday night’s 7 R, 7 H, 6 IP performance against the Boston Red Sox raised eyebrows. He wasn’t just off, he was dreadful. This was the most recent outing from their supposed No. 2 guy.
Ivan Nova was bounced from the rotation over a week ago; C.C. Sabathia, although showing recent flashes, is too far over the hill to call upon; and Nate Eovaldi’s porous 4.20 ERA doesn’t get anybody excited (even if he does make his way back to the field).
The only wild card coming from the Yanks clubhouse comes in the form of the 21-year old phenom.
Experience should only be a decision-making factor if things are close. In this case – should Tanaka not be ready – Severino blows away the competition. It’s not even about the impressive numbers he’s put up in a hitting park and league (5-3, 2.77 ERA, 8.1 K/9). It’s that Severino possesses the best stuff of any Yankees starter by a landslide, Tanaka included (the 2015 version).
His fastball is electric, change is undetectable, and slider downright wicked as it touches 90 on the gun.
In such a desperate situation, upside and talent needs to win out.
However, while speaking on Severino’s talent is exciting, just the fact that we’re having this conversation is alarming. It brings us back to the overriding theme of Girardi not having any one starter he can trust.
The Yankees staff currently ranks 17th in MLB with a 4.16 ERA and 20th in opponents batting average (.265). The numbers don’t lie. Instead of bringing in at the very best a mediocre staff, they’re limping in with a very banged up and inconsistent one.
The only hope now is that Tanaka is ready to go. If not, it could be a very short postseason run. We all know Severino won’t get the ball.
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