A hot stretch of baseball has the New York Yankees right back in the thick of things, but one aspect of their roster should be given thanks for the turnaround.
Four in a row, 11 out of 16, and an already successful west coast swing following a better homestand. Amidst all of the promising advancements, what has been the true difference?
Simply put: the starting pitching has performed an 180-degree turn.
Particularly during the current winning streak, a revived starting staff has relieved stress from a lineup that has been inconsistent all year. Yankee starters have pitched to a 1.44 ERA, surrendered only 13 hits in 25 innings pitched, and have been credited with wins in all four of the team’s victories.
In those four games, the offense has averaged 5.3 runs a contest. The successes of Nathan Eovaldi, Ivan Nova, CC Sabathia, and Masahiro Tanaka have provided the offense with an opportunity to prosper. It does not take a Harvard degree to know that great starting pitching gives an offense leeway and effectively puts a lineup in positions to push in front rather than work from behind.
A starting staff that has been, nicely put, subpar to say the least thus far has been able to relax with the recent formation of a monstrous back end. With three top relievers waiting in the wings, the starters have the flexibility to not press over every single pitch. By not pressing, going deep into games is easier to fathom.
With that being said, going six innings, with the exception of Tanaka (seven), has been formidable enough to make all of the starters look like stars. They know, and fans know, that once the game is turned over to Dellin Betances in the seventh, it is basically history.
The Yankees’ starting staff ERA still ranks 23rd in baseball with a 4.82 ERA, which gives you an idea of just how bad things were before the recent stretch.
Nathan Eovaldi’s turnaround dates back to five starts as he has pitched to a 3.48 ERA with four wins since April 25th. CC Sabathia, DL stint excluded, has pitched to a 1.89 ERA over his last three starts. Masahiro Tanaka has been generally superb all season, bolstering a 3.24 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP while not losing a decision. Finally, Ivan Nova has been brilliant in three starts this year, possessing a 2-0 record along with a minuscule 1.65 ERA.
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Let’s say Pineda starts pitching more like his vintage self, the Yankees could be looking at a more prominent starting rotation than they ever envisioned. If not, there are always potential options waiting for a chance in Triple-A and the Yanks have certainly made do recently with what they have.
Regardless, starting pitching success will turn this Yankee team from a pure example of mediocrity into a real American League East contender.
Nathan Eovaldi’s six inning, one hit, one run performance against Arizona was an illustration of what will win the club a serious amount of games. As was Ivan Nova’s six inning, four hit, one run dominance and CC Sabathia’s six frames, eight strikeout display. Combine that with Tanaka’s rediscovered dominance and you might have something special, or at least a major improvement on previous output.
That same starting five put alongside the best bullpen in baseball and a generally above average offense will prove to be a recipe for triumph. However, without the pitching, the same repetition will occur that was present in the early portion of the year. That repetition includes the team falling behind, the offense scrambling, and a back-end of the ‘pen incapable of being utilized.
The Yankees do not want to fall back into that same cycle. However, effective starting pitching allows for all else to fall into place. There is no reason to believe this same brand of baseball will not continue with similarly stellar performances.
There is light at the end of the tunnel for the 2016 New York Yankees if this week for the starting staff and the team as a whole is engraved in the mind of each and every player.