When the New York Yankees’ season-opening starting rotation was announced, more confusion spread throughout the fanbase.
Roster decisions typically provide their own form of clarity. If executed correctly, they come off as sensical to the common fan.
Yesterday, when the New York Yankees made an official decision on their most pressing spring training battle, ironically enough, little to no clarity was provided. In fact, the decision left the common fan scrambling for answers.
Manager Joe Girardi, after much deliberation with the front office, delivered the news everyone has been waiting for, but not necessarily in the manner most expected.
The Yankees will start the season with the following rotation (individual parenthetical statistics from 2016 season, as a starter):
- Masahiro Tanaka (14-4, 3.07 ERA)
- CC Sabathia (9-12, 3.91 ERA)
- Michael Pineda (6-12, 4.82 ERA)
- Luis Severino (0-8, 8.50 ERA)
Seems a man short, right? Correct.
Given the team’s favorable schedule, consisting of three off days within the first 10 days of the season, Girardi announced that the team will go with a four-man rotation until April 16, the date when he will name its fifth starter.
At a first glance, this makes sense. With an incredibly shaky rotation, why not maximize your opportunities to weather the storm? Why not run your ace out there as many times as possible?
Well, this maneuver actually presents a question larger than anyone could have anticipated.
Evidently, the Yankees are interested in winning, regardless of the fact that it is a transitional evaluation year. If they weren’t, they would have named the fifth starter from the outset and properly assessed the talent within the first month of the season.
With that said, if winning is truly a priority, the front office should have looked further into the numbers, which would have brought about the realization that Masahiro Tanaka does not benefit from extra starts.
As a matter of fact, he benefits from one number: five. The number of days he needs to showcase his 2016 self rather than his 2015 fragment.
On normal rest (four days) last year, the amount he will be going on in his first three starts, the right-hander pitched to an awfully pedestrian 3.71 ERA. On five days rest, he pitched to a much more Tanaka-like 2.41 ERA, recording eight wins against just one loss in 13 starts.
So, if the Yankees wanted to maximize their ace’s output and the win column in the process, the four-man staff was a shortsighted idea to begin with.
Additionally, New York announced Luis Severino as the club’s number four, leaving Bryan Mitchell in the bullpen while Jordan Montgomery and Chad Green battle for the fifth spot at two separate levels (AAA and AA).
Throwing Mitchell in the bullpen gives off the idea that he will not see starts until someone massively underperforms or falls victim to an injury. In reality, the 25-year-old deserved a starting gig more than Severino or Green.
With a bevy of options in his repertoire and superior command, Mitchell’s stuff screams starter. Severino’s lack of fastball command and Green’s two-pitch dominance likely point to respective careers as late-inning relievers.
Not only did the Yankees solidify a role for the least deserving candidate, who they simply want to see regain form he has not showcased since late 2015, they left a more-than-qualified candidate in an unsuited role, all while delaying the battle for the final spot by two weeks — a battle that has a complexion many fans can see from miles away.
Chad Green may be a solid four or five starter down the road, but several years of further development may be necessary, and his power fastball and devastating slider would make for a nastier Adam Warren if placed in the ‘pen.
On the other hand, the Yankees love Jordan Montgomery. They love him so much that they were willing to thrust him into the big league rotation battle just a couple weeks prior to the regular season.
As another southpaw, he would balance the starting staff, along with bringing a veteran-like five-pitch arsenal to the table. Furthermore, he has nothing left to prove in the minors.
While all signs point to Montgomery, with Green being the lesser option and Mitchell mysteriously being left out of the fold, the organization refuses to admit that this is their course of action, dragging out the process and increasing the already tremendous amount of speculation.
When and if the 24-year-old lefty enters the rotation, he will already be two starts behind — two starts that could have significantly contributed to his development and seasonal progress.
Winning has always meant the world to this franchise and it always will, but there is a fine line between opting for safe bets and losing sight of the bigger picture, especially when the safer options may tamper with the win column rather than benefit it.
In taking the wishy-washy approach with the most integral part of this 2017 roster, the Yankees made the first month of the season more difficult for all parties involved.