If there was ever an appropriate time for the New York Yankees to go to a six-man starting rotation, the opportunity is now.
Up to this point, there has not been much to bicker about with this New York Yankees team. They have hovered around 30 wins above the .500 mark multiple times this season and are currently 68-39. They have scored the third most runs in baseball and rank fourth within the Major Leagues in terms of total team ERA (3.56).
However, there is something left to be desired inside the starting rotation. They rank 11th in starting pitching ERA at 3.98 for the season.
You might think a 3.98 ERA isn’t much to complain about considering they do indeed play in the powerful American League. There’s an additional way this rotation can take a step to the next level and at the same time take care of some underlying issues taking shape.
Those issues have forced the notion and idea that a six-man rotation is something that is useful for a team in the position the Yankees sit.
It seems appropriate we start out at the No. 1 spot in the rotation and with the number one comes the ace of the staff, Luis Severino.
Severino, as we saw, was lights out for almost the entire season thus far. Prior to his last four starts, Sevy was brilliant. From opening day to July 1, he was 13-2 with a 1.98 ERA and 138 strikeouts. Opponents were hitting a mere .198 against him and he had allowed just six home runs.
Since July 1, Severino has appeared to be a different pitcher. In his last four starts, he is 1-2 with an 8.84 ERA and opponents are hitting a whopping .384 against him in this stretch. Clearly, he has had a rough patch but is there another wall he is about to hit?
Last season he pitched a career-high of 193.1 innings. He is on pace to shatter that record and hit 200 innings pitched for the first time in his career in 2018. He’s at 137.2 innings right now. This being said, there will be growing pains and adjusting Severino hasn’t been accustomed to.
To prevent any further damage statistically to himself and the team, there is a way he can be preserved for when baseball matters most: October.
In order to do so, the Yankees adopting a six-man starting rotation is not an option—it’s a necessity.
By using a six-man rotation, Severino will simply eat up fewer innings. For a 24-year-old right-handed ace, it is imperative to make sure he stays fresh down the home stretch of the season. What better way to do that then adding an arm such as Lance Lynn to the rotation?
Lance Lynn, who is 7-8 with a 4.89 ERA in 106.2 innings pitched this year, is a household name and arm that can be considered a solid No. 4/5 starter on this Yankees’ staff. Adding Lynn at the expense of preserving Severino’s accumulated innings should be a priority and one that the Yankees’ coaching staff should toy around with.
It should be duly noted Lance Lynn’s latest performance in his debut in pinstripes where he went 4.1 innings pitched surrendering just five hits and striking out five in relief of Sonny Gray.
Lance Lynn provides the Yankees a freedom they wouldn’t have had they not acquired him via trade with the Twins. His reliability lets the Yankees toy around with him between the rotation and a long-relief role, but for now, he’s joining the starting rotation in place of Gray.
Masahiro Tanaka, the man who usually follows Severino, is up next on why this team can desperately use a six-man rotation.
Through Tanaka’s tenure in New York, he has been fairly impressive. To say he was worth the money when he signed in 2014 is accurately stated. Formerly being the ace of the Yankees staff prior to the emergence of Severino, Tanaka has also eaten up a good amount of innings considering the damage he has to his UCL.
As many know Masahiro Tanaka has been pitching with a partial tear in his right elbow UCL since 2014.
With that in mind, he is notorious for pitching more effectively when there are more days of rest in between starts. It came to the forefront in 2016 when the Yankees noticed how much more effective he became when he was rested just an extra day or two.
When Masahiro Tanaka has 5+ days of rest, you don't want to be in the opposing batter's box. #YANKSonYES pic.twitter.com/xeIEjTP2SG
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) June 18, 2016
Pictured above, his pitching splits in the 2016 season. Following suit in 2017, Tanaka’s struggles vividly came full circle, not because of days of rest, but primarily because of the flat movement on his pitches.
Was this due in part to the UCL damage in his elbow?
In all honesty, it may have been. In 2018 he has tried to right the ship once again but has still seen rough patches throughout the season. Not to say that it’s fully due to a lack of rest, but it definitely begs the question.
By simply adding the arm of Lance Lynn to the rotation’s equation, it gives the Yankees the opportunity to preserve the $155 million arm they invested in four years ago. If the Bombers want to be relevant in the month of October, where Tanaka excelled last season, then giving him an extra day here and there can make his overall regular season more effective as well as keep him fresh for when it matters most.
Tanaka clearly likes extra rest so why not give it to him?
Lastly, but not forgotten is the big dog. Emphasizing the word ‘big’ as well leads us into CC Sabathia.
CC Sabathia has been worth every penny invested into him. Over the course of his career, he has been a stopper, a gamer, and all-out lion on the mound. He has a nasty attitude on the bump which is what you want out of any pitcher. A pitcher who smiles or snarls, you tell me who batters would rather face.
Bearing in mind what Sabathia brings to the table, it is also important to keep in mind his bad right knee. Since the 2015 season, it has been something Sabathia has battled. Year after year he has tried braces, injections, rest and anything else you can name to help ease the pain he deals with a nightly basis:
CC Sabathia was told knee is simply arthritic, no surgery needed at this time. Thinks he can be back in 15 day period and rest will help.
— Sweeny Murti (@YankeesWFAN) August 25, 2015
In 2015 he was delivered this news, an arthritic knee. An issue that likely has no solution but just simple rest.
Now, three years later he his pitching on that same arthritic knee in which he regularly receives injections to every couple of weeks.
Needless to say, adding another arm to this Yankees’ rotation solves more than one problem. Sabathia’s pitching splits on days of rest varies so there is no clear cut reason as to how he can benefit from this aside from the physical damage he has to his knee.
By being able to pitch on five or six days of rest rather than four, it gives the big man extra time to properly treat his knee. Do you think CC would complain about having an extra day every week?
Absolutely not. In all likelihood, he would probably push the initiative to add a viable arm such as Lance Lynn to the rotation because it benefits him and the rest of the ailing Yankees’ staff. Clearly when I say ailing it’s not in reference to the numbers of Luis Severino, Tanaka, or CC but it does lead into the mess a pitcher like Sonny Gray has made himself into.
Sonny Gray had an afternoon to forget on Wednesday, to say the least. There is not much else left to say on his season and at this point, it’s beating a dead horse if you want to keep bashing Mr. Gray.
He’s off to the bullpen, but perhaps he can work out the kinks in there and return to the rotation in short order. If not, there are other options to fill out the six-man rotation.
J.A. Happ is currently on the 10-day DL with hand, foot, and mouth disease, but he’ll be back soon enough. And if not Gray, Justus Sheffield is looming in the minor leagues as a potential option to inject a shot of life into this rotation. By bringing up Sheffield, the Yankees rotation would consist of Severino, Tanaka, Sabathia, Happ, Lynn, and Sheffield. Perhaps that’s the rotation that Boone should consider.
The Yankees in recent memory haven’t used a six-man starting rotation. It’s something that would be fairly new to this staff and Aaron Boone himself.
Regardless, does it make sense? Yes. Can it work? Yes.
No one is sure if or when, but it should come soon because a six-man rotation is not an option anymore, it’s now a necessity.