Domingo German
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

Domingo German is pitching so well the New York Yankees may need a six-man starting rotation.

Domingo German has been a pleasant surprise.

The lanky right-hander continued his great run for the New York Yankees Sunday against the Minnesota Twins. German pitched 6.2 innings of one-run ball, allowing four hits while striking out seven. He improved to 6-1 on the season and lowered his ERA to 2.35.

It’s truly a shame because once Luis Severino is back, German will be relegated to the bullpen. Or maybe the minor leagues.

If I may quote Zack Morris, “Time out!” Things have changed now that Severino, who is currently rehabbing a shoulder injury, is probably out until July now.

Throw in southpaw stud James Paxton being out a few weeks with a knee issue, and Domingo German is, essentially, the Yankees’ staff ace. Last I checked, an ace-level pitcher is never demoted to the bullpen during a hot streak.

This means manager Aaron Boone has to take the next step forward with his pitching staff.

Thanks to German’s strong start, it’s time to use a six-man rotation.

An improved arm

The best way to understand Domingo German’s rise is to jump in the DeLorean and revisit the end of last season. Had you told any Yankees fan German would be the top arm in a rotation decimated by injuries, you would have been laughed out of the room.

Such a response would be warranted. German showed flashes of potential last year but was still greener than Hal Jordan’s ring. He had a K/9 of 10.72 but was 2-6 with a 5.57 ERA. He had potential but was clearly still learning how to pitch, and the numbers show it.

Per Fangraphs, German’s hard contact rate was 37.4 percent. Throw in a flyball rate (FB%) of 40.4 and a HR/FB of 15.8 percent, and cue the high ERA. It also didn’t help German threw little else besides fastballs and curveballs last year, with both pitches accounting for 83.1 percent of what he threw in 2018.

German was eventually shut down with elbow trouble in July and only made two more appearances in relief. He’d be back with the team in spring training but really needed to prove he could be better.

The Domingo German of 2019, meanwhile, is a completely different pitcher. His hard contact has dropped to 31.3 percent while his soft contact is up to 20.5 percent from 17.4 percent last year. German’s FB% hasn’t dropped much, only to 39, but his groundball rate (GB%) has gone up to 41.5 from 37.4.

And German has not changed his approach much. Fangraphs lists fastballs and curveballs making up 82.2 percent of his pitches.

Plain and simple, folks. The man learned how to pitch.

Sixth man of the year

Now, let’s get back to the main point. Domingo German needs to be the Yankees’ sixth starter. Even if Severino and Paxton come back and don’t lose a single one of their remaining starts (Pretty please?), he needs to pitch every week.

Granted, Severino and Paxton are both aces in their own right, but injuries and the grind of the season are real. Not only that, but Severino may need a start or two to get re-acclimated to pitching in regular season games.

Moreover, CC Sabathia’s balky knee has been an issue for years. J.A. Happ, despite looking sharp last year, has pitched to a 7.65 ERA at home (4.93 overall). Keeping German in the rotation allows Boone options in case one man needs some time in the ‘pen.

But this is why the bullpen shouldn’t even be in the equation. The Yankees play in the hard-hitting AL East and figure to be in the thick of the divisional race from start to finish. Now, fast forward to Severino coming back, likely right before the dog days of August kick in. With Domingo German in the rotation, each of the other starters suddenly has an extra day of rest. Keeping their minds and legs fresh suddenly comes easier.

In the playoffs, that becomes a game-changer.

Final thoughts

There is simply no way the New York Yankees could have anticipated the number of injuries thus far. Between the slew of banged up bats and injured pitchers, Domingo German has been a saving grace.

By switching to a six-man rotation, the Yankees can turn him into a godsend. German is more confident in his pitches now and knows how to use them more effectively. That he became a far better pitcher in a single year proves he has a good head on his shoulders and can step up when needed.

His spot in the rotation may not read as such, but the man is now the team’s ace. The Yankees owe it to themselves to extend to a six-man crew and keep hitters guessing on German’s wily stuff.

It is an unconventional decision, but the right one for the Yankees’ long-term hopes.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.