Starting Pitching Needs to Step Up

The New York Yankees have completely turned their offense around during the month of August behind Alfonso Soriano, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano.

The Yankees are third in the AL in homers in August (29), fifth in wOBA (.330) and sixth in OPS (.751)  The Yankees have averaged nearly 4.5 runs per game in Soriano’s 30 games as a Yankees and he trails only Miguel Cabrera in home runs after the all-star break.

Rodriguez (.284/.369/.473/.842 with a 133 wRC+) and Granderson (.291/.412/.456/.868 with a 140 wRC+) have both been terrific since they returned from the DL. Assuming that this continues, the Yankees should have plenty of offense for them to make a run at the second wild car in September. The question will be whether the starting pitching can be good enough.

There have been some good signs and some bad signs out of the starting pitchers lately. Andy Pettitte turning it around and Ivan Nova maintaining his performance have been good ones.

Over his last three starts, Pettitte has allowed just two runs on 15 hits over 19.2 innings. The first of those three starts was the biggest, as Pettitte delivered a huge performance in the opening game of the series in Boston. He allowed three unearned runs over 6.2 innings and gave up six hits, one walk and struck out five. He was given a huge first inning lead to work with, but big leads can evaporate quickly at Fenway Park.

Pettitte’s last two outing came against the Blue Jays and he allowed only one run over 13 innings. Toronto is not a great team but the starts were still very encouraging. When the stakes get raised Pettitte raises his game, which is why I have a lot of confidence in him pitching big games down the stretch in September. You know he is going to battle and not be afraid of any moment. Pettitte’s ERA is now down to a respectable 4.05 for the season.

Nova has not been as dominant in his last three starts, but he has still battled and managed to have good results. That is big for a pitcher who has had the physical tools, but lacked knowledge in just how to pitch. Nova has allowed 27 hits to only 11 strikeouts over those last three starts, but the most amount of runs that he allowed was four over 6.1 innings on August 20th against Toronto. In his previous start, he allowed three runs over 7.1 innings against the Angels and came up with a big performance in a game the Yankees had to have Sunday in Tampa.

The problems in the Yankees rotation are CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes. Hiroki Kuroda has struggled as well over his last two outings, but I will chalk that up to just a blip on the radar for him.

Sabathia has shown signs of improvement but has still been unable to put it all back together. His fastball velocity has improved lately, as he has averaged 93.24 MPH on his fastball in August, including averaging 93.88 MPH and 94.07 MPH over his last two starts. However, as Sabathia has added velocity his control has vanished. He has allowed an abysmal 4.70 walks per nine innings in August.

Sabathia has thrown quality starts in three out of his last four outings, but he still has not been the dominant Sabathia we have come to know over the last few years. He had an egregious performance in the rubber match of the Boston series but got bailed out by his offense.

Then, on Saturday, Sabathia blew a 2-0 lead when he imploded in the sixth inning. He was absolutely dominant over the first five innings with his fastball humming at over 94 MPH and his slider breaking as sharply as it had all season. It all fell apart when Sam Fuld hit a bloop single to lead off the sixth inning and Sabathia could not find the plate out of the stretch. That game is the type of game that the Yankees will need Sabathia to finish down the stretch of the season if they want to make the playoffs.

There seems to be little hope for Hughes to be an effective pitcher at all this season. Hughes has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball this season with an ERA of 4.91, which ranks 80th out of 85 qualified starting pitchers.

With only 30 games remaining in the season the Yankees cannot afford to give any games away, which is essentially what they have been doing by running Hughes out there every five days.

Unfortunately, the options that the Yankees have to replace Hughes are not very appealing. David Huff and Adam Warren are the only in-house options with David Phelps, Michael Pineda and Vidal Nuno all injured.

Huff has thrown 8.1 innings of shutout baseball over his last two relief appearances against Toronto and has only allowed one hit. However, Huff’s 5.25 ERA and 4.74 FIP in almost 300 career innings inspires little confidence. Warren has been o.k. this season, but I still do not believe that he has the stuff to be a good MLB starting pitcher. At the very least the Yankees need to skip Hughes’ start this weekend in Baltimore.

The Yankees are currently five games behind Oakland in the chase for the second wild card. They will have to play close to flawless baseball in September to catch them and they cannot do it without great starting pitching. They have not gotten that consistently since the beginning of the season and it needs to reappear right now for the Yankees to have a legitimate shot at the playoffs.

About Matthew B

I am a student at William Paterson University and studying to become a sportswriter. I have a huge passion for the Yankees and love sharing my opinions on them. I can analyze every aspect of the Yankees very well. I am very active on Twitter so feel free to contact me there Twitter: @RAYROBERT9

Posted on August 28, 2013, in No Category and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Twasp…curious…how would you change Baseball for the better? I’ll give you a few of mine…

    Limit contract length to 4 years…max payroll not to exceed 3.25% of MLB total revenue which is over 270 million. Penalty for going over…loss of half your allotted amateur spending for the following year.

    Increase schedule to 164 games but with 2 single Sunday traditional double headers. Each team plays each other team in their leagues other divisions 10 times. 2 five game home an away series so less travel. There will be twenty inter league games…2 two game series home an away with all the teams from one of the three other leagues divisions. So every 3 years your team has played 4 games against every team in the other league. 11 games against divisional teams…swapping every other year the extra home game. Same league teams would play 140 games the same so much more fair when it comes to the wild card.

    Eliminate the DRAFT…create two money pools for amateur spending for teams in the post season and those not. Create a signing period of two weeks to create drama like the draft. No more of this worst record gets the most money to spend crap.

    One more ban no trade clauses in the last year and a half of all multiple year contracts so all players can be traded. Eliminate optional years and buyouts.

    • Some interesting ideas Dan but the MLBPA would fight most of them so they would have to be given concessions in return to agree to them. They’d fight like hell against the 4-yr max contract, extra games without extra pay and scheduled double headers.

      I agree the draft has to change along with the Int’l Amateur FA process and the stupid posting system for Japanese players. I also think the whole qualifying offer/draft pick thing needs to change. It greatly limits the open market for certain FAs.

      I also agree that scheduling needs to change. Teams play WAY too many games against their division. The Yanks are battling Oakland for the Wild Card yet play them just 6 times while playing 19 games against BOS, BAL, TB & TOR. I’d like to see 9 games vs each Non-Division AL team, 20 inter-lg games and 13 games vs each divisional team.

      Eliminating Draft with different spending pools for playoff and non-playoff teams is an interesting idea. Maybe give teams that have missed postseason for multiple yrs slightly more pool money to spend.

      • Fish if MLB revenues are approaching 9 billion annually then 3.25% is over 300 million dollars. That is a lot of money for teams to spend and players to receive. In the early mid 2000’s the Yankees payroll was over 4.1% and they didn’t win the WS.

        Limiting contracts would only effect a few star players…not the many so I doubt it’s an issue to the rank and file. If you want to be paid as a star player continue to earn it on the field.

        I prefer my schedule to yours as I want it more balanced. I don’t mind the teams paying the players for the extra 2 games. It could also go down to 160 games but I like the extra game as the divisional tiebreaker.

        The draft has served it’s purpose and needs to go…I don’t want to reward teams for losing…look at the talent Houston is accumulating…it’s just not fair to be rewarded for poor performance on the field to get the most money and first choice. Plus I want the amateur players to have a say in where they go.

        Baseball needs to change or you will have nothing but mediocre play on the field.

  2. Ok Dan … had some good suggestions….


    1. Train umpires to have a uniform, consistent strike zone…..right now it’s all over the place.
    2. Implement instant replay contentions ASAP…..the umpires have shown to be just awful.
    3. Get rid of the DH….put strategic moves back into play regarding pinch hitting for pitchers.
    4. Get rid of the double warning after the second batter has been hit. Let the players police the game.
    5. Implement rules that reward players for staying with same team…..players moving from team to team prohibits fan loyalty to players…and takes away from fans loving their players like they did in the past
    6. Make all playoffs 7 games…lets get the best teams to the WS
    7. Get rid of second wild card


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