Yankees: Rating the Starters in the Month of May
The Yankees’ pitching rotation has experienced a number of changes in its second month of the season. Since the beginning of the year, they have officially lost 60% of their anticipated starting rotation, but the results have been anything but disastrous.
In fact, in their short tenure as starter replacements, David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, and Chase Whitley have posted numbers far superior to CC Sabathia’s this season.
Going into Tuesday night’s game, the Yankees are 12-12 in the month of May. They’ve been treading water just about all month, and will need to keep their legs pumping for quite a bit longer: Sabathia isn’t due back until at least July, and Michael Pineda is still a couple of weeks away from a return.
For now, this is who we’re working with:
Masahiro Tanaka A
Did it take Sabathia’s injury to get everyone to admit what we knew all along—that Tanaka is the true ace of the Yankee pitching staff? Not to discredit what Sabathia has done in the past, but we all know who we’ll want on the mound in a Game 7 of the 2014 playoffs, provided the Yankees get there. May was business as usual for the right-hander, although he did net his first loss. Still, even in that loss Tanaka only surrendered three earned runs in six innings, so he still gave his team a chance to win. And isn’t giving your team the confidence to win what being an ace is all about?
Hiroki Kuroda C+
The number-two by default has had a ho-hum May: not terrible, but not exactly dazzling either. He is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA this month and has been the victim of a lack of run support in a couple of starts. The bright side for Kuroda is that he has given the Yankees the distance they desperately needed when the bullpen was shorthanded; with the exception of May 23’s lackluster performance against the White Sox, he has gone at least six innings in each start this month. That’s no small feat for the 38-year-old who suffered from late-season fatigue last year.
David Phelps B
Last month Phelps was rated as a bullpen pitcher, but in May he’s served solely as a starter. This month he’s 1-1 with a 2.82 ERA in four starts. Though he had one outing of seven strong innings–a hard-luck loss to Chicago’s overpowering Chris Sale–Phelps rarely goes much deeper than the fifth. At this point the Yankees need all the innings they can get from the former long man.
Vidal Nuno C-
It’s pretty safe to say when Tanaka’s on the mound you’re going to get dominance; when Phelps is on the mound you’re expecting grit and determination. With Nuno, however, you really never know what to expect. This month he is 1-1 with an ERA just shy of 5, but no two of his outings have been alike. The Mets destroyed him for 5 runs in 3 1/3 on May 13, but he was dominant against the Angels a week earlier. A scrappy performance last Saturday against the White Sox left the door open for a late-inning Yankee rally and win in extras. For Nuno to remain relevant moving forward, he will need to up his consistency, since he wasn’t so hot in the bullpen either earlier this year.
Chase Whitley B
It’s hard to judge Whitley based only on three starts, but so far the Yankees have won every game he’s started. Whitley is most likely the odd man out once Pineda returns, but he has posted a solid 2.57 ERA in 14 innings pitched in the three starts. Earlier this season he was 3-2 with a 2.39 ERA in Triple A, and has done a decent job filling in as the number five starter. In his short major-league career, he has already shown ability to pitch out of trouble and keep his nerves in check.
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