Yankees: Rating the Starting Pitchers for April
As they often do, the New York Yankees began the season reciting the mantra, “You can never have too much pitching.” CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka, and Ivan Nova were the givens. Michael Pineda, David Phelps, Adam Warren, and Vidal Nuno duked it out for the final spot, and Pineda blew the competition away.
Of course, we knew the pitching surplus wouldn’t last all season. Nova underwent Tommy John surgery on Tuesday, likely ending his season. Pineda is currently serving a ten-game suspension for the notorious pine tar incident, but even more disconcerting is the fact that he may also miss the next start he is eligible for because of stiffness in his lat. He will undergo a precautionary MRI this week.
Nuno has taken over for Nova, and Phelps has filled in for Pineda during the suspension.
So how have the Yankee pitchers performed thus far? Here is the Yankees starting pitching report card for the first month of the season.
CC Sabathia C
The slimmed-down ace has posted a less-than stellar 4.78 ERA to go along with a 3-2 record going into his start Tuesday night. Though his velocity hasn’t been reminiscent of the Sabathia of yesteryear, he has shown flashes of brilliance with his location at times. He needs to keep the pitch count down and stay away from the Big Inning, which has plagued him this season.
Hiroki Kuroda C-
Since Kuroda’s first win of the season, his ERA has been steadily rising and he has pitched more erratically. The inconsistency culminated last Friday in a putrid performance against the Angels that saw him surrendering six earned runs and ten hits in just 4 2/3 innings. Last season Kuroda was a rock during the first half of the season, but ran out of gas shortly after the All-Star break. At least one of the two, Kuroda or Sabathia, needs to give the Yankees more consistency at the front end of the rotation.
Masahiro Tanaka A-
Can Tanaka just pitch every day? Not only has the Japanese rookie rocked a killer slider, but he’s also incredibly fun to watch. Counting his Pacific League stats, he still has not recorded a loss since August of 2012, and has given the Yankees a chance to win every single time he’s been on the mound. They’ve won every game he’s pitched except April 9 against Baltimore, in which he hurled seven innings and gave up only three runs. During his most recent start against the Angels on Sunday, Tanaka did not have the best command of his pitches (he walked four, double the amount of walks in all his previous starts combined) yet refused to let the game get away. The Yankees eventually won via a late-inning rally. If he keeps up this pace, the New York-Seattle debate will no longer be about who made out better in the Pineda-Jesus Montero trade; it will be about who made out better when Robinson Cano decided to go out west and leave the Yankees with enough money to pick up Tanaka. As of now my money’s on Tanaka.
Ivan Nova D
Perhaps it’s not fair to grade Nova now that we know about the torn UCL that plagued him for who knows how long. Injury notwithstanding, Nova was the picture of inconsistency in his four starts this season, although he did have the distinction of recording the team’s first win of the season. Unfortunately he will probably miss the rest of the season, which is highly detrimental to the rotation because the Yankees need young players who can pitch into September (and hopefully October) without experiencing fatigue.
Michael Pineda B
Pineda’s grade would have been much higher if not for the suspension, but then again we have to wonder if his use of a foreign substance was what allowed him to pitch so well in his first three starts. The real test will be the next time Pineda pitches on a chilly night, because surely he wouldn’t be stupid enough to try to use it again. (One would hope.) Whatever the reason, Pineda has displayed extremely consistent control so far; he’s walked only three in as many starts, and has gone an even six innings in each of those starts. The Yankees are hoping the speculation about Pineda doesn’t turn out to be moot as he undergoes the MRI this week.
Up next: Grading the Bullpen for April
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