Luis Severino gets the hook, Game 4. Photo credit: Forbes

Yankees: Crawling From The Wreckage – (Part 1) Starting Pitching

The Yankees, individual obituaries notwithstanding, failed to show up as a team against the Red Sox. And for that, they will pay a high price when Brian Cashman remakes the team, yet again.

For the Yankees, this is more than a disappointment. It’s a head-on crash with few, if any, bright spots. In one sense, the Yankees gift to the Red Sox is meaningless, since the Houston Astros are steamrolling to the World Series anyway. But still, you wouldn’t have expected this number of broken pieces in the wake of the Yankees failure to move on in the postseason.

We begin where everything begins in baseball – pitching. More specifically, starting pitching. Coming into the series, the Red Sox had more question marks than the Yankees, who were thought to be “set” with Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and J.A. Happ lined up and coming off the high of winning the shootout against the Oakland A’s with their bats screaming.

The Yankees finish this year can only be deemed a failure, and there isn’t a player on the team who would disagree with that.

All three failed, however, and none more miserably than Severino, who looked more like Sonny Gray and the proverbial deer caught in the headlights for the second successive postseason. Someone on the Yankees staff needs to figure something out with Severino, and I wouldn’t count on Larry Rothschild as the one to do it.

Of course, the problem with that is you can’t teach this stuff. A pitcher is either a “gamer,” or he is not. It comes from within. While no one doubts Severino’s stuff, he’s a long way from being a pitcher’s pitcher in the vein of an Andy Pettitte or a Mike Mussina, both of whom commanded a game instead of the other way around.

Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees Starter Photo Credit: NJ.com
Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees Starter Photo Credit: NJ.com

Among other personnel decisions he made during the ALDS, Aaron Boone is likely to wonder if he made the best use of Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka allowed a run on three hits and a walk over five innings while striking out four, in the Yankees only win of the series.

Not a spectacular performance, but he did his job, which for a short series, is all that one can expect. We’ll never know, but that performance in Game One would indeed have set a different tone in the series. And maybe it’s time Tanaka was recognized as the most complete pitcher on the Yankees staff.

The bullpen was always there, but the Yankees were not able to line things up according to Plan A, which featured Zach Britton, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman innings seven through nine. Instead, Boone found himself, for example, bringing in Lance Lynn, a starting pitcher during the regular season, with runners on base following Severino’s crash in Game 3, and violating a major managerial commandment – always put your players in a position where they can succeed.

As a practical matter, we’re back to where we started during the Winter and Spring Training when the cry was ignored by Brian Cashman to get at least one proven major league ace, either by trade or free agent signing. Cashman went for the status quo, thinking he could always make up for time lost at the trade deadline. Except that by then, the trade for Happ was too little too late as the Yankees were looking to climb a mountain over the Red Sox by then.

The same mantra will prevail this winter as Brian Cashman gets a second go-around in re-working his starting staff. There’s no reason to re-sign Lance Lynn, and if an opportunity arises to trade Sonny Gray, the Yankees need not hesitate. Happ had an outstanding year and will be widely sought after as a free agent. His salary of $13 million for the 2018 season will only go higher, and you have to factor in his age (36) entering the 2019 season.

Hopefully, the forgotten man, Jordan Montgomery will be back to help the team sometime after May, fully recovered from arm surgery, while Justus Sheffield, Chance Adams, and Domingo German get long looks in Spring Training. But reality strikes hard when you realize none of them are the lights out Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, or Corey Kluber style pitchers who scream Ace.

Brian Cashman, Yankees GM Photo Credit: Baseball News Blog
Brian Cashman, Yankees GM Photo Credit: Baseball News Blog

Most teams are built for the regular season with a wish and a prayer that if everything breaks right, a team can make the playoffs. Think, Oakland A’s. But as we know, the Yankees are not that brand of teams. The Yankees finish this year can only be deemed a failure, and there isn’t a player on the team who would disagree with that.

The ball shifts dramatically to Brian Cashman’s court now. The burgeoning Yankees farm system is depleted and no longer boasts the lure of top-flight prospects, and it remains to be seen how Hal Steinbrenner and the Yankees intend to deal with the luxury tax burden if they decide to go full bore in the free agent market.

But as we’ll see, the pitching staff is only a portion of what Cashman will be dealing with. Next up, we’ll take a look at the Yankees 25-man roster position players, followed by the coaching staff including Aaron Boone, because there are issues there as well…

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