The Difficulties Of Pitching In The AL East

We all know how terrible the Yankees offensive is, and according to FanGraphs, the team ranks 27th in wRC+, 24th in positional fWAR, and 24th in OBP. As poor as the hitting has been, the Bronx Bombers remain just 3 games behind the second Wild Card seed, 6 games behind the 1st place Red Sox, and 6 games over .500.

The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

However dreadful the offense has been, the Yankees’ pitching has remained brilliant. The team’s ERA ranks 8th in all of baseball, their fWAR ranks 4th, and their K/BB 2nd. But individual starters have seen their fair share of battles. The supposed ace of the staff, CC Sabathia, is currently sporting a 4.37 ERA and a 4.19 FIP. Andy Pettitte owns a 4.47 ERA, Phil Hughes a 4.33 ERA, and David Phelps a 5.01 ERA. Ivan Nova, who’s started just 8 games this season, is the only starter with an ERA in the 3’s (3.66), while Hiroki Kuroda has been flat out dominant with a 2.65 ERA.

I just threw out a ton of numbers, but the general idea is that the majority of the starting rotation has been pitching with ERA’s in the 4’s or above. So how is it possible that this staff has ranked so highly in most categories, yet has allowed so many runs?

For years, we watched a Yankee team built on offense destroy the ball at home. The short porch in right field wasn’t just built for Babe Ruth, it was built for Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, and every other lefty slugger that the organization has targeted and put on the field. It was a joy to watch players use the short porch to hit home runs on typical fly ball outs. Now that this team is built on pitching, the short porch in right field is no longer a joy.

When you build a Yankee team on pitching, they’re going to have to deal with the ballpark they play in. We’re seeing home and away splits speak to just how difficult it is to pitch in Yankee Stadium. Phil Hughes currently owns a 5.63 ERA at home, with a 3.02 ERA on the road. Pettitte has a 5.40 ERA in Yankee Stadium, while showing a 3.57 ERA away from his home ballpark. Meanwhile, Hiroki Kuroda and CC Sabathia have been brilliant at home, but struggled somewhat on the road.

Even when you get out of Yankee Stadium, any team in the AL East has to deal with hitters ballparks like Fenway Park, Camden Yards, and the Rogers Center. Pitching in the AL East is not easy, but with the large media market and fan following surrounding most of these teams, the statistical expectations remain absurdly high. So while Hughes, Pettitte, and Sabathia have pitched with ERA’s in the 4’s, there needs to be some perspective to their numbers.

Despite what seems like a rough season for these three pitchers, they’re still winning games. You don’t have to look any further than the opposing pitchers to see why. While we see Sabathia, Hughes, and Pettitte battle to produce quality starts every five days, Jon Lester (4.50 ERA), R.A. Dickey (4.75 ERA), and David Price (4.03 ERA), three supposed AL East aces, have fared just as well. Pitching in this division is tough, and now that this team is built on pitching, us Yankee fans have to acclimate our own expectations. So while it may seem like this team can’t hit or pitch, there’s a reason why they remain 6 games over .500. Despite what the numbers say, the rotation has been excellent.

Mike is the co-Editor-in-Chief of It's About The Money. Outside of blogging baseball, Mike is also a musician, a runner, and a beer lover.