You can never have enough pitching. Everybody who follows baseball knows that saying. While it may ring true, it’s usually not a good thing to test how much pitching your organization has. The Yankees have been finding that out the hard way since mid-April. Injuries, inconsistent performance, and the constant need to shuffle roster spots has created a carousel of new arms joining, leaving, and sometimes re-joining the pitching staff. As of yesterday, the Yankees had used an MLB-high 30 different pitchers this season. They’ve used 11 different starters and will roll out a 12th tonight.
Over the course of 114 games and that many pitchers, it’s easy to forget 1 or 2. There are names included in that 30 that I’m sure people never thought they’d see pitching in a Yankee uniform and a few that some people probably never heard of before they did. As a helpful guide to the bevy of right and left hands that have flung baseballs towards home plate for the Yankees in 2014, here’s a breakdown and recap of all 30. Search through and find your favorites!
There were high hopes for this fivesome heading into the season. Those hopes began fading quickly as guys started to fall to injuries and only Hirok remains as a healthy representative. In all this group has made 57 of the 114 team starts this season, exactly 50%, and their results have been very mixed. Nova and Sabathia were mostly bad in their 12 starts (46 ER in 66.2 IP), Tanaka was exceptional in his 18 (2.51/3.07/2.57 tripleslash), Hirok hasn’t quite been the Hirok of 2012-2013 but he’s been close (3.97/3.90/3.76), and Pineda was pretty good in a very small and possibly pine tar-aided sample size. Who knows what could have been had this group stayed healthy and on the mound.
If there were a Mt. Rushmore for the 2014 New York Yankee bullpen, these 4 would be the runaway candidates to get on there. D-Rob has been everything we hoped he’d be as Mo’s replacement and he strengthens his offseason earning power with each save. Betances has come out of almost nowhere to become one of the best and most devastating relievers in all of baseball. His 67.2 IP leads MLB and his 100 strikeouts are also most among relievers, with Craig Kimbrel a distant second at 75. Warren and Kelley have combined for an ERA in the low 3.00s, a FIP in the high 2.00s, and 99 Ks in 92.2 IP. There’s no way the Yankees are even sniffing the postseason race without these guys.
Nuno and Phelps started the season in the bullpen but quickly moved into the rotation when Nova and Pineda went on the DL. Nuno was pretty terrible in his 14 starts and 1 of his 3 relief appearances before being traded to Arizona for a much better replacement. Phelps was actually pretty solid in the rotation (4.28 ERA/4.18 FIP in 17 starts) before landing on the DL himself recently with elbow inflammation. Whitley was the flavor of the month when he got called up to replace CC, but crashed back to earth and has since been moved back into the ‘pen.
The aforementioned “better replacement” in the Nuno trade was McCarthy, who has been terrific in his 5 starts (2.08 ERA, 0.8 fWAR in 30.1 IP). It wouldn’t be entirely unfair to call him the ace of the staff right now. Capuano hasn’t been THAT good in his 3 starts, but he’s been close. 6 ER and 17 K in 19.0 IP is likely more than the Yankees were anticipating when they grabbed him. Rogers was a deadline waiver pickup and he’s flashed great stuff in his 2 relief appearances. He’ll make a spot start tonight in place of Phelps and could strengthen his standing in the long reliever position with even a decent showing.
While the 4 relievers at the top of this post have done most of the heavy lifting, this group represents the most regularly-used of the ever-changing middle relief corps behind them. Thornton was Joe’s primary matchup lefty before being claimed and acquired by the Nationals this week. His numbers weren’t terrible, but a lack of swing-and-miss stuff and the inability to strand inherited runners never inspired confidence. Claiborne and Daley have ridden the train from SWB to the Bronx a couple times this year, Claiborne (3.82 FIP in 17.2 IP) doing it much more successfully than Daley (6.83 in 14.1). Huff has served primarily as a long reliever in his 19 appearances thus far, and has grossly underpitched his peripherals (1.80 ERA, 5.06 FIP). He could see some more LOOGY time with Thornton gone.
They aren’t the only rookies who’ve seen action this season. Far from it. Greene and Ramirez just happen to be the ones who’ve pitched small enough sample sizes to still be labeled “question marks”. Greene was lights out yesterday in one of the best starting pitching performances by a Yankee this season. He owns a 2.89/3.83/3.63 tripleslash in 37.1 IP, a level of performance that he’s not likely to maintain. Ramirez pitched 10 innings over 8 low-leverage middle relief appearances earlier, and showed both the stuff (10 K) and lack of command (7 BB) that makes his future ceiling hard to define. How good will both of these guys be? Time will tell.
This has been the sneaky Achilles heel of the ‘pen this season. Guys who can’t even come in and pitch garbage time innings without pitching like complete garbage. That’s 37 ER allowed in 32.2 innings right there, a cool 10.41 ERA. 12 home runs. Blech. These are the type of guys that Joe never envisioned having to use and their combined results show why. Anna gets a pass for not being a real pitcher. The rest of ’em just suck. Thankfully none of them are on the active roster now and some of them are no longer with the organization.
Rich Hill (1): Rich Hill
The 30th and newest member of the club, Hill had a less than memorable start to his Yankee career when he plunked the only batter he faced on Tuesday night. He’s going to get a look as the new LOOGY as well, although that audition may not last very long with all the young left-handed talent waiting in the wings in the Minors.
So there you go. 30 arms and counting. With roster expansions coming in September, that number is destined to grow. As long as there aren’t a ton of injuries in the next month, I’d like to think it will stay under 40 by season’s end. The Yankees will be much better served by getting some of the injured guys on this list back for the stretch run rather than adding new names to the list.