Starting pitching woes: it’s not time to panic

Through 26 percent of the season, the Yankees starting pitchers’ earned run average (ERA) sits at a whopping 4.88. That’s good for the 26th worst earned run average in the league. There are four teams with ERA’s worse than that of the Yankees. The list, accompanied by their records, is: Kansas City (4.92, 17-25), Boston (5.10, 22-22), Colorado (5.54, 15-27), and Minnesota (6.48, 15-27). Forget advanced metrics, this is atrocious. Think about what an ERA of 4.88 means: our starters are allowing three plus runs every six innings pitched. And yes, you guessed it, all of these aforementioned teams, including the Yankees, are in last place or second to last place in their respective divisions. So should we start to panic?

There are two ways that I can go with this. I can either look at the glass half-full or the more reasonable, glass half-empty approach. I am usually pretty positive when it comes to the Yankees, and I’ve tried to write about how excited I am and how there’s a lot of time to turn things around but it’s time to face the music. I love Andy Pettitte, but a 39-year-old is not going to fix all the issues that we have. We can only hope that he’s the best option as a number two starter. At best, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes can turn the tide, but neither is a bona fide number two starter. We’ve looked at advanced pitching metrics, from PitchF/X, to selection, to command, to everything but the problem is this: our pitching staff isn’t that great.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s say that C.C. Sabathia, the yearly Cy Young candidate, pitches as well as he has in pinstripes. What if Hiroki Kuroda pitches a little better and is serviceable as a 3rd starter? It’s also not farfetched to think that Nova and Hughes will post sub-4.25 ERA’s on the year. And on top of all of that, Andy Pettitte brings experience and a bit of veteran savvy to the rotation. One would be hard pressed to imagine our staff getting any worse. Combine that idea with the knowledge that we are currently 22-21 with a +2 run differential, means we are still going to be competitive moving forward. The Yankees have also hit .223 with runners in scoring position and have been even worse over their last 76 at-bats with RISP yet we are still four games back in the loss column. With all this information that says the Yankees have been struggling there isn’t need to panic because things can get better.

Despite all this negativity, seems to be what I’ve focused on lately, we have a lot to look forward to if the Yankees are playing this “bad”. For instance, we have the 6th best bullpen ERA in the league. Other teams are due to struggle somewhat while the Yankees will assuredly hit better with RISP.  We have integral parts of our team, David Robertson and Brett Gardner, on the disabled list. Now, I know that Robertson and Gardner can’t make up for everything, and it’s understandable to be worried at this point in time…I am. I’m worried we might not improve or get that trade we desperately need. But, we all need to calm down. Maybe this is a rebuilding period for us. Maybe it’s something else. Whatever it is, just don’t panic…yet.

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5 Responses to Starting pitching woes: it’s not time to panic

  1. Mike Sommer says:

    Actually, Andy turns 40 on June 15th.

  2. Greg Corcoran says:

    It's definitely understandable to be worried, but I think there is a lot of reason to be optimistic about our pitching staff. This is a good staff that has underperformed. Even CC has had an uncharacteristically high ERA. He and Kuroda are two veteran pitchers that have underperformed and will almost assuredly be better from here on out.

    The addition of Pettitte and subtraction of Garcia will do wonders. Hughes has been great recently, and not showing any signs of slowing down.

    I don't know what is wrong with Nova. He is leaving far too many balls up, and missing his spots. Yet somehow he continues to strike out tons of batters. Nova is the biggest question mark in this rotation right now, yet there is still reason for optimism with his very uncharacteristic homerun rate and the newly acquired high K rate. I do believe this staff is a full earned run better than their current ERA. Hopefully that will manifest itself the rest of the season.

    • cmclark says:

      That's what I'm hoping. It hasn't been great lately. But if we have pitched this bad and hit this bad, as baseball is a game of averages, it can't stay this bad forever. Then again, I said the same thing about Adam Dunn.

  3. john says:

    I told all of you Kuroda was another Javy Vazquez. And you all shouted me down.
    but hey Pineda has really produced like we all hoped. So theres that.

  4. mlblogsaugustine says:

    Good work Curtis. All we can do now is hope our staff is still ironing out some kinks and somebody steps up as our clear number two. I do not think its Kuroda. Pettitte needs a couple of more strong outings, but you have to think it'll be him. I don't believe Hughes is a post season rotation pitcher and who knows WHAT the hell is going on with Nova. I had a silly premonition that one of the Killer B's would get brought up late and MAYBE sneak in the middle of the rotation, but they show no signs of harnessing that fastball control.
    All we as Yankee fans can do is hope. And start to come to grips with the fact that EVERY season can't be a playoff season.