How the 2019 Yankees Can Take the Next Step

The All-Star Break has come and gone and the Yankees have played more than half of their games. They have an impressive 58-31 (.652) record, which is the best in all of baseball. They have eight fewer losses than the second-place Rays and ten less than the third-place Red Sox. They’re pretty well set up, and only appear to be getting healthier.

This all puts the Yankees in the best position in quite a while to win the World Series. They’re in a position to hang on to the division, have enough assets to acquire playoff level talent, and have one of the deepest rosters in baseball. There’s no need to sugar coat it anymore: the 2019 Yankees need to win the World Series for this season to be a success.

So, what do they need to do to get there? Let’s think.

Step One: Starting Pitching Depth

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Everyone acknowledges the Yanks need more pitching arms. Bobby has done trade targets for Stroman, Boyd, and MadBum. This post isn’t to argue about which is better, or to discuss if they Yanks will go after an arm like Zack Wheeler, but to get to the bottom line: they need another arm in order to compete for another three and a half months.

The problem isn’t that the Yankees don’t have good starting pitching, but I don’t think it’s reliable enough for a World Series run. J.A. Happ and CC are too inconsistent, and Paxton has been inconsistent while getting settled to the Big Apple. Germán has been fantastic but will have an innings limit in addition to question marks. Can you trust him off of one half of a good season? I hope so, but I’m not 100% convinced. That just leaves Tanaka, who I trust in any big game, but has the tendency to just disappear sometimes. But again, talent isn’t the issue–it’s reliability and the ability to go deep into games.

For example, they only get a quality start 34% of the time. That means starters gets rocked for more than six innings or isn’t efficient enough to get to the seventh. League average QS% is 37%, so they’re not far off but need to improve. Houston, for example, gets a quality start 55% of the time, and Tampa Bay 41%.

But again, the point isn’t that the Yankees starting pitching is bad, because it’s not by any degree. But their inability to go deep into games is putting a strain on maybe their biggest strength: the bullpen. Going into October their pen has to be at full strength and they should not be compromising their best talent by overusing them from July-September.

That brings us to Step Two.

Step Two: Bullpen Usage

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The Yanks use their bullpen a lot. And that’s not a bad thing considering they have probably the best relief corps in the league. But it is a bit alarming how often they use their best arms. Ottavino already has 40.0 IP and has never accumulated more than 79.0 in a season. Britton has 37.0 IP, which is almost more than he threw in both 2018 and 2017. He has not thrown more than sixty since moving to the pen. Chapman has 34.2 IP and has thrown just over 50 in each of his seasons with the Yanks.

In addition to throwing a lot of innings, their best arms throw a lot of high leverage innings, for which Boone should be praised. The Yanks pen has been deployed in high leverage situations 106 times this season, the fifth most in all of baseball. Our best relievers get used in the biggest situations, but that also means they are getting more taxed in each outing.

I don’t necessarily believe that they need to go get another top reliever, but they should seriously consider adding a big league arm who can be used in a number of situations out of the pen to ensure the Yanks best relievers are ready for October.

Just for fun, though, I played around with baseball trade values to see what it could take to get Giles and Stroman in a package. I proposed Bird, Cessa, Frazier, Pereira and $4m and it was accepted. Would be an improvement to the team, and though Cessa comes out of the pen he’s easily replaceable, especially when the roster size is increased.

Step Three: Stay Healthy

This season has been pretty unlucky in terms of injuries. But the Yanks staff can’t really go without blame, either. Not making Severino get an MRI before letting him rehab is just inexcusable. That’s our $40m ace and a huge part of this team. Judge, Stanton, and Betances all had some sort of setback during their rehab as well. Maybe it’s just that Boone and co. aren’t communicating their injuries accurately, but something should change going into the second half.

I understand that most of this is just luck, but any World Series team has to stay healthy to win through and in October. The Yanks won’t be an exception, regardless of how good Gio and Maybin continue to play.

Conclusion

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World Series winners have their fair share of luck, whether it be balls going their way, extreme health, or maybe strike three being called a ball and the next pitch being a grand slam:

But World Series winners also have the talent too. Cashman just needs to make a few of the right moves and the Yanks could well be on their way to title favorites, and World Series winners. Let’s hope it happens.

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4 Comments

  1. Steve W.

    Not sure what you mean when you say Britton “has not thrown more than sixty [IP] since moving to the pen.” He threw 76.1, 65.2, and 67.0 IP in 2014-16 with Baltimore.

  2. BigDavey88

    Great post, but that trade proposal… I know it was for fun, but Greg Bird has zero value. Even when he’s been healthy, he’s looked terrible.

    • lightSABR

      Zero value? I hear he’s a great dancer, and very kind to cats.

  3. CountryClub

    The main arms in the pen have not been overused. Ottavino is on pace to throw less innings than last year. Of course Britton is on pace for more, he didn’t play a full season the past two years. They’ve managed all those guys properly. Now that green is back in there FT, it’ll take pressure off the other 4 guys (like we saw last night). Stay healthy and get a good starter and they’re in great shape. And I’m not even counting on Betances/Severino. Get those guys back and forget about it.

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