For all intents and purposes, the Yankees have a postseason spot locked up. Fangraphs gives the team a 99.9 percent chance to play October baseball. Further, Fangraphs indicates that the Bombers basically have the division title locked up, with a 98.0 percent chance to take the crown. They said it, not me.
So, barring a collapse, the Yankees can take their foot off the gas a little bit. Let’s examine some of the keys to the final couple months of the season.
This is an obvious one. In no particular order and not wholly inclusive of the team’s injured list, the Yankees are missing:
- Giancarlo Stanton
- Gary Sánchez
- Luke Voit
- Edwin Encarnación
- Aaron Hicks
- Gleyber Torres (pending more news)
- Luis Severino
- Dellin Betances
- CC Sabathia
- David Hale
- Jonathan Loaisiga
That list is a pretty good expansion team starter pack, no? Look, as incredible as guys like Mike Tauchman, Cameron Maybin, and Gio Urshela have been, I’d feel a whole lot better about this team’s postseason chances with the first five players I listed back in the lineup. And that’s not to say Tauchman, Maybin, and Urshela don’t have roles!
As for the pitching: Severino and Betances could be a huge shot in the arm for a staff that needs it. The bullpen has been taxed (more on that in a moment) and the rotation needs help. Whether or not Severino will start is still uncertain, but hopefully it’s where he winds up. Perhaps being fresh upon return this month or next is a blessing in disguise for Severino and Betances.
Now, realistically, not all of these guys are going to return before season’s end. Some might not return at all! Regardless, the more who can make it back, the better. Duh.
Let the bullpen get some rest and relaxation
In Mike Axisa’s indispensable RAB Thoughts Patreon post from yesterday, he pointed out that three relievers are on pace to make more than 70 appearances this season: Zack Britton (72), Tommy Kahnle (77), and Adam Ottavino (77). That’s a huge workload that Aaron Boone surely wants to cut down on before the postseason roles around.
The good news is that there are a number of things in the team’s favor that will allow Boone to let his main guys rest up. First and foremost: the huge division lead. Maybe Boone isn’t comfortable with avoiding his firemen in high leverage situations just yet, but if the division lead hasn’t budged much or grows by later this month, he’ll get on board.
Now, if the advantage shrinks a bit, Betances could ride in as the knight in shining armor. Hopefully, of course. His return in itself would give the rest of the bullpen some breathing room. Additionally, Domingo Germán might spend some time in the bullpen to manage his workload. He certainly has the stuff to be a late inning reliever. Let’s not forget about Deivi Garcia either, who might wind up as a relief option come September.
Last but not least, roster expansion in September will help. Boone will be able to spread relief innings around to more pitchers.
Help James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka regain their form
After not bolstering the rotation at the trade deadline, the Yankees don’t have much margin for error when it comes to its starters. At this point, we know what JA Happ and CC Sabathia are and its difficult to envision them going on a hot streak. Meanwhile, Paxton and Tanaka were expected to be stalwarts, but haven’t been thus far. And, they’re going to make postseason starts, so of course it would behoove everyone to get them on track.
In recent starts, both pitchers made adjustments. Paxton mixed in his curveball a whole lot more against the Red Sox and it seemed to work. Tanaka changed his splitter grip, and though the pitch itself has been more effective, overall results still haven’t come.
I’m hoping that the recent happenings for both starters will represent a change in their season’s trajectories. If so, the Yankees playoff rotation wouldn’t be all that bad, especially with a healthy Severino. Also, one more point on Tanaka that I think is prescient:
I’m not worried about Tanaka until I have to be: I remember he stunk in ‘17 and then he put it all together in the postseason.— Jayson Buford (@jaysonbuford) August 6, 2019
Now, if Tanaka doesn’t turn things around before the regular season end’s, I’m still gonna be nervous about his first postseason start. But in no way would it surprise me to see him dominate on the big stage nonetheless.
Handle Domingo Germán with care
To date, he’s thrown 108 innings between the majors and his rehab stint in Triple-A. It’s not quite clear what his limit is, but keep in mind that he threw 94 innings altogether last season. Does 140 sound about right? If so, the Yankees need to figure out what to do with Germán and fast.
A full month of starts is probably between 25 and 30 innings of work, so either he’s going to need to head to the bullpen soon or take a couple weeks off. I’m not sure how the Yankees will do it, but he’s almost certainly in the cards for an October start at this time, so I’m thinking that he’ll have to go to the bullpen very soon. Doing that would allow the team to build him back up in late September.
The problem? The Yankees rotation is incredibly thin as it is. The division lead is great and can allow them to hold back their best pitchers for the time being, but someone has to eat innings. Right now, the Yankees don’t really have anyone who can do that, and removing Germán from the rotation would exacerbate that issue.
Figure out Luis Severino’s role
Luis Severino throwing with catching coach Jason Brown in the foreground. Getting some distance. pic.twitter.com/QT0Ma7wuIE— Brendan Kuty (@BrendanKutyNJ) August 6, 2019
Brian Cashman indicated that Severino will come back as a starter, which makes sense. Of course, that’s barring any setbacks. The righty is expected to throw from the mound for the first time this Friday, which is great news.
There’s no question that the best fit for Severino is in the rotation. It’s the team’s greatest need, and we know how great he can be as a starter. Yes, last season didn’t finish ideally, but hopefully that’s now behind him.
Given his past success in a short stint as a reliever, I’m confident he’d be a great addition to this club’s bullpen (especially given the aforementioned discussion on the worn out ‘pen). It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to only have him in relief, but again, returning as a starter would be most helpful.
Let’s cross our fingers for his progression to continue smoothly. Time is ticking and any other complications would make it more difficult for him to join the rotation.