Yankees' pitching doesn't look like right stuff for playoffs

By Jeff Fogle  (VSiN.com) 

Do the New York Yankees have the starting pitching it takes to win in the postseason? That’s a question you can ponder as you watch ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball telecast of the Yankees-Orioles game from Camden Yards. We’ve put together some key stats to help inform your thought process. 

The first question, of course, is can the Yankees get past the wild-card play-in game? They’re not going to catch Boston for first place. That means a likely one-game showdown in the Bronx against the AL West runner-up. (Though, if the Yanks flounder in the next five weeks, that could be a road game.)

For now, the assumption is that Luis Severino will start that knockout. Severino’s struggled BADLY over his last eight outings. Only one quality start…an ERA of 7.02 on a WHIP of 1.71…11 home runs allowed (about one every three innings). That version of Severino will get rocked by the AL West runner-up, ending the season. There are no “ace caliber” alternatives on the current roster. (Severino is scheduled to throw Sunday in Baltimore, giving you a chance to evaluate his health and form.)

If we assume that Severino’s going through a temporary rough patch that will get sorted out by October, we can think of the rotation as a whole preparing for its challenge. Let’s first look at xFIP, which is a “fielding independent” measure that captures the impact of skill sets on a scale aligned with ERA. Stats below were entering the Baltimore series. 

Yankees’ xFIP

Luis Severino 3.16

Masahiro Tanaka 3.55

J.A. Happ 3.87

Lance Lynn 4.18

Sonny Gray 4.28

C.C. Sabathia 4.36

A lot of vulnerable arms when you consider the caliber of bats that will be in the AL brackets. And, a key characteristic of those opposing bats is the ability to hit home runs. Is there anyone in the Yankees rotation that’s great at discouraging home runs?

Yankees’ HRs Allowed/9 innings

Lance Lynn 0.91

Luis Severino 0.96

Sonny Gray 1.04

C.C. Sabathia 1.21

J.A. Happ 1.37

Masahiro Tanaka 1.73

Severino at his best discourages homers because it’s hard to make contact. His recent slump has dropped his full-season average to about one per nine innings. So, he had to slump just to get back to Lynn and Gray. Tanaka is prone to serve taters on a tee when he isn’t sharp. 

Starting pitching is an area that needs to be addressed, or a weakness that must be overcome if the Yanks are going to live up to William Hill’s optimistic 325 odds to win the American League (risk $100 to win $325, or anything in that ratio), or their 7/1 odds to win the World Series (risk $100 to win $700, etc.). If colder-than-expected October weather helps hide the HR-prone tendencies of starters, that’s a windfall you can spot bet aggressively at the time. 

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