How Many All Stars Pitchers Will The Yankees Get?
By Chris O’Connor
June 26, 2022
The 2022 MLB All-Star Game will take place at Dodgers Stadium on Tuesday, July 19th. The rules for rosters are as follows: there are 32 players per team that includes 20 position players and 12 pitchers; each position, including DH, is represented and much have a backup; there is no distinction between the three outfield spots, so teams could have three center fielders, for example, in their starting lineup; of the 12 pitchers, 3 must be relievers; and all teams must get at least one player selected.
The Yankees are having a magical season and will certainly send multiple players to Los Angeles. Who will make it from the Yankees? Let’s look at pitchers after looking at position-players earlier in the week. Note: Statistics are as of last Wednesday’s games.
Pitcher: Gerrit Cole
Statistics: 6-1 with a 3.14 ERA in 14 starts and 80.1 innings. 1.7 fWAR, 1.7 bWAR.
Verdict: Yes. The All-Star game is, well, just that. It’s a place for the brightest stars in the game to show their best stuff, despite the lack of actual meaning to the game as it pertains to the races that fans really care about: playoffs, World Series, end-of-year award races, etc. I am aware that Cole has a bit of a checkered reputation among Yankees faithful, and I understand that there are a few diehards that will defend him to the end. I see both sides. On one hand, I think criticism of the totality of Cole’s performance is unfair. While he has not quite been the best pitcher in the league at any point in his 2+ years with the Yankees, he has been a durable, consistent top 5-ish starter. That matters, particularly in contrast to the two star pitchers on the other New York team. On the other hand, I do think it’s fair to not be fully confident in Cole in a small-sample playoff series. Because of his susceptibility to the long-ball and struggles in the early portion of games to find his stuff, when the leash is shortened in the playoffs, his weaknesses become a little more apparent. That said, Cole will almost certainly be an All-Star in 2022. One can make the argument that he has been the Yankees third or fourth best starter in 2022, but he has the status as an established star that gives him the edge over many with similar numbers.
Pitcher: Nestor Cortes Jr.
Statistics: 6-3 with a 2.31 ERA in 13 starts and 74.0 innings. 1.7 fWAR, 2.3 bWAR.
Verdict: Yes. Of course! While Cortes had a mini-breakout in 2021, he has taken his game to not only another level, but one that has him in contention to start the All-Star Game. Even the way that he has dominated is surprising. One would think that a 5’11” starter who throws in the low 90’s relies on soft contact to get outs. Nope. Nasty Nestor has the seventh-highest strikeout rate (27.0%) among AL starters with at least 50 IP and is only about league average in average exit velocity and hard-hit rate allowed. His underlying metrics are also strong, but I think there are some reasons to worry about sustaining this. He has never thrown more than 115 innings in any season since turning pro in 2013, so while the Yankees will most likely manage his innings and possibly skip a start or two in the future, he may tire down the stretch. He also has gotten lucky on homer luck. He has the second-highest flyball rate (48.7%) among AL starters and has the 13th-lowest HR/FB rate (9.6%). Over his last three starts, that has started to regress: he allowed five home runs in them and raised his ERA from 1.50 to 2.31. Still, even some regression from his sterling start could still put him among the league’s best. And like with Cole, there is something beyond strictly looking at production that will get Nasty Nestor into the game. He is a true underdog story, a 36th round draft pick with no obvious physical traits who has been cut multiple times in his career. It’s a cliché, but these are the kind of people and stories that make baseball so great.
Pitcher: Jameson Taillon
Statistics: 8-1 with a 2.70 ERA in 13 starts and 73.1 innings. 1.9 fWAR, 1.9 bWAR.
Verdict: No. Taillon actually is more deserving than the general consensus appears. He leads all AL starters in wins and walks per nine innings (1.10) He ranks top 10 among AL starters in ERA, fWAR, bWAR, WHIP, K/BB, HR/9 and various advanced metrics like ERA+, FIP, and xFIP. Just off of pure performance, Taillon probably deserves an appearance, and his underlying metrics show that his excellence is sustainable. But I do not think that he has been so dominant that it overcomes the stiff competition and lack of established status and name recognition in a vaunted Yankees rotation to vault him into one of the exclusive spots.
Pitcher: Luis Severino
Statistics: 4-1 with a 3.27 ERA in 12 starts and 66.0 innings. 0.9 fWAR, 1.1 bWAR.
Verdict: No. Sevy has really surprised me a lot this year with how well he has performed after having hardly pitched in three years. He has the fifth-highest strikeout rate (29.9%) of all AL starters with at least 50 IP; that rate is slightly higher than it was in both 2017 (29.4%) and 2018 (28.2%). His control is almost fully back as well: his walk rate of 7.1% is in the 63rd percentile league wide and is only slightly higher than it was in 2017-2018. His peripherals are also outstanding: his xFIP (3.21) ranks 11th among AL starters and his SIERA (3.09) is fifth. He has been a little prone to the long ball, but aside from the addition of a new cutter, Sevy has pretty much picked up right where he left off in 2017-2018. I do not think that he gets an All-Star game bid because of the intense competition, but getting the Sevy of old has been a huge victory in a season full of them for the 2022 Yankees.
Pitcher: Jordan Montgomery
Statistics: 3-1 with a 2.72 ERA in 13 starts and 72.2 innings. 1.3 fWAR, 1.6 bWAR.
Verdict: No. Minus the wins, Monty’s numbers look remarkably similar to Taillon. And like Taillon, he has a sneaky case to make the team. Monty ranks in the top 10 in the AL in ERA, WHIP, Hits/9, BB/9, K/BB. He rarely gives free passes (he has the fourth-lowest walk rate among AL starters at 3.8%) and limits hard contact (64th percentile in average exit velocity and 75th percentile in hard-hit rate). Advanced metrics do not love him in the way that they do Gerrit Cole, for example, because he has relied on a very low BABIP (.245) and has a low strikeout rate (19.4%). Like with Taillon, one could make the argument that just from a performance standpoint, Montgomery deserves more consideration. But there are so many good pitchers in the AL and Monty’s consistent reliability is not flashy in the way that the All-Star game generally works.
Pitcher: Clay Holmes
Statistics: 4-0 with a 0.55 ERA in 31 games and 32.2 innings. 1.2 fWAR, 1.9 bWAR.
Verdict: Yes. Not much to say here. Holmes has easily been the best reliever in the sport.
He has a ground ball rate of 82.7%. The next closest reliever is at 63.5%. When you combine that with a miniscule walk rate of 3.3% and an above-average (with perhaps room for improvement, given his stuff) strikeout rate of 27.9%, you get a 0.55 ERA. Among all AL pitchers, Holmes ranks tied for third in Win Probability Added and second in Championship Win Probability Added. If he keeps this up, we might start talking about a potential Cy Young contender.
Pitcher: Michael King
Statistics: 4-1 with a 2.41 ERA in 22 games and 37.1 innings. 1.5 fWAR, 1.3 bWAR.
Verdict: No. Despite his dominance, Holmes does not actually lead AL relievers in fWAR.
Michael King does. The multi-inning weapon has been dominant in his 37.1 innings (second-most among AL relievers) with the second-highest strikeout rate among AL relievers (35.7%), and a miniscule HR/9 of 0.48. The thing is, there are only three, maybe four reliever spots available, and they normally go to closer-types. King’s 2.41 ERA is also well ahead of competitors like Jorge Lopez of the Orioles (0.79) and Emmanuel Clase of the Guardians (1.53), and his seventh place ranking among relievers in WPA does not help as much. Like with much of the Yankees starters, there is certainly a case for King. It just seems unlikely given the format of the game that he gets in.