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One Look At the Impact of the Yankees’ Pitching Philosophy Since 2011

Earlier today, in my perspectives post, I opined:

It’s a crazy dichotomy, but why is it that the Yankees can turn fringe players, guys other teams give up on, into plus players if not stars but they can’t do it for pitchers? Year after year this seems to occur. Luke Voit, Gio Urshela, Mike Tauchman come to the Bronx and become plus players…

Yet, at the same time, the Yankees bring in pitchers who, by all measures should be very good, if not great, and they flop. The Yankees get these very good pitchers who a very good until they’ve been around the Yankees, and then they aren’t. J.A. Happ, James Paxton, and Sonny Gray are just three, but the list is longer. Sometimes the players (like Happ) are good when the initially arrive, but then they seem to get worse.

Why is this?

I can surmise only two possible conclusions:

Brian Cashman and his team cannot accurately predict pitching and they choose the wrong players to acquire or

The Yankees big pitching coaches are not doing a good job… (or, at least, their approach and philosophy doesn’t work)

It seems that pitchers come to the Yankees and get worse while at the same time pitchers go to other teams, like the Astros, and get much better.

With all that being said, I decided to take a quick look at the Yankees starting pitchers since 2011 when Larry Rothschild became the Yankees’ pitching coach.

Obviously there is a lot of information when one tries to do this. Some pitchers, like C.C. Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka have had ups and downs over many years.

In order to look at the voluminous amount of data, I decided to just examine ERA, WHIP, and FIP. To reduce the data even more, I only looked at each pitcher who pitched at least 10 games as a Yankee and how they did before and or after working with Larry Rothschild and within the Yankees pitching philosophy. I begin with 2011…

I’ll rate each as Improved, Got Worse, or Stated the Same.

(Note this is just one way, a quick way, with simple stats at looking at a complex and long history. I welcome readers to check the numbers, weigh in, and offer other stats that support or disprove what I lay out here. I may have missed a pitcher or two. This is a first look at a lot of data. Also some pitchers may have initally gotten worse in the first season and then improved after that.)

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Comparing the Pitchers’ 2011 and 2012 Seasons

C.C. Sabathia: Got Worse – His ERA (3.00 to 3.38) and FIP (2.88 to 3.34) went up, WHIP (1.22 to 1.14) went down.

Ivan Nova: Got Worse – His ERA (3.70 to 5.02), WHIP (1.33 to 1.46), and FIP (4.00 to 4.60) all went up.

Freddy Garcia: Got Worse – His ERA (3.62 to 5.20) and FIP (412 to 4.68) went up, WHIP was basically the same (1.34 to 1.37).

Phil Hughes: Improved – His ERA (5.79 to 4.19) and WHIP (1.48 to 1.26) went DOWN and WHIP was about the same (4.58 to 4.56).

A.J. Burnett left the Yankees after 2011. All three of those numbers went down after leaving New York. He improved after leaving.

Bartolo Colon left the Yankees after 2011. All three of those numbers went down after leaving. He improved after leaving.

Hiroki Kuroda came to the Yankees in 2012. He got worse. His ERA (3.07 to 3.32) and FIP (3.78 to 3.86) went up, his WHIP (1.21 to 1.16) went down.

Andy Pettitte joined the Yankees in 2012 after not pitching in 2011.

Comparing the 2012 and 2013 Seasons

Andy Pettitte: Got Worse – ERA (2.87 to 3.74), WHIP (1.14 to 1.32), and FIP (3.48 to 3.70) all went up.

David Phelps was a rookie in 2012. In 2013, he got worse. His ERA (3.34 to 4.98), and WHIP (1.19 to 1.41) went up, his FIP (4.32 to 3.81) went down.

Freddie Garcia left the Yankees after 2012 and got better. His ERA (5.20 to 4.37) and WHIP (1.37 to 1.24) get better and FIP (4.68 to 5.49) got worse.

Comparing the 2013 and 2014 Seasons

Masahiro Tanaka joined the Yankees in 2014.

Michael Pineda joined the Yankees in 2014.

A few other guys like Brandon McCarthy and Chris Capuano arrived and didn’t pitch a whole lot in New York in 2014 and we’re on the team in 2015.

Phil Hughes left the Yankees after the 2013 season. In 2014 he improved after leaving. His ERA (5.19 to 3.52) WHIP (1.45 to 1.13) and FIP (4.50 to 2.65) all improved.

Comparing the 2014 and 2015 Seasons

Masahiro Tanaka: Got Worse – ERA (2.77 to 3.51) and FIP (3.04 to 3.98) went up. WHIP (1.05 to 0.99) went down.

Michael Pineda: Got Worse – ERA (1.89 to 4.37), WHIP (0.82 to 1.22), and FIP (2.71 to 3.34) all went up.

Nathan Eovaldi joined the Yankees. He got worse. His ERA improved (4.37 to 4.20) but his WHIP (1.33 to 1.45) and FIP (3.37 to 3.42) got worse.

David Phelps left the Yankees after 2014. He improved after leaving. His ERA went up (4.38 to 4.50) but his WHIP (1.42 to 1.35) and FIP (4.41 to 4.03) went down.

Luis Severino reached the big leagues in 2015.

Comparing the 2015 and 2016 Seasons

Luis Severino: Got worse – His ERA (2.89 to 5.83), WHIP (1.20 to 1.45) and FIP (4.37 to 4.48) all went up.

Comparing the 2016 and 2017 Seasons

Sonny Gray came to the Yankees in 2017. He got worse. His 2017 Yankee numbers were all worse than his 2016 numbers with the A’s (ERA: 3.43 to 3.72, WHIP: 1.17 to 1.25, FIP: 3.25 to 4.87).

Ivan Nova improved after leaving the Yankees after the 2016 season. (ERA 4.90 to 4.14, WHIP 1.35 to 1.27, FIP 5.10 to 4.46).

Nathan Eovaldi left the Yankees after 2016. He sat out the 2017 season. In 2018* he improved. (ERA: 4.76 to 4.26, WHIP 1.30 to 0.98, and FIP 4.97 to 4.28). *To be fair, this comparison is two years after he left New York and after a long rehab.

Comparing the 2017 and 2018 Seasons

Sonny Gray got worse, yet again after a year in New York. (ERA 3.72 to 4.90, WHIP 1.25 to 1.49 went up, FIP went down 4.87 to 4.17).

Thus Far in 2019

James Paxton has come to the Yankees. He has gotten worse (ERA: 3.76 to 4.20, WHIP 1.09 to 1.47, FIP 3.24 to 3.93).

J.A. Happ is worse in his second year in New York. (ERA: 2.69 to 5.23, WHIP 1.05 to 1.33, FIP 4.21 to 5.30).

Domingo German has improved this year – significantly. (His ERA: 5.57 to 4.03 and WHIP 1.33 to 1.12 have gone down. His FIP has gone up (4.39 to 4.49).

Sonny Gray has left the Yankees and has improved. (ERA 4.90 to 3.29, WHIP 1.49 to 1.12, FIP 4.17 to 3.30).

Conclusion:

The only pitcher on this list that has improved in his second year with the Yankees after 2011 is Phil Hughes and that was back in 2012.

This essay took three indicators of pitching success (ERA, WHIP, and FIP) and saw a very real trend that after coming to the Yankees, the pitchers’ performance, by these indicators, got worse after coming to New York. Young pitchers, after their first season in New York, tended, also, to do worse in their second year. There has been no young pitcher whose growth has been on a single upward trajectory. Also, it seems, all of the pitchers on this list, old and young alike, improved after leaving the Yankees.

This study is not comprehensive. It highlights just three indicators. Readers are invited to check my findings. There are also other indicators that could tell a different story. Also, this study looked only at starting pitchers who pitched at least 10 games for the Yankees in successive seasons. The results for relievers could be vastly different and speak to untold measures of success.

This may also have to do with pitching in the American League East against the best competition and in the some of baseball’s most hitter friendly ballparks. Keep in mind that from 2011-2019, each team in the AL East has made the playoffs at least twice.

If these indicators are correct, though, it does seem to state that the Yankees’ approach to pitching, whether it is the pitching coach Larry Rothschild or the organization’s approach as a whole, is flawed and counter productive to success.

This is something the Yankees have to seriously look at.

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