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  • Writer's pictureAndy Singer

Thinking About Starting Pitching In 2024

By Andy Singer

January 9th, 2024



I've been thinking a lot about the Yankees' starting pitching staff coming into the 2024 season. Like many of you, I've thought a lot about the various pitchers available both on the free agent and trade markets, but somehow I think that much of the discussion has taken place in something of a vacuum. We talk a lot about the relative merits of the pitchers we hope the Yankees will acquire, but all of us tend to make a lot of assumptions based on reputation and recency bias, while also not really analyzing the statistics.


In this post, I won't be digging deep into the weeds with statistics; rather, I want to use statistics we all know to really quantify what the Yankees have lost already this off-season, where they stand today, and what they need to build a starting staff that's built for the long-haul. It is a collection of thoughts, none of which are quite long enough to form their own posts, but work together to form a mostly coherent idea.


Jotting these thoughts down helped me fight some misconceptions in my own analysis; I hope it does the same for many of you.


***

The Yankees were just 19th in all of baseball in innings pitched by a starting pitcher last season. In raw innings totals, they were much closer to the bottom of the league than they were to the top in that category. This likely doesn't come as a surprise to most of you. Yankee starters not named Gerrit Cole didn't pitch deep into games last season, and many were injured or ineffective for large stretches of the season. Still, the Yankees were 19th in that category.


Among Yankee starters, Gerrit Cole was far and away the most prolific, tossing 200+ innings in a Cy Young season. Without looking at statistics, I wonder how many of you could guess the top 5 Yankee starters in terms of innings pitched as a starter? I attempted this exercise, and I failed miserably once I passed the second place starter (more on that in a minute).


Are you ready for who threw the 3rd and 4th most starting innings last season? Domingo German and Luis Severino, respectively threw the 3rd and 4th most innings as a Yankee starting pitcher in 2023. They combined for just 191 innings pitched as starting pitchers in 2023. Neither remain on the roster. In fact, just 5 of the 12 pitchers who threw innings for the Yankees as starting pitchers in 2023 remain on the roster.


Here's an even more startling statistic. Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes, guys who the Yankees are counting on to bounce-back (and who I think will bounce-back to at least some extent), threw just 64.1 and 63.1 innings as starting pitchers last season. They threw the 5th (!) and 6th (!) most innings as starting pitchers on the Yankees' pitching staff last season.


Let's jump back to something I promised I'd bounce back about: the guy who threw the 2nd most starting innings for the Yankees in 2023. It might as well be the definition of irony. This pitcher threw 158.1 innings in 2023 as a starting pitcher. He never came close to that number in either his amateur or pro career prior to 2023, but still he proved he could hold a starter's workload. His name? Clarke Schmidt, a guy that I and many others have been begging to get pushed to the bullpen. That's sad irony, and a rude awakening for people like me, if ever there was one.


When I look at the above, it's hard for me to advocate for bringing Schmidt to Spring Training as a reliever. The Yankees are making the right decision by asking him to train as a starter, even if I believe his most effective role is likely as a multi-inning fireman out of the bullpen.


***


Given the above, which of the following starting pitchers would you prefer (using their season averages from 2021-2023):


Player A: 146 IP, 125 ERA+, 11.9 K/9, 4.5 BB/9, 1.23 WHIP

Player B: 175 IP, 121 ERA+, 8.3 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 1.18 WHIP


Player A's strikeout numbers are eye-popping, but his aggregate performance isn't really any better than Player B, who also eats significant innings (relative to pitchers in the modern game). Care to take a guess?


***


Player A is Blake Snell. Player B is Jordan Montgomery. Often, I feel like we talk about Snell as the more talented pitcher and Monty as the innings eater. Monty is every bit Snell's equal, is a more consistent performer, and eats innings the Yankees desperately need. I was in camp Monty before looking at innings shares last season, but looking at it more deeply, there's almost no good argument for getting Snell over Montgomery.


That also doesn't mean that the Yankees should limit themselves to one or the other. The money is there; we know they were willing to blow through the top luxury tax tier for the right player. I would argue that given the Yankees' deficiencies, Jordan Montgomery might be more right for the Yankees now than he's ever been.


The Yankees need to make that happen yesterday, even if it seems like an overpay. As our Editor-In-Chief astutely noted earlier this off-season, it's Monopoly money, and we really don't have a full sense of just how much money the Yankees truly have to spend.


***


I keep coming back to the idea that the Yankees have lost 7 of the 12 pitchers who threw innings as starters last season. Sure, the Yankees have a couple of starters at AAA who will likely be able to slot in on an emergency basis relatively quickly, but there's no denying that the Yankees need depth. Depth comes from acquiring good players at the big league level, but it also comes from more minor deals. Deals for guys that soak up important innings at a better than replacement level rate are desperately needed.


I am more interested by one such pickup than I expected to be: Cody Poteet. Cody Poteet is far from a household name. In fact, I didn't even know who he was until the Yankees signed him a few days ago (which is a rarity for me on the pitching market). Prior to the lost COVID season for minor leaguers in 2020, Cody Poteet threw 140+ innings in back-to-back years in 2018 and 2019 down on the farm. In 2021, he was yo-yo'd back and forth on the shuttle between the Marlins and AAA, hardly getting to throw innings before he sprained his MCL in May, and lost most of his season. In 2022, he was expected to be part of the Marlins' staff all year, but he blew out his elbow early and hasn't pitched other than a tune-up to prove his health at the end of the AAA season Kansas City's farm team.


The injuries are real and significant, but are more of the freak variety than something that should be lasting. In between those injuries, Poteet showed some very interesting development in 2022. Poteet went from sitting 89-92 MPH with his fastball to living in the 93-96 MPH range. The added velocity added a full grade to his change-up, which was already a borderline plus pitch. He was beginning to pair his two-seam fastball, with similar shape to the change-up, to the change-up effectively, while learning to use his 4-seam fastball at 95-96 MPH as a strikeout pitch up in the zone. By all reports, his stuff from 2022 was intact in his 2 innings of pitching in 2023.


Here's a 2-seamer against Maikel Franco in 2022:


He didn't even command the pitch, but it moved enough to induce poor contact.


Compare it to this wicked change-up to Cooper Hummel:


Is Cooper Hummel anyone? No, but it doesn't change how nasty that change-up was at 87-88 MPH. Do you think Matt Blake, a coach who loves working with pitchers who can throw a change-up, saw this clip?!?


Lastly, here's a 4-seam that Poteet blew by Ji-Man Choi:


Mixing and matching these three pitches, alongside a slider that's passable and a show-me curve, gives Poteet enough to start. Matt Blake and the Yankees have proven that they can get the most out of pitchers, and I think Poteet might be a very interesting swingman who can start and relieve. Don't be shocked if this guy throws 100+ solid innings for the Yankees in 2024.

48 commentaires


Cary Greene
Cary Greene
09 janv.

2024 Steamers Innings Projections - Current Yankees Starters:

  1. Cole 200

  2. Cortes 145

  3. Rodon 166

  4. Schmidt 150


Schmidt can eat innings at the back of a rotation or as a swing man/spot starter. The Yankees clearly need two starters, not just one. Steinbrenner likely won't sign off on both Snell and Monty. It's one or the other. While Bieber's fastball has concerningly lost velocity over the past few seasons, Snell and Monty are both trending oppositely.


Yet, because of Steinbrenner, the Yankees reality is that it's an either or scenario. It's highly unlikely Cashman would be authorized to sign both Snell and Monty. Why are we still even talking about Monty, I thought his wife was doing her internsihp in Boston,…

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Cary Greene
Cary Greene
09 janv.

Granted, the studs the Yankees were counting on last season to anchor the rotation behind Cole collectively turned in a dreadfully injury riddled and largely ineffective season. So now, we're overanalyzing why a group of injured starters and below league average replacements didn't last all that long into games, much less pitch effectively? This group we're dissecting rarely gave the bullpen opportunities to protect leads.


In 2023, Yankees starters (including Cole) posted a 15.K/BB percentage, which was 18th in the league. Yankee pitchers not named Cole didn't strike out nearly enough batters and they put too many runners on base, considering they had a dismal LOB percentage as well. In short, either don't walk guys or if you do, please…


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Alan B.
Alan B.
10 janv.
En réponse à

👎. If the Yankees keep the same pitching philosophy and nothing changes, yes it will be hard to get the starters to go deeper in games. Pitch count means everything to this pitching brain trust, as does 3rd time around. Too many games last year even Cole was pulled after 5 or 5.1. Getting more starts out if the starting 5 only means less starts by others, not that the bullpen will pitch less innings.

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jjw49
09 janv.

Cliff notes:.............Snell only costs money.... sign him!

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yankeesblog
09 janv.
En réponse à

Not

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etbkarate
09 janv.

I am with you Andy. Pitching is my big concern. Monty's wife just took a medical residency at a Boston Hospital, couple that with the Cashman quote that he would not have a NYY post season start, I would say he is looking at Boston over NY. Texas is still his best bet, but with his wife in Boston and the bad break up with the NYY, that would make more sense for him. So, it is probably Snell if they go free agent, or a trade with another team. Miami matches up good from a trade perspective. But, they want Gleyber, I am not against that if the return is equitable.

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Melfman1
Melfman1
09 janv.
En réponse à

If they can pry one of the young arms from Seattle or Miami for a package of Gleyber and a lesser prospect (like Pereira), I’d make that move immediately. If they eat his $15 million salary, that could sweeten the pot further.


If Gleyber is dealt, the Yanks would be smart to sign Gio Urshela as additional infield depth. As much as they’d miss his bat, a combination of DJ, Volpe. Peraza and Gio would be very strong defensively. If Peraza can improve with his bat and play to his minor league numbers, the drop off won’t be that severe.

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yankeerudy
09 janv.

If we cannot (or choose not to) land any starter(s), what have we in the pipeline to pick up the slack?

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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
09 janv.
En réponse à

If the Yankees don't solidify the starting rotation, 2024 could be a disaster... and then why would Soto come back, why would they give Cole another year, etc...


I see 2024 as the year the Yankees either go all in - or it could signal the second year of a long period of non-contention (following a long period without any World Series).


2024 could really be the tell-all year for this franchise.


This season could, very realistically, define how Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner get remembered - as winners or not.

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