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Defying expecations on the pitching staff

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on May 19, 2014 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Dellin Betances

Given this afternoon’s CC Sabathia update, let’s try this expectations game with the pitching staff. Same idea as the previous position players list. This is strictly an attempt to pick out which players have most exceeded expectations, and which one’s absolutely have not. It’s not a ranking of best-to-worst, it’s a ranking of better than expected to worse than expected. And again, it’s totally subjective and could easily be argued every which way. Here’s my attempt at ranking the Yankees 12 go-to pitchers in terms of who’s most exceeded expectation this season.

Adam Warren1. Adam Warren
Strictly because this is an expectations exercise, I think Warren goes at the very top of the list. My sense is that there was always some belief that Warren could be a good pitcher, especially in a long relief or back-of-the-rotation role, but I’m not sure anyone would have expected this level of production with Warren in a short-relief situation. He was basically a mopup man most of last year, and now he’s been a go-to guy when the team needs big outs. He’s been a far more significant part of the bullpen than he was last year, and he’s been excellent in those high leverage innings.

2. Dellin Betances
Absolutely dominant out of the bullpen, which is what plenty of people might have hoped but perhaps not what anyone could have confidently expected. Capable of it? Sure. But to actually see Betances pitching this well, and doing it with this kind of consistency is surely defying the expectations of most people coming into the season. I, for one, thought he’d be good, but I didn’t think he’d be this good. I’m sure plenty will say they saw this level of performance coming.

3. Masahiro Tanaka
He’s been the best pitcher on the team, but the guy also got a massive contract this winter and came to the Yankees with overwhelming international hype. I think he’s been better than expected — how many people thought he would immediately be one of the best pitchers in the league? — but given the extremely high expectations, I’m not sure I can say he’s been a bigger surprise than either of the young late-inning guys. Best pitcher on the staff? Sure. Biggest surprise? Maybe not.

4. Michael Pineda
This might have been my No. 1 if not for the injury, which surely crushed those expectations that he was fully healthy and ready to be an every-fifth-day starter for at least the first half of the season. His performance on the field — beginning in spring training — has been, I think, better than most would have expected after two years out of rehab and minor league assignments. As for the injury, I’m basically assuming he’s a few weeks away from a return and will soon have a chance to pick up where he left off.

David Robertson5. Dave Robertson
The only uncertainty was about shoving Robertson into a new role; a role that’s left plenty of solid relievers unable to meet expectations. Seven weeks into the season, even with a disabled list stint, Robertson has already doubled his career saves total. And he’s done it by being basically the exact same pitcher he was as a setup man. Even better maybe.

6. Preston Claiborne
Hasn’t been all that many games, and there are certainly some short-comings, but I honestly thought Claiborne might be designated for assignment by the end of April. Instead he’s gotten another chance at the big league level, and he’s once again been a solid middle innings guy. He hasn’t been great, but compared to the expectation of being DFA, he’s been better than expected.

7. Shawn Kelley
The back injury is a problem, clearly, but Kelley has not only been a pretty good setup man, but he also did a nice job filling in as closer while Robertson was hurt. My difficulty in ranking him on this list is because I have a hard time figuring out what exactly the expectations were heading into the season. He was coming off a really nice breakout season, and the Yankees clearly trusted him as their setup man, but I also tend to think there was at least some question about whether he could actually have this kind of season again.

8. David Phelps
He’s allowed a lot of baserunners (1.48 WHIP) but he’s done a good job limiting the damage (3.33 ERA). It’s been a pretty uneven season for Phelps, but he’s also helped the Yankees in a variety of roles and delivered more good outings than bad. Pretty much right in line with what’s expected of him.

Vidal Nuno9. Vidal Nuno
He gave up that go-ahead home run in the sixth inning, but ultimately Nuno was perfectly solid yesterday and gave the Yankees a chance to win. He hasn’t been particularly good this season, but I also don’t think expectations were sky high. I’m sure it was expected that Nuno could be better than a 5.82 ERA, but I don’t think anyone would have expected him to be a dominant starter.

10. Matt Thornton
Although the Yankees talked about Thornton as if he could still be more than a left-on-left specialist, it was pretty clear that his role would be that of a go-to lefty. And actually, he has a 1.06 WHIP against left-handers. But right-handers are hitting .417 against Thornton, and his overall performance has been uninspiring with a 1.70 WHIP and .313 opponents’ batting average overall.

11. Hiroki Kuroda
Since we’re talking about expectations, it’s hard to put Kuroda very high on this list. After two years of rock solid consistency, Kuroda has seemed fragile and beatable this season. He has a 4.61 ERA that’s well over a run higher than in either of the past two seasons. And early season used to be his strength. The Yankees could really use a reliable No. 2 starter right now, and Kuroda hasn’t been that guy.

12. CC Sabathia
This one probably goes without saying. Expectations were surely diminished after last season’s disappointment, but there was also a sense that Sabathia had no where to go but up. Surely he’d be better than in 2013. Instead, Sabathia’s ERA is actually higher than last season, and now he’s on the disabled list with a knee injury that doesn’t seem likely to get better any time soon.

Associated Press photos





55 Responses to “Defying expecations on the pitching staff”

  1. pete22 May 19th, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    When CC was first put on the DL I suggested that his future may be in the pen. This was scoffed at by some, but I wonder of the Yankees might be considering it.

    Also a bit surprised no mention of viscosupplementation as a treatment option when he is ready to pitch. They inject a gel like substance into the knee for lubrication, Randy Johnson used it the last few years of his career, including while he was with the Yankees.

    As for pitchers meeting or not meeting expectations, its a long season, and a lot of things can change for better or worse. As a team they are ranked 8th in ERA in the AL. I think expectations were quite a bit higher than that, and for a couple of weeks those expectations seemed not so silly. Injuries did not help. Guys like CC and Pineda were always an injury risk, but Nova kind of came out of nowhere and his hurt the most IMO. But every team in the East except Boston seems to have injuries to their rotation, or at least has serious issues performance wise.

  2. J. Alfred Prufrock May 19th, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    Austinmac – you watching?? I did not like that swing frOm OB

  3. J. Alfred Prufrock May 19th, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    Rainbow here Over the Hammer and long forgotten Jairo Heredia,
    He of the wonky shoulder, is showing a glimpse Of why he was once dubbed “Little Pedro.”

  4. J. Alfred Prufrock May 19th, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    Well, Betances owning in the BP is no surprise. He’s simply dominant – 2 innings, 5, 6 – doesn’t really matter. Unqualified dominance.

    Little Pedro outing over. He looked really good, especially offspeed.

  5. austinmac May 19th, 2014 at 7:57 pm


    Just got home.

    I see Clarkin got hit hard. Pro baseball is not easy.

  6. Hankflorida May 19th, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    At this point, Whitley’s next few starts may prove that he can do what Phelps and Nuno cannot do and that is challenge hitters with 91 MPH sinker as he controls it without having to nibble at the corners of the plate. There were times that his change up started at the knees then fell below the strike zone as the batter struck out. Since the 1930′s ending with the Mantle era, many of the Yankee pitcher’s threw complete games and many were sinker ball pitchers, and as they grew tired, their sinkers became more effective. Because of these ground ball pitchers, the Yankees always had great fielders at 2nd, 3rd and SS who were great defensive players and usually table setters. Whitley has the sink but not the velocity of Nova, but let’s hope that the sink is enough!

  7. yankeepankee May 19th, 2014 at 8:23 pm


    Be well.
    We’re back logged with good middle relievers.
    And we plenty on the major league team (Betances, Adams, Kelley, Claiborne..)
    We desperately need starters.
    Why not take the middle relievers on the farm with the best arms and a decent third pitch and start stretching them out and see how they do as starters?
    Who cares about protecting arms anymore. They blow out anyway even when you baby them.
    I think the Yanks should do this asap.
    I would start with Pinder and Burawa. Both throw 95 plus and have good arms. Genetics will decide if they can do it. Have to try. Any other relief arms anyone can suggest?? Claiborne?

  8. austinmac May 19th, 2014 at 8:24 pm

    Sanchez just looked a awful at the plate. Then, O’Brien lunched another.

  9. yankeefeminista May 19th, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    Two run homer for O’Brien. Sanchez having trouble on the breaking stuff. CB.

  10. yankeepankee May 19th, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    And by the way, whoever let Jose Quintana go for free to the White Sox should be fired. He cost the Yankees millions and millions of dollars (have to buy pitchers) and a No. 2 starter. Heck, the Yanks can’t even develop one lefty reliever!!!

  11. yankeefeminista May 19th, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    As per Wildstein, Manny to throw on Thursday and see how he feels.

  12. J. Alfred Prufrock May 19th, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    They’re all out in front of this guy’s sloP.
    OB has effortless
    Power – just golfed
    The ball out. Most
    Exciting thing tonight was Heredia.

  13. J. Alfred Prufrock May 19th, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    I think Sanchez is nursing a wrist -
    His power’s sapped

  14. J. Alfred Prufrock May 19th, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    Very disappointing about Manny – wonder if it’s
    Cutter related.’

  15. J. Alfred Prufrock May 19th, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    Cashman let him
    Go – who else?

    “Pitching wins.”

  16. pete22 May 19th, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    Pretty disturbing about Manny, especially seeing how he has been used throwing only 3 IP per start every 5 days. Maybe just a bit of dead arm.

  17. yankeefeminista May 19th, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    Pruf, it was the sore hand from end of April, could still be a factor. Numbers dropped thereafter and hand was hit again a few games after he returned.

  18. yankeefeminista May 19th, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    pete22, let’s hope.

  19. austinmac May 19th, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    I couldn’t tell what the pitch O’Brien hit was, but it was knee high. Not many right handlers can hit that out.

  20. Triple Short of a Cycle May 19th, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    Refs seem to be in the bag for the Rangers yet again

  21. bigdan22 May 19th, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    “And by the way, whoever let Jose Quintana go for free to the White Sox should be fired. He cost the Yankees millions and millions of dollars (have to buy pitchers) and a No. 2 starter. Heck, the Yanks can’t even develop one lefty reliever”


    As I’ve pointed out on several occasions, the loss of Jose Quintana is this organization’s biggest player development failure of the last five years. It’s not like he sucked while he was in the Yankee system. He had several strong seasons before he was left unprotected.

    Nuno has a very similar repertoire. Results not good this year so far but lets see how his CU kicks in. Key pitch for him.

  22. Triple Short of a Cycle May 19th, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    Jose Quintana???

    He is a mediocre pitcher

  23. bigdan22 May 19th, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    Jose Quintana???

    He is a mediocre pitcher


    Can you access baseball reference? The last two seasons he’d easily be the Yanks’ second best pitcher. And considering salary, easily the best value. By a light year.

  24. bigdan22 May 19th, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    Mason Williams .192
    Slade Heathcott .143 (ok SSS)

    Just to be safe, keep these two away from Peter O’Brien. AA: The place where Yankee prospects go to die.

  25. Triple Short of a Cycle May 19th, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    Can you access baseball reference? The last two seasons he’d easily be the Yanks’ second best pitcher. And considering salary, easily the best value. By a light year


    And he would have been the Astros best pitcher. Still doesn’t make him any less mediocre. Sorry but you don’t win world series with him in your rotation

  26. Jerkface May 19th, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    He has an ERA+ of 120 the last 2 years. Thats better than AJ Burnett and Andy Pettitte in 2009. He doesnt walk guys, strikes them out at a reasonable rate, and gives up HRs and Hits at a reasonable rate.

    You can definitely win a world series with jose quintana, maybe not as your #1 but certainly somewhere in the 2 to 4 spot.

  27. bigdan22 May 19th, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    “And he would have been the Astros best pitcher. Still doesn’t make him any less mediocre. Sorry but you don’t win world series with him in your rotation”


    The Yanks won two championships with Ed Figueroa in their rotation. Almost identical ERA+ those two years to Quintana’s last two years.

    This is too easy.

  28. Triple Short of a Cycle May 19th, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    He has an ERA+ of 120 the last 2 years. Thats better than AJ Burnett and Andy Pettitte in 2009. He doesnt walk guys, strikes them out at a reasonable rate, and gives up HRs and Hits at a reasonable rate.

    You can definitely win a world series with jose quintana, maybe not as your #1 but certainly somewhere in the 2 to 4 spot.


    Yea you can win a world series with him as your number 4 in which he barely pitches in the post season. If you want t win with him as your number 3 you need 2 aces and a good offense. Especially in today’s offense challenged baseball he is the definition of yawn.

    Plus throw in the fact that it would have been the Yankees who would have finished developing him as a finished product so who knows how much worse he would have been especially in the AL East

  29. Triple Short of a Cycle May 19th, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    and Figueroa finished twice in the top 10 for the Cy Young when he was with the Yankees and won 20 games 1 year and had an ERA under 3

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