2012 Yankees Pitching Grades
The plan for the New York Yankees this season was for some young pitchers step up, so they didn’t have to pay big money on the free agent market for starting pitching. While that didn’t happen in the minors, the pitching on the big league club was excellent. The Yankees pitching ranked fifth in the AL and second in strikeouts during the regular season and it was absolutely championship quality during the postseason. We continue with our grades and evaluation of the season with the starting and relief pitching.
CC Sabathia: The reports of CC Sabathia’s demise this season were greatly exaggerated. He shut up all the fans who were claiming that Sabathia was not an ace on Twitter. While Sabathia’s ERA was up slightly, and he spent some time on the DL, he was really the same pitcher. Even during Sabathia’s bad stretch in early September, he wasn’t as bad as he was being perceived to be, he just wasn’t pitching to his ability. Sabathia’s 8.87 K/9 was the best of his career, so he struck out plenty of batters. His 48.2 GB% was above his 45.4% career average, and his 30.7 FB% was the lowest of his career, so Sabathia ran into bad luck as well, seeing as his 12.5 HR/FB% was a career high. Also, his xFIP was a very good 3.20. He came up big when the Yankees needed him the most down the stretch and in the playoffs. Sabathia carried the Yankees on his back in the Game 5 win over Baltimore. Hopefully his visit to Dr. Andrews goes well and there is nothing wrong with his elbow.
Hiroki Kuroda: Hiroki Kuroda’s signing brought along a lot of doubts by many Yankees fans. Not only did Kuroda prove those doubters wrong, he was also one of the best signings Brian Cashman has ever had. Kuroda went 16-11, with a 3.32 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. He was everything the Yankees could have asked for and more. He was the stabilizing force in the Yankees rotation when Sabathia and Andy Pettitte were on the DL. Kuroda kept hitters off balance with a combination of his sinker, slider, splitter, curve and fastball. Hitters were caught chasing his splitters in the dirt and were caught looking at his two seam fastball that froze lefties, as it would come back to catch the inside corner of the plate. The Yankees should prioritize getting Kuroda back this offseason.
Andy Pettitte: Nobody quite knew what to expect once Andy Pettitte announced his return to the Yankees. However, I know there is no way too many people could have predicted him to be as good as he was. Somehow, Pettitte continued to look as good as he did in his prime. The only thing that could stop him this season was a ball that hit him in the ankle in late June. That ball fractured Pettitte’s ankle and caused him to miss over two months. Once Pettitte came back, he did not miss a beat, and performed very well down the stretch. He lost both of his playoff starts, but it was due to lousy run support and not his pitching. He stranded over 80% of base runners this season, which is simply remarkable. Pettitte remains unflappable on the mound and the Yankees should hope he returns next season.
Grade: A –
Phil Hughes: Phil Hughes had an up and down season, but overall he was solid. He was a very good number three or four starter, which was exactly what he was supposed to be. The problem for Hughes was that the expectations still were that he will live up to all the hype that surrounded him when he came up. Hughes was awful in April, as he went 1-3, with a 7.88 ERA. However after April, Hughes went 15-10, with a 3.88 ERA. For the majority of the season Hughes did a very good job. He made great adjustments during the season, including improving on his changeup and slider to help put batters away. Hughes also exhibited great control, only walking a little over two batters per nine innings. His problem was that he allowed 35 home runs, which was the second highest total in the AL. Hughes should have good trade value this offseason, and with him entering the final year of his deal, the Yankees might want to look into trading him.
Ivan Nova: Nova was one of the biggest disappointments for the Yankees, as he failed to build off his solid rookie season. Nova has the stuff to be a solid MLB pitcher, but he needs to mature as a pitcher. Nova’s GB% plummeted from 52% in 2011 to 45% in 2012. He was pitching for too many strikeouts and not enough grounders. Nova did not walk a lot of hitters, but was extremely wild in the zone. Normally pitchers who average about six more strikeouts per nine innings than walks are very successful. However, Nova was letting up extra base hits at an alarming rate. He has a lot of work to do this winter.
Rafael Soriano: Rafael Soriano did one of the most improbable things in Yankees history this season. He allowed the Yankees to not feel the loss of Mariano Rivera whatsoever. It was always assumed that once Rivera stopped closing games the Yankees would be in big trouble. He converted 42 out of 45 save chances and the Yankees were always comfortable with him on the mound in the ninth. You cannot understate the magnitude of what Soriano did. It wasn’t just about his performance, but it was about the circumstance in which his performance came under. Soriano is likely to opt-out of his contract with the Yankees and is unlikely to return. He will be missed if that is the case.
David Robertson: Robertson had another solid season for the Yankees. It was not as good as his performance last season, but those standards are probably too high for him to be measured on. He did have an incredible 12.9 K/9 ratio this season. Robertson struggled some during the middle of the season, when he started to use his fastball too much. He started to neglect his awesome curve for some reason and his fastball started to have a new cutting action to it. Once he went back to the curve, he was much better down the stretch and in the postseason.
Joba Chamberlain: It was an amazing feat that Joba Chamberlain pitched at all this season. Anything he gave the Yankees this year was icing on the cake, since they expected nothing. Chamberlain struggled when he first came back, but started to come around at the end of the season. He was excellent in September and October, as he pitched to a 2.03 ERA and a .90 WHIP. His command started to return and he struck out 11.9 batters per nine innings and had a .551 OPS against him. Hopefully this is a sign of this is a sign of things to come for next season.
Boone Logan: Logan was solid throughout the year and the Yankees relied on him a ton. Logan appeared in 80 games and pitched to a 3.74 ERA. Logan’s fastball and slider combination worked well this season. He remains the only good part of the Javier Vazquez trade.
Clay Rapada: Rapada’s one job was to get out lefties and he excelled at that this season. The batting line for lefties vs. Rapada this year was .186/.263/.255/.518. He was on
e of the unsung guys in the pen this season.
Cody Eppley: Eppley started off strong, but faded as the season went on and was seldom used. When he was at his best, he excelled at getting righties to hit ground balls. Eppley’s GB% for the season was 60.3%.
David Phelps: Phelps had a tremendous rookie year and might have a bright future with the Yankees. He did whatever the Yankees needed him to do, whether that was starting or relieving. Phelps seemed ahead of his years in terms of his demeanor on the mound, as he never seemed flustered. He does not have overpowering stuff, but exhibited excellent control for a young pitcher. It will be interesting to watch him grow.
Freddy Garcia: Garcia was extremely up and down this season, but it was mostly down. He had a brutal April that got him banished from the starting rotation. He then had a 1.93 ERA in May and a 1.13 ERA in June out of the bullpen. He was solid in the rotation again in July, before flaming out in August and September.