It’s safe to say the 2018 season has both Yankees fans and pundits buzzing about the team’s offensive potential. The reigning home run leaders (241) are returning their core and made a huge splash in signing the other giant (no, not Jabari Blash) and National League MVP, Giancarlo Stanton. Some key losses in Chase Headley, Todd Frazier, and Starlin Castro could be troublesome, but the young guys coming up to fill those positions have their own buzz around them, and the addition of Stanton should overcompensate for those losses. Additionally, a full season from Greg Bird can only help. Any way you slice it, there seems to be a consensus that the 2018 Yankees will be an offensive juggernaut.
With all this hype, it’s hard to imagine games where the Yankees aren’t putting up 10-plus runs. Of course, that really isn’t possible, and somebody has to get our boys out. But who?
For as much noise as the Yankees made this offseason, other AL East teams were barely audible. The Red Sox finally signed J.D. Martinez (inflated states), the Blue Jays resigned Josh Donaldson (who cares), and the Orioles and Rays seem to have given up.
Yankees fans probably paid more attention to the Astros this offseason than their AL East rivals. While picturing how the Yanks match up with the Astros in another ALCS is fun, the majority of our games are still against the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles, and Rays, so analyzing how the Bombers match up against those teams should be more important. With that in mind, here is my AL East starting pitching break down as I try to determine who might be able to get us out.
Orioles Projected Rotation
|Other Potential Starters|
|Nestor Cortes||Minors with Yankees|
Is it even worth talking about the O’s? The only time their name will be brought up is during the trade deadline when they inevitably shop the future Yankee, Manny Machado. As far as pitching goes, it might be worse than last year.
Ranking 27th in ERA in 2017, the already abysmal O’s lost some key (if you can call them that) pieces to the rotation and bullpen in Jeremy Hellickson, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Wade Miley. Not to mention Zach Britton’s once promising career has spiraled out of his control due to the injury bug. However, they managed to resign Chris Tillman (.304 BAA current Yankees) and picked up the kind of serviceable Andrew Cashner.
Still, this leaves them with arguably the thinnest rotation and bullpen in the MLB. Greg Bird’s childhood friend, Kevin Gausman, has struggled to establish himself as an ace. Dylan Bundy, the 4th overall pick in 2011, has the most upside, but is incredibly prone to the home run ball which never bodes well in the AL East, and the rest of the staff features more mediocrity with guys who Buck Showalter will struggle to get through the 4th inning with. Cashner has quality statistics on paper, but advanced metrics suggest he is in a decline. His strikeout and swinging strike rates fell drastically, while also producing more walks and a lower groundball percentage in 2017 than his career average.
One aspect the O’s could take advantage of against the Yankees is the right-handedness of their rotation. Dylan Bundy managed a .220 batting average against right-handed hitters last year, and reliever-turned-starter Miguel Castro tossed .193 against them. Being that the Yankees feature a right-handed heavy lineup, one might think this could pose problems.
To my surprise, the Yankees had a better average against (.264) than lefties (.256) last year. Even Judge and Sanchez had better splits against righties (.298/.230 and .282/.266, respectively). Overall, the team hit .313 against the O’s last year and bashed 46 home runs – Judge had 11. All in all, the one thing Baltimore might have had against us, the righty-righty matchups, doesn’t seem to matter much.
I fully expect power numbers to hold against them. Even a guy like Bundy, with his tough righty stuff, is essentially this generation’s Ted Lilly due to the insane amount of fly balls he produces. Bundy gave up a whopping 44 home runs last season, and unless he all of a sudden develops a sinker, I don’t foresee the Yankees having any trouble smacking balls onto Eutaw Street.
**Stats from Fangraphs and Baseball Reference