It's almost certain the Yankees will be heading to the postseason for the first time since 2012. As much fun as it is to watch the offense hang a crooked number on the opposing pitcher, it's generally said pitching is what wins you championships. With that mantra in mind, let's take a look at the potential playoff rotation for the New York Yankees.
As much as people like to debate this, there's no way Masahiro Tanaka doesn't start the first game of the playoffs, be it the Wild Card playoff game or the first game of the Division series. Despite missing some time due to an elbow injury, and currently sitting out with a hamstring injury, Tanaka has been excellent this season. The twenty-six-year-old is 12-7 with a 3.38 ERA (slightly higher 3.96 FIP), a pretty ridiculous 0.987 WHIP, and 136 strikeouts in 149 innings. He's lost some tough-luck close games because the offense has been pretty bad in the last couple of months, but at this stage he's still the head of the rotation. He's the big money pitcher the Yankees signed to be the team ace, and he'll take his position at the front of the line.
Things are not as clear cut the rest of the way through the rotation. Michael Pineda, Luis Severino, and CC Sabathia.could be interchangeable, and you could make the argument to put any one of them in any of those slots.
With the season almost over, the Yankees rotation follows this order: Tanaka (Nova took his most recent start), Pineda, Sabathia, Warren, and Severino. If the Yankees don't alter things, and Tanaka replaces Nova the next time through, they would end the season with Michael Pineda on October 4. The Wild Card game will be played on October 6, which technically would be CC Sabathia's next start. This is, obviously, less than ideal. If Tanaka retakes his spot in the rotation this turn, his next start would be on September 28 against the Red Sox. The Yankees should hold him off until September 30, which would line him up to pitch the Wild Card game with an extra day of rest.
Whatever the Yankees do, and whatever way the order shakes out, the rotation will involve the top four guys, with Nova and Warren hopefully contributing out of the bullpen. This is the best case scenario we can hope for. First of all, a healthy Tanaka is going to give the team a chance to win every time out. Pineda hasn't been as good in the second half as he was before he got injured, but he's picked it up of late. Sabathia, to his credit, has put together three excellent starts (along with his recent mediocre start). Severino, the twenty-one-year-old rookie, has been unbelievably good considering he started the season in Double-A, even shutting down the powerful Blue Jays offense recently despite it being the third time he's faced them in six weeks.
Missing from this discussion so far is Nathan Eovaldi, who hasn't pitched all month due to elbow inflamation. The Yankees won't send him out in a playoff game as a complete unknown, and Joe Girardi has confirmed Eovaldi is most likely to pay a middle relief role in any October game.
That completes the 2015 playoff rotation preview: Tanaka, Pineda, Sabathia, and Severino should make up the four spots, but the order might not be decided until we see how the standings come together at the end. What do you think? How would you organize the rotation? Let us know what you think below.