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Improved starting pitching helped lead the Yankees to an August resurgence

The Yankees have found success in August partly due to an increase in the quality of their starting pitching

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v New York Yankees Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

After middling through most of the season, the Yankees have gone 13-9 in August, a month which included a difficult west coast trip. Although the Yankees’ offense (powered by an exciting youth movement) has improved from 23rd best in July to 14th best in August in runs scored, the real boost has been in the starting rotation.

Yankee starters in August have a 3.64 FIP, the fourth best in baseball, compared to July when they were the 23rd best with a 4.83 FIP. Due to a major injury and a trade, the rotation looks different in August than it did in July, but is that the sole force behind the rotation’s success? Let’s have a look below.

July Starters
Masahiro Tanaka: 29.1 IP, 3.53 FIP, 0.6 WAR
Michael Pineda: 30.0 IP, 4.18 FIP, 0.4 WAR
CC Sabathia: 30.1 IP, 5.06 FIP, 0.2 WAR
Ivan Nova: 28 IP, 5.19 FIP, 0.1 WAR
Nathan Eovaldi: 22.1 IP, 5.52 FIP, 0.1 WAR
Chad Green: 10.1 IP, 7.31 FIP, -0.2 WAR

August Starters
Masahiro Tanaka: 34 IP, 2.77 FIP, 1.1 WAR
Chad Green: 15.2 IP, 2.64 FIP, 0.5 WAR
Michael Pineda: 22.1 IP, 3.60 FIP, 0.4 WAR
CC Sabathia: 30.1 IP, 4.63 FIP, 0.4 WAR
Luis Cessa: 6 IP, 2.48 FIP, 0.2 WAR
Luis Severino: 8 IP, 4.28 FIP, 0.1 WAR
Nathan Eovaldi: 8 IP, 5.90 FIP, 0.0 WAR

Right off the bat, you can see that Tanaka, Pineda, and Sabathia have all had better months in August than in July. Tanaka, who is knocking on the door of Cy Young contention, has been particularly dominant this month, throwing the fourth most number of innings of any starter with the third best FIP in baseball (take that Tommy John surgery.) Pineda, who often does not warrant much confidence, has the 28th best FIP of any starter in August. And, Sabathia just had a vintage performance against Seattle on Tuesday.

Aside from the improvement of those three pitchers, the Yankees have been forced to go with Green and Cessa to round out the rotation in place of Eovaldi, who had a devastating surgery, and Nova, who the Yankees banished to Pittsburgh forever. Green has had two great starts and one bad start so far, a marked improvement over his short stint in July. Cessa has only had one start, but it was a great one, earning a win against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It looks like the Justin Wilson trade may have turned out perfectly for the Yankees.

What really stands out about the Yankees’ rotation in August is their ability to get hitters out without putting the ball in play. Yankee starters have the third best K/9 (9.05) in August and the fifth best rate of swings and misses (10.6 SwStr%.) The starters have been aggressive too, owning the highest percentage of first pitch strikes.

All of this adds up to a rotation that really has improved since July. So far, the Yankees have justified Brian Cashman’s talk of being a team that sold at the deadline but is still competing. It’s easy to envision a scenario where the youth movement struggles and the veterans all get injured. On the other hand, it’s equally easy to imagine one where the rotation keeps this level of performance going and the young bats continue to keep hitting. If that happens, the Yankees really could earn a Wild Card spot, which would be a stunning development for a team that was lifeless less than a month ago.