Contrary to popular belief, the Yankees had a successful season in 2018. The Bombers won 100 games, the club’s first triple-digit mark since 2009. The squad also set the single-season team home run record. And while the starting pitching gets a bad rap after the postseason, the staff put together a solid 4.05 ERA (3.84 FIP). That’s not all that far removed from 2017’s 3.98 ERA (4.18 FIP).
As part of the Pinstripe Alley season review series, I’m going to count down the five best starts of the year according to game score. Here’s a primer on how the metric works. Game score has its flaws, but it will do just fine for this countdown. How kindly did it treat the Yankees this season?
By mid-June Severino had established himself as one of the elite arms in the American League. He found himself in the middle of early Cy Young discussions, and this start had something to do with that. Severino allowed three baserunners in the first two innings, and appeared to have worked himself into trouble in the second. The right-hander bounced, back, however, and allowed just two more runners over the next six innings.
Gray’s disastrous season was already spiraling out of control when the Yankees traveled north of the border in early June. Heading into this start against the Blue Jays, Gray owned a 5.50 ERA with a 4.72 FIP. He responded by hurling eight shutout innings at the Rogers Centre, including retiring the first 12 batters he faced. And while the 28-year-old fell apart (again) after this outing, he will at least have this positive note in an otherwise miserable season.
Tanaka went on some kind of run down the stretch in 2018. He pitched so well that many argued that he should start the Wild Card Game. In fact, I did it in the recap! He had a nasty splitter working against the M’s, one that he expertly paired with a fastball on the black. When his good stuff is on, Tanaka can pitch with the best of them. He is an absolute pleasure to watch.
When the Yankees traveled to Houston in early May, it was hard not to conjure up bad memories of the ALCS. Minute Maid Park became a house of horrors for the Bombers in the playoffs. Severino changed that narrative real fast, however, as he hurled his first career complete game shutout. That in itself is cool, but coming against the reigning world champions made it extra special. Severino used his high-octane fastball to mow down a potent Astros lineup, and a Gatorade shower greeted him on the other end.
In a funny turn of events, our list concludes with a Tanaka complete game shutout against the Rays. What’s so amusing about this you ask? Last season’s top spot on the list was a Tanaka start against the Rays. Spooky!
Anyway, Tanaka was brilliant at Tropicana Field. At no real point in the game did he appear in danger. He was in complete control the entire time. “It was easily his best performance of the season,” Tom wrote in the recap. As it turns out, it was the best start by any Yankees pitcher in 2018.