The picture of Domingo German found above is one from September 18, when he pitched 2.1 scoreless innings in relief against the Los Angeles Angels. That is the most recent picture of German that SB Nation’s photo editor provides, because that day was the last time German pitched in an MLB game in 2019. Since then, he has been placed on administrative leave under MLB and MLBPA’s joint domestic violence policy.
There are very few details about German’s situation currently available to the public. The details of the incident that sparked the MLB-led investigation are vague at best, though certainly shocking enough to elicit outrage and concern. It’s been six weeks since the commencement of said investigation, and still there hasn’t been any word from the Commissioner’s Office about its status. Until an announcement is made, there’s really nothing that can be conclusively said about this case.
2019 Statistics: 143 IP, 4.03 ERA, 4.72 FIP, 110 ERA+, 9.6 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 1.147 WHIP
2020 Contract Status: under team control (eligible for arbitration)
Unlike Aroldis Chapman in 2016 or Roberto Osuna in 2018, German missed the playoffs because of a procedural decision to put him on leave while an investigation takes place. It’s important to recognize that German’s leave isn’t a punishment, per se, but rather an administrative move with his pay and contract intact.
Therefore, theoretically, MLB can spin the situation as proof that they’re making progress with their DV policy by citing the ‘thoroughness’ and ‘seriousness’ of the investigation, pointing to the length of the investigation and the fact that German missed the playoffs as proof. Meanwhile, the MLBPA and Yankees get to claim that they ‘complied and cooperated with MLB’s investigation’ because they accepted the extension of the leave without protest, while keeping German’s employment status. All that’s missing from this cynical masterplan is for Rob Manfred to release a statement in the dead of winter claiming that the results of the investigation were ‘inconclusive’.
MLB has a long history of trying to sweep DV incidents under the rug as much as possible. And while the suspension policies introduced in 2016 were indeed a step forward, doubts remain about their effectiveness in actually deterring DV or sparking a culture change in MLB.
Even if German is found guilty of wrongdoing and serves a suspension, the Yankees will, in all likelihood, continue to employ him. After all, look at the guy who they extended as their first move of the offseason. So, we might as well consider what German did on the field in 2019.
German appeared in 27 games, started 24, and pitched 143.0 innings. His 4.03 ERA and 87 ERA- suggests that he was an above-average pitcher, but his 4.72 FIP and 101 FIP- is more indicative of an average hurler. German’s proneness to the long ball was what led to his mediocre FIP, but it remains to be seen whether that was more an effect of 2019’s juiced ball rather than any fault of German’s. At any rate, German’s performance was an improvement over his 2018 in terms of run prevention. It shouldn’t be surprising to see him solidify himself as a number three or four starter in the rotation next season, if he’s allowed to return.
The relative importance of whatever German did or will do on a baseball field is still up in the air until we know whether he abused his girlfriend or not. His season cannot be divorced from its ending. Some things are just far bigger than a game.