The Yankees received some pretty bad news this week. Luis Severino’s shoulder problem means he’s destined to begin the year on the injured list. We also aren’t likely to see much of CC Sabathia, coming off an offseason heart surgery and a suspension looming. This leaves the door wide open for Jonathan Loaisiga, Domingo German, Luis Cessa, and Chance Adams to get some big league starts this April. The prospect of seeing that group log major time this season might be a little scary considering their career stat lines to this point.
However, the Yankees’ March and April schedule is incredibly easy. They’ll only face two 2018 playoff teams during the first month of the season, and many of their opponents have terrible offenses. If ever there was a month the Yankees’ pitching staff was going to be at less-than-full strength, April 2019 is that month. Below I’ve listed all o their opponents during the first month of the season and included their 2018 record, number of games against the Yankees, and some notable offseason transactions.
Baltimore Orioles (47-115) - 6 games
Notable offseason additions- Alcides Escobar, Nate Karns
Notable offseason departures - Adam Jones, Tim Beckham, Caleb Joseph
Six of the Yankees’ first nine games are against the Baltimore Orioles, who owned the worst record in the league last year. Even better, the Yankees play the Orioles more than any other opponent this month. Unsurprisingly, the Orioles’ offense, or lack thereof, played an enormous role in their abysmal 2018. They had the second-highest swing-and-miss rate in the league last year and haven’t added anyone to their big league roster to help fix those glaring offensive issues.
Detroit Tigers (64-98) - 3 games
Notable offseason additions - Josh Harrison
Notable offseason departures - Jose Iglesias
Similar to the Orioles, the Tigers had one of the worst offenses in the league last year. As a team, they were only worth 84 wRC+. They were the worst offensive team last year against fastballs and splitters. The statistic against splitters obviously works in the favor or Masahiro Tanaka, but every pitcher in the Yankee rotation should give this lineup fits with their fastball.
Houston Astros (103-59) - 3 games
Notable offseason additions - Michael Brantley, Wade Miley, Robinson Chirinos
Notable offseason departures - Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Brian McCann, Marwin Gonzalez
Houston is a legitimate contender, but if I’m reading the schedule correctly, the Yankees’ pitching staff won’t need to go to their fifth starter during this series. There’s a point in New York’s favor. Additionally, the Astros have lost more than they’ve gained this offseason. It wouldn’t be altogether surprising if the Astros took a small step back this year, but regardless, this isn’t going to be an easy series.
Chicago White Sox (62-100) - 3 games
Notable offseason additions - Yonder Alonso, Jon Jay, Ervin Santana, Kelvin Herrera, Alex Colome
Notable offseason departures - Matt Davidson, Avisail Garcia, James Shields
The White Sox are a team that have legitimately gotten better over the offseason. Adding Yonder Alonso definitely improves this lineup, but the White Sox are still pretty awful. No team had more swing-and-misses last season, and no team chased more pitches out of the zone. Conversely, the Yankees’ pitchers were one of the best teams at generating swings-and-misses. Loaisiga and German were particularly good at it in their short stints too. Even with depth arms on the mound, the Yankees are comfortably much better than the White Sox.
Boston Red Sox (108-54) - 2 games
Notable offseason additions -
Notable offseason departures - Joe Kelley, Ian Kinsler, Craig Kimbrel
Boston brought back Nathan Eovaldi and Steve Pearce, but they didn’t really add anyone new to this lineup. As the defending champs, they are still the team to beat in the American League, and only two games against them in April is dodging a pretty serious bullet.
Kansas City Royals (58-104) - 4 games
Notable offseason additions - Homer Bailey, Billy Hamilton
Notable offseason departures - Alcides Escobar
Like many other teams on this list, the Royals were among the worst in the league when it came to swings-and-misses and chasing pitches out of the zone. With Salvador Perez out for the year, things are pretty dire in Kansas City. Whit Merrifield is certainly a dangerous player in this lineup, but the Royals shouldn’t worry Yankee fans.
Los Angeles Angels (80-82) - 4 games
Notable offseason additions - Cody Allen, Justin Bour, Jonathan Lucroy
Notable offseason departures - Garrett Richards
The Angels improved offensively this winter with the addition of Lucroy and Bour, but those improvements probably aren’t going to propel LA into the playoffs. FanGraphs projects the Angels at an 82-80 record this year. Four games against Mike Trout should strike fear into the heart of any Yankee fan, regardless of who is on the mound, but the Angels’ offense was exactly average last season at 100 wRC+.
San Francisco Giants (73-89) - 3 games
Notable offseason additions - Stephen Vogt, Yangervis Solarte, Cameron Maybin
Notable offseason departures - Hunter Pence
As is the case with many teams on this list, the improvements the Giants made are marginal at best. FanGraphs predicts they’ll win two more games in 2019. Last season their 82 wRC+ was the worst in the league, and they struggled mightily against fastballs, sliders, and changeups. If Loaisiga or Happ take the mound in this series, those pitchers should feast against this lineup.
Arizona Diamondbacks (82-80) - 1 game
Notable offseason additions - Merrill Kelly, Rob Refsnyder(!)
Notable offseason departures - Paul Goldschmidt, AJ Pollock, Patrick Corbin
The Yankees have a three game set against the Diamondbacks but just one game in April, so those last two games get arbitrarily cut off. Without question, Arizona gave up the most talent this winter, but even with Pollock and Goldschmidt last year, they were still one of the worst offensive teams in the league.
It’s never a good thing to have two of your five starting pitchers out for any length of time, but the Yankees’ schedule should provide them with a bit of a reprieve. There are going to be some tough matchups against Houston, Boston, and maybe even Los Angeles, but overall, the Yankees have it made the first month of the season. Pitchers should be able to hold their own against these lineups, even if Loaisiga, German, Adams, and/or Cessa get significant innings this month. There’s also the Yankees’ fantastic bullpen and offense, which I haven’t really mentioned here. As long as Severino and Sabathia aren’t out into May and June, the Yankees should be able to survive March and April.