Going into the offseason, the Yankees’ sought to upgrade their starting rotation. They felt it was an area they had to improve if they were going to make a bigger playoff push for 2019. So, the Bombers went out and acquired left-handed pitcher James Paxton in a trade with the Mariners to bolster the starting staff.
The rotation looked formidable in spring training, boasting two ace-caliber pitchers in Luis Severino and Paxton. Then the worst-case scenario occurred and Severino landed on the injured list. An inflamed rotator cuff turned into a Grade 2 lat strain, Severino’s expected return date shifted to mid-season. While the Yankees managed to play well so far, taking away a team’s ace is like taking away a team’s heartbeat.
With Severino out for an extended period of time, as well as countless other Yankees, the team has adopted a “next man up” mentality to begin the season. That’s right where Domingo German comes in. German has been an interchangeable player over the past few seasons, constantly going back and forth between the Bronx and Scranton Wilkes-Barre. Last season he found a more prominent position as a swingman for the team, but it wasn’t until now that he solidified his position on the 25-man roster.
Through four games started and 25.2 innings pitched, German has one of the league’s lowest earned run averages at 1.75. He let up seven runs on the season, only five of them being earned, and has struck out 28 batters. Looking around the league, there are only seven pitchers with a better ERA, yet German doesn’t seem to be in the conversation at all for his hot start.
Part of that has to do with the fact that he’s not a true rookie, and he’s not incredibly well known outside of New York. The main detractor from German getting any attention so far has been the ridiculous news surrounding the Yankees, as so many star players are hurt.
What German is doing is forcing Brian Cashman and the front office to pay a little closer attention to him, because if he keeps this up, it’s going to be pretty hard to take him out of the rotation down the stretch. With what he’s shown so far, there’s no reason to not fall in love with him analytically.
While indeed a small sample size, the BABIP of German’s opponents has decreased from .300 to .180, which means batters aren’t generating good contact. His H/9 has been nearly cut in half from 8.51 to 4.56, his HR/9 has decreased from 1.58 to 0.70, and most importantly, his BB/9 is down from 3.47 to 2.81. The main problem for German has always been his control. He continues to improve, essentially eliminating that concern in his last three outings, only walking one batter.
On top of all this, German’s fastball has become one of the better heaters in baseball. While he’s not a flame-thrower, he still ranks in the 84th percentile for fastball velocity. What stands out the most is the spin rate on his fastball (2,462 rpm), which puts him in the 94th percentile in the majors. The spin on German’s fastball sits in company with pitchers like Aroldis Chapman and Edwin Diaz, but is even better than pitchers like 2018 NL CY Young award winner Jacob deGrom and elite reliever Blake Treinen.
German has also done a good job keeping batters off balance, utilizing his fastball at a little higher rate than he did last year (29.9% to 31.8%). This likely makes his curveball more effective. As a result, he’s seen an 8.7% increase in the whiff rate on his curve.
Domingo Germán, 3 Pitch K/Filthy Breaking Balls.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 18, 2019
On the plus side for Dozier, he has a very consistent swing. pic.twitter.com/Lfjvt3xPlk
Nobody knows if German can — or will — keep this up, but he is not taking this opportunity for granted. At around the 1:50 mark in this video German voiced his mentality so far this year.
Domingo German talks to reporters after going 6.2 strong innings and picking up the win. pic.twitter.com/HD5Yw9DaPw— YES Network (@YESNetwork) April 24, 2019
In short, German has some nasty stuff and he’s only gotten better as the season has continued. If the right-hander is still performing at this level — or even close to it — when Severino comes back, the Yankees will have to make room German.