If I told you before the season that Luis Severino, James Paxton, CC Sabathia, and Jonathan Loaisiga all battled injuries, you would probably expect that the Yankees pitching staff was in some sort of trouble. Thanks to the performance of Domingo German and Masahiro Tanaka, that hasn’t been the case. In fact, the Yankees rank sixth in MLB in team ERA and their 8.5 pitching WAR ranks second to only the Tampa Bay Rays. These numbers are the result of tremendous depth and consistency, but there have been some standout performances as well. Here are the most dominant outings of the 2019 season thus far.
James Paxton, April 16 vs. Boston
The best pitching performance of the season is a no brainer. On April 16, James Paxton lived up to his reputation as a top of the line starter and proved that he’s capable of being the Yankees’ most lethal weapon against their hated rivals. Paxton threw eight shutout innings against the Red Sox, surrendering only two hits and one walk in an 8-0 blowout victory at Yankee Stadium. Paxton struck out twelve and finished his outing with a very efficient 110 pitches, 78 of them going for strikes. His game score of 89 is the highest for a Yankees starter this season and ties last season’s high of 89, posted by Masahiro Tanaka in July. Not only was this the best start of the season, it set a precedent for the way Paxton can attack the Red Sox hitters if the two should meet in October.
Masahiro Tanaka, May 12 and May 18 vs. Tampa Bay
Tanaka’s two best starts of the season came in back-to-back outings in May against Tampa Bay. On May 12, Tanaka went seven innings at The Trop and surrendered only one run on a solo shot by new Yankee killer Austin Meadows. This was the right-hander’s most economical start of the season, throwing only 73 pitches and striking out seven. Tanaka also induced nine ground balls, which is something he struggled with in his previous five starts. The Yankees cruised to a 7-1 win over the only team ahead of them in the AL East standings at the time.
After five days rest, Tanaka came back with another stellar performance against the same Rays team that couldn’t figure him out a week earlier. He went six shutout innings, surrendering only three hits and walking zero. It feels unfair to suggest that one outing was better than the other, but Baseball-Reference ranks his May 18 start higher than May 12 with game scores of 72 and 70, respectively. Unfortunately, Tanaka came away with a no-decision in a 2-1 Yankees loss, a trend that he’s surely sick of at this point in the season. Tanaka has five no-decisions this season and has surrendered two or less runs in each of those outings. Regardless of the outcome, Tanaka was lights out against the Rays in the middle of May, helping the Yankees surpass them in the standings.
James Paxton, April 21 vs Kansas City
Much like Tanaka, Paxton’s two best outings of the season came back-to-back. Five days after silencing the Red Sox offense, Paxton blew away Kansas City with 12 strikeouts in six innings, surrendering only three hits and one walk on 103 pitches. Also much like Tanaka, Paxton received a no-decision for his efforts, although the Yankees did take home a 7-6 win. If anyone thought Paxton’s outing against Boston was an anomaly, he quickly showed that he’s capable of near perfection on any given night.
J.A. Happ, April 27 at San Francisco
It has been an up and down season for Happ, but he was definitely up in San Francisco on April 27th when he went seven shutout innings on 95 pitches. Happ gave up five hits and struck out two, not eye popping numbers, but his command was at its best. The southpaw induced 17 fly balls, five more than any other outing this season, which is often a recipe for success at Oracle Park, which has the lowest adjusted park factor for home runs in MLB this season. He also induced a season high five pop-ups, four of them landing in the infield. This was a great taste of what Happ can do when he locates at the high level he’s still very capable of.
Domingo German, April 23 at Los Angeles, and May 15 vs. Baltimore
The Yankees wouldn’t be where they are today without German this season, so it would be a crime to not include him on this list. In terms of game score, German does not have any of the top eight outings of the season, but numbers nine and ten are good ones. On April 23, German pitched 6.2 innings, giving up four hits and one unearned run in a 7-5 Yankees win on the road. German walked only one and got the ball to the ‘pen late in the game on only 99 pitches.
On May 15, he was just as dominant. German went 7.0 innings, giving up one earned run and striking out eight, six of them coming on devastating curveballs. German made it through seven innings on only 85 pitches, 64 of them for strikes, showing how good he is when he trusts his stuff and pounds the zone. The team is closely monitoring German’s innings, so any opportunity to pitch past the sixth is gravy for the Yankees, especially with Paxton, Severino, and Sabathia on the injured list.
What has been your favorite pitching performance so far?