During the first half of the 2019 season Domingo Germán had been a revelation for the Yankees. When the All-Star break came, he had a 3.67 ERA in 76.0 innings, and he had held hitters to a measly .219/.268/.390 line. He stabilized a Yankees rotation that needed high-end production with Luis Severino struggling with injuries.
The team has heard little from German since. His performance regressed, with his ERA rising to 4.43 in the second half, and opposing batters teeing off on him to the tune of a .238/.304/.500 slash line. Of course, the most disturbing news came off the field. In September, several outlets reported that he had been involved in a domestic violence incident. As a result, MLB suspended him for 81 games, and he missed the 2019 playoffs and the whole 2020 season.
The Yankees didn’t have Germán, Luis Severino (Tommy John surgery) and James Paxton (left forearm strain) for this season’s playoffs and ended up paying for it. With Severino still recovering, and with Paxton, J.A. Happ, and Masahiro Tanaka on the free agent market at the moment, the Yankees may badly need German this upcoming season.
Yet, his place in the 2021 rotation, or on the team for that matter, isn’t assured.
“I have to absolutely feel comfortable that he deeply, deeply regrets and is sorry for what he did, and I absolutely have to be comfortable with the fact that he’s turned his life around,” owner Hal Steinbrenner said on “The Michael Kay Show” on ESPN Radio in New York back in October 13. “Those two things are for sure.”
“As far as where we go with him, I don’t know,” Steinbrenner said. “That’s another discussion that I have to have not only with [general manager] Brian Cashman and all, but my family. We will see, but there’s no doubt that he needs to prove that he’s turned his life around and he absolutely realizes how horrific that was.”
If the Yankees feel he can help on the field, he will most likely be back. For better, or more likely, for worse, talent speaks at the highest levels of sport. But it is evident that the Yankees won’t tolerate more destructive behavior from Germán.
On the field, Germán clearly does have talent, but also still has some things to prove. For example, he must show that his regression in the second half of 2019 wasn’t representative of what’s come. Yet if we look closely at his monthly splits, Germán was really only exceptional in March/April, with a 2.56 ERA and a 9/32 BB/K ratio in 31.2 innings. Take a look at his monthly ERA marks for the rest of 2019:
We haven’t seen enough of Germán to determine whether he is something like a 3.80 ERA hurler or a 4.80 ERA one. He is probably something in between, but he, at least, has the potential to be better. After all, he has very good fastball velocity and two quality breaking pitches in his curveball and changeup (4.6 and 3.6 pVal in 2019, respectively, per FanGraphs).
However, Germán may need to refine his overall command and his approach to navigate a lineup two or three times in the same game successfully. In that 2019 season, he had a 2.45 ERA the first time through the order, a 4.32 ERA the second time through, and a 7.58 ERA the third time through.
If the Yankees bring Germán fully back into the organization, he’ll have a chance to work on those areas of improvement, and potentially become an important piece of their staff again. With so much of the rotation up in the air, the team may need Germán to make strides, both on and off the field.