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What the Yankees’ starters can do over 12 starts

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The rotation has shown that it can excel over a small sample size.

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

There will be baseball this year, but it is going to feel different from years past. The 2020 season will be a 60 game sprint to the finish. Last week, we looked at what some of the Yankees could do offensively over the course of a short season by looking at their best 50-game hot streaks. Let’s now take a look at what the Yankees’ starting pitchers have done over a 12-start stretch, to show what they are potentially capable for the length of this coming season.

Yankees fans have been waiting for Gerrit Cole’s debut since he signed with the team last December. He finished 2019 looking every bit the ace worthy of a $324 million contract. Inside of that stretch, Cole dominated his 12 starts from July 17th to September 24th, which will almost perfectly match up with the dates of the entire 2020 season.

Over those 12 starts, Cole pitched 84.2 innings with a 1.49 ERA, striking out 133 batters. He recorded double-digit strikeouts in 10 of the 12 games and limited batters to a .151 batting average against.

He had several amazing starts, including an eight-inning, one-hit, one-run performance against Seattle on September 8th. Cole also carved up the Tigers on August 22nd with seven shutout innings.

During the second half of the 2017 season, James Paxton put together a great run for the Seattle Mariners. Working around a short stint on the injured list, Paxton was at his best from July 2nd until October 1st with a 2.51 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 68 innings pitched. The 2.51 ERA was the exact same as Paxton produced over his last 11 starts for the Yankees in 2019, when the team went 11-0 in games he got the start. He went 7-2 during the stretch and limited opponents to a .536 OPS. The highlight of Paxton’s 2017 run was a seven-inning, ten-strikeout shutout of Boston on July 24th.

In 2014, Masahiro Tanaka joined the Yankees’ organization with big expectations after arriving from Japan on the heels of an amazing season. He hit the ground running and put together the best 12-start stretch of his career from April 16th through June 17th. In that time frame, he posted a 1.79 ERA in 85.2 innings pitched—with 95 strikeouts. Opponents hit just .212 against Tanaka as the team went 11-1 with him on the mound.

He pitched two complete games including a four-hit, eight-strikeout performance against the Mets on May 14th. The other was an 11-strikeout outing against Seattle in June. Shortly after this run ended, Tanaka hit the injured list and changed the trajectory of his career.

Leading up to the trade deadline in 2018, there was a lot of debate about the pitchers the Yankees should target. They decided on J.A. Happ and ended getting one of the best stretches of his career as a result.

Starting on July 12th, when he was still with Toronto, and continuing through September 23rd, Happ posted a 2.17 ERA. He logged 66.1 innings, striking out 71 batters and walked just 15. His best outing was on August 14th, against Tampa Bay, as he tossed seven shutout innings allowing just one hit.

Happ had a slightly better 12-start stretch in 2009 during his time with Phillies when he posted a 2.02 ERA. Considering that was over 10 years ago, it was more reassuring to find a recent sample.

Rounding out the Yankees’ rotation this season is likely going to be Jordan Montgomery. Montgomery has only pitched more than 12 games once so far in his major-league career, as he has worked around Tommy John surgery.

In 2017, from May 23rd hrough July 25th, Monty was at his best, pitching to a 3.41 ERA with a 1.12 WHIP across 68.2 innings. What likely made the difference was his 1.97 BB/9, which was over a full walk less than his career average.

He had several outstanding performances during this 12-game run, but his best came against Toronto on June 3rd. There worked six shutout innings, allowing only three hits in the process.

There is good chance that the Yankees will get a look at Deivi Garcia at some point during the 2020 season. Last season, during a 12-game stretch, he struck out 97 batters in 59 innings while climbing to Double-A Trenton.

With a shortened season, it will be possible for pitchers to put up some impressive numbers. Every member of the Yankees’ rotation can pull from recent performances to show that they have the ability to pitch at an elite level over the course of a 12-start stretch. This coming year, that will likely be all they are asked to pitch.