The Yankees’ offense has been heavily criticized for failing to come through when it mattered the most. In reality, outside of Aaron Judge (39 home runs, 148 wRC+) and Giancarlo Stanton (35 dingers, 137 wRC+), no hitters whatsoever played up to their expectations. The Yankees were 18th in MLB in runs scored per game, with 4.4, and 13th in OPS with .729. They had several disappointing starts failing to establish any kind of rhythm at the plate for prolonged spells. To call it “ugly at times” is probably polite.
It’s pretty clear that if the Yankees want to compete in 2022, they will need offensive reinforcements, or pull a Giants and start getting the best out of most of their hitters. In any case, we could see major changes in both players and coaches for next season.
The pitching, however? It’s in much better shape than the offense. By runs allowed per game, the Yankees were sixth, with 4.1, and they also had the sixth-lowest ERA in MLB, with 3.74. They missed bats, too, with a 9.8 K/9 mark, good for fourth in the league.
We can say with some confidence that there is a pitching foundation to make a run at the playoffs, and perhaps more, next season. The 2023 campaign and beyond are more of a question mark, but at least for the 2022 campaign, the Yankees have their pitching core.
The obvious cornerstone of the franchise from the mound is Gerrit Cole. He is a Cy Young candidate after finishing with a 3.23 ERA and a 2.92 FIP in 181.1 innings. Questions about his command appeared in-season, specifically after the prohibition of the use of foreign substances on the ball, but overall, the Yankees can feel confident that they have one of the best pitchers in the game, Wild Card Game notwithstanding. There’s no reason to think that he can’t recover from the hamstring tightness that he suffered late in 2021.
Jordan Montgomery (3.83 ERA, 3.3 WAR) and Jameson Taillon (4.30 ERA, 2.0 WAR) should also be part of a talented rotation, while guys like Néstor Cortés Jr., Clarke Schmidt, Domingo Germán, and Luis Gil could also fight for a spot. Deivi García remains in the system, too, if he can rebound from a disastrous 2021. As for departures, the only notable names are Corey Kluber and Andrew Heaney, who fans are unlikely to miss.
Luis Severino should enter 2022 as a starter after proving his health in September with six impressive relief innings. He will need to handle a full starter’s workload, so it’s reasonable to expect some sort of innings limit or usage instructions since he last pitched a full season in 2018, but if healthy, Sevy will be in the rotation. It’s been a few years, but we all know what he can do there.
Cortés’ performance next season will be crucial in trying to determine whether his 2021 (2.90 ERA in 93 frames) was legitimate or just a mirage. It would be huge for the Yankees if he showed some staying power in 2022.
That is a strong foundation, but it definitely doesn’t mean that the Yankees should ignore the possibility of pursuing another top starter and some other arm for depth. A young, up-and-coming arm would be a fantastic addition to the rotation, and the organization has the chips to make a statement with a trade. However, even if the team could use that extra quality arm, it’s not as pressing of a need as some of the offensive positions.
The bullpen is looking even better. Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Loáisiga, Clay Holmes, Wandy Peralta, Chad Green, Joely Rodríguez, Albert Abreu, Lucas Luetge, and Michael King (who could even be a rotation option) should all be back next year. Even Darren O’Day could return if he decided that he has something left in the tank at 39, and perhaps Zack Britton becomes an alternative later in the summer months after undergoing surgery.
That unit is very promising, but as always, the Yankees might want to add a name or two to the mix. In large part thanks to Matt Blake, though, the pitching as a whole looks to be in good shape as the Bombers start planning for 2022.