Domingo Germán entered 2021 “on thin ice” according to Luke Voit. The first baseman was speaking on Germán’s return to the team after a domestic violence suspension. Germán’s comeback on the field was uneven as well, as he started the season 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA, allowing four home runs in just seven innings. Germán was subsequently demoted to Triple-A to sort himself out, and considering everything that had gone on for him the last two years, it wasn’t an overstatement to suggest that Germán would be pitching for his Yankees future when he came back up.
Fortunately, Germán has answered the bell since his return. The Yankees have won all five games he’s started, and Germán has been sharp. He’s struck out 30 batters in 30 1⁄3 innings while only walking six hitters, has held opponents to a .599 OPS and pitched to a 2.37 ERA. Most importantly, Germán looks like he did back in 2019, when he was one of the Yankees’ best pitchers.
Germán’s analytic profile looks very similar to how it did two years ago. His average exit velocity is slightly above league norms, he’s generating lots of swings and misses, and he’s out-performing his expected ERA yet again. While this could point to a potential crash, Germán has shown an ability throughout his career to avoid big innings because he generates whiffs. In kind, he has a high swing-and-miss rate, and his chase rate is in the top 10 percent in all of baseball.
Getting ahead of hitters is central to Germán’s success. He is throwing a first-pitch strike more than 62 percent of the time, better than the league average. Once he gets ahead, Germán has many ways to get a hitter out. His devastating curveball is his signature – Germán throws it more than any other pitch, and opposing batters are only hitting .119 off the pitch.
But, as opposed to his 2019 season where 60 percent of his strikeouts came on the big bender, Germán has only earned 41% of his punchouts on the curve this season. Instead, he’s placed an increased reliance on his changeup and sinker to finish hitters off, and to great success. Germán’s “put-away percentage” on those pitches has risen immensely –after striking out a combined 24 hitters on those pitches in all of 2019, he’s already struck out 15 batters with those two pitches in just seven starts. Having more out pitches to turn to is never a bad thing, and it helps make Germán’s curveball pop even more because he doesn’t have to turn to it quite as often.
The Yankees’ rotation has been inconsistent at times this year, but one could argue that Germán has been the team’s second-best starting pitcher. While that might be an indictment on the other starters, it’s also a feather in his cap. While the team should still look to add starting pitching at the trade deadline, Germán is doing his best to ensure his spot in the team’s rotation.