The 20-8 Yankees have the best record in the American League. Several things have clicked for them this season: they have a stellar bullpen, Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo got off to blistering starts, and they have, to some extent, “saved” or “fixed” DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Hicks, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Gleyber Torres. However, the main driving factor behind their success may be the starting rotation.
Before Nestor Cortes’ domination of the Texas Rangers on Monday, the Yankees’ starters had a 2.79 ERA (third-best in the league) and a 3.26 FIP, fifth-best in the majors. ‘Nasty Nestor’ and his 7.1 scoreless frames will push those numbers even lower.
Cortes, Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Jameson Taillon, and Jordan Montgomery have all been dominant, or at least they have looked that way for most of the season so far. Several factors have influenced this excellent start: each pitcher worked his butt off during the offseason, staying in shape and, in some cases, learning new pitches and improving existing ones; Matt Blake keeps proving he is the best pitching coach in the league; and health has been on their side.
That last part is pretty important: Domingo Germán, a depth starter, is currently out while he overcomes a shoulder injury, but the top five starters, the actual members of the rotation, have been healthy for the most part. That’s huge, since there are Tommy John veterans and guys who had (or have) the injury-prone label.
Here is how every member of the rotation has fared (Cortes’ game against the Rangers not included):
Yankees starters in 2022
Even the group’s “worst” member, Luis Severino, has a 3.75 ERA and a 3.78 FIP with a 22.3 percent strikeout rate heading into Tuesday’s start. If anyone deserves credit in that group – they all do, in reality, but there should be a special mention – it is precisely Severino. Not only is he making his return to full-time starting duty for the first time since 2018, but he also incorporated a cutter into his repertoire and is thriving with it. He has a lot to prove, yet he is off to a wonderful start considering the circumstances.
Cortes’ job so far has been remarkable. He has improved his unique skillset and has looked unhittable. We may be better off waiting to see how the league adjusts to him, and how he adjusts back, before penciling him in as a Cy Young candidate, but he has been unquestionably the Yankees’ best starter so far.
Cole, the nominal ace, didn’t have a great start but is now rolling. In his last three starts, covering 19 innings, he has allowed just one run, with a 4/25 BB/K ratio. His ERA is down to a stellar 2.67, and he is looking marvelous as of late.
Taillon and Monty have been control masters: both have walk rates below 5.0 percent, strikeout rates around 20 percent, and ERAs below 3.00. They have been extremely reliable and effective.
The bullpen has been amazing, yes, and the offense definitely looks better than last year — but the rotation has been equally as impressive, with strikeouts, excellent run-prevention metrics and very few walks. Its members rarely allow self-inflicted damage by putting people on the basepaths for free.
When injuries, workload concerns and other unexpected circumstances hit, their pitching depth will be tested. It will come as soon as this week, because there isn’t a set starter for Thursday’s game. We will have to see how Clarke Schmidt, Luis Gil, or other potential pieces respond. But so far, the Yankees’ starting pitching has been fueling the team’s excellent performance.