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Checking in on the Yankees’ preseason pitching projections

Taking stock of the team’s pitching now that we’ve reached the midpoint of the 2022 regular season.

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

I hope everyone had a wonderful Fourth of July. It felt a bit strange not having Yankees baseball, but a little less screen time and a little more family time is good for everyone. It’s hard to believe it, but tonight’s game against the Pirates brings us to the halfway point of the season. Earlier today, Sam compared the preseason projections of the Yankees starting position players with what they’ve produced midway through the season — now it’s time for the pitchers.

(Note: we will using FanGraphs’ Depth Charts preseason projections, which are a combination of ZiPS and Steamer)

Gerrit Cole

2022 FanGraphs Depth Charts Preseason Projections: 32 games, 199 IP, 16-8, 3.04 ERA, 2.96 FIP, 12.11 K/9, 2.30 BB/9, 1.03 WHIP, 5.7 fWAR

2022 Stats: 16 games, 93.1 IP, 7-2, 2.99 ERA, 3.43 FIP, 11.28 K/9, 2.51 BB/9, 1.01 WHIP, 1.7 fWAR

Prior to the start of the season, most projections systems had Gerrit Cole as the most valuable pitcher in baseball. Well, he’s far from that mark, currently sitting at 27th place on the fWAR leaderboard among qualified pitchers. His run prevention numbers are right in line with the projections, but the strikeouts are down, walks are up, and at this pace he’ll fall well short of his innings projection.

It’s difficult to render a verdict on Cole’s first half. On one hand, it’s hard to complain with the numbers he’s put up. On the other hand, it’s fair to hold Cole to a higher standard than just about any hurler in the game — given his track record as a top-3 pitcher in the league it’s reasonable to expect that he pitch at or near that level, and that hasn’t exactly been the case in all his outings.

Luis Severino

2022 FanGraphs Depth Charts Preseason Projections: 30 games (24 starts), 143 IP, 11-8, 3.85 ERA, 3.85 FIP, 9.34 K/9, 2.61 BB/9, 1.22 WHIP, 2.4 fWAR

2022 Stats: 14 games, 78 IP, 4-3, 3.35 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 10.5 K/9, 2.65 BB/9, 1.05 WHIP, 1.2 fWAR

The projections were understandably conservative on Luis Severino given that 2022 would be his first season back in the starting rotation since 2018. There’s just so much uncertainty over effectiveness, inning limits, etc. after that long a layoff. With that in mind, they pegged him to have a slight improvement over Jameson Taillon’s 2021 campaign — a logical point of comparison given Taillon himself was retuning from a two-plus year layoff with the same injury (Tommy John).

Severino has outperformed his preseason projections and has even flashed glimpses of the Sevy of old. You could even argue he is a more complete pitcher now than the emerging ace of 2017 and 2018. He’s had to learn to pitch with slightly lower velocity, leading to an expanded repertoire and reshaped breaking pitches. It will be interesting to see how the Yankees handle his workload in the second half.

Nestor Cortes

2022 FanGraphs Depth Charts Preseason Projections: 31 games (19 starts), 121 IP, 6-5, 4.51 ERA, 4.61 FIP, 9.47 K/9, 2.89 BB/9, 1.28 WHIP, 1.2 fWAR

2022 Stats: 15 games, 85 IP, 7-3, 2.44 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 9.64 K/9, 2.01 BB/9, 0.95 WHIP, 1.9 fWAR

Raise your hand if you had Nestor Cortes as the Yankees pitching WAR leader halfway through the season. Yeah, neither did any of the projections systems. They tabbed him for a modest improvement over the career-bests he posted in 2021, but nothing close to what he’s produced through the first half of the season.

He has legitimately been one of the top starters in the AL thanks to his cutter and improved physical fitness. That being said, he has already set a new career high in games started and is a start or two away from exceeding his career-high innings total of 93 in 2021. He will be entering uncharted territory in the coming weeks and it remains to be seen how he handles a full season’s worth of starts.

Jameson Taillon

2022 FanGraphs Depth Charts Preseason Projections: 28 games, 146 IP, 9-8, 4.44 ERA, 4.41 FIP, 8.61 K/9, 2.57 BB/9, 1.26 WHIP, 2.0 fWAR

2022 Stats: 15 games, 84 IP, 9-1, 3.32 ERA, 3.25 FIP, 7.39 K/9, 1.18 BB/9, 1.15 WHIP, 1.9 fWAR

Even though he was another full season removed from TJS, the projections had Taillon producing a carbon copy of his 2021 campaign. They were not convinced that he would be able to reclaim a full-time starter’s load of innings, nor that he would return to the form that made him so effective in 2018.

Not only is he on pace for possibly the best campaign of his career and tied with Cortes for the team lead in WAR, this may be the most complete version of Taillon we’ve seen in the bigs. He owns the lowest walk rate of any qualified starter and is attacking batters with a legitimate six-pitch mix.

Jordan Montgomery

2022 FanGraphs Depth Charts Preseason Projections: 29 games, 158 IP, 9-7, 3.94 ERA, 3.96 FIP, 9.23 K/9, 2.66 BB/9, 1.24 WHIP, 2.7 fWAR

2022 Stats: 16 games, 90.1 IP, 3-2, 3.19 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 7.17 K/9, 1.69 BB/9, 1.03 WHIP, 1.3 fWAR

The projections were apparently not impressed with Jordan Montgomery’s career year in 2021 and predicted considerable regression for the southpaw. Rather than a middle-of-the-rotation starter, they felt he would perform closer to a fourth or fifth starter.

They appear to have hit the nail on the head with some projections while falling wide of the mark in other areas. For example, Montgomery is poised to blow past his previous career high in innings, and has been far more effective at run prevention than the systems expected. Conversely, the strikeouts have fallen off substantially, enough that he is right on pace for his predicted wins total despite strides in other departments.

Clay Holmes

2022 FanGraphs Depth Charts Preseason Projections: 63 games, 63 IP, 3.95 ERA, 4.05 FIP, 9.89 K/9, 4.72 BB/9, 1.39 WHIP, 0.3 fWAR

2022 Stats: 36 games, 37 IP, 15 saves, 0.49 ERA, 1.71 FIP, 9.24 K/9, 1.22 BB/9, 0.73 WHIP, 1.3 fWAR

Apparently the projections systems were not buying the changes Clay Holmes made after joining the Yankees last season, because they pegged him as a candidate for regression this season. Instead, he’s only gone and become a top-3 reliever in baseball, sporting the lowest ERA, highest groundball rate, third-best WAR, and seventh-best FIP of qualified relievers. He compiled a 29-game scoreless streak en route to securing the closer role for at least the near-future.

Michael King

2022 FanGraphs Depth Charts Preseason Projections: 47 games, 63 IP, 4.12 ERA, 4.18 FIP, 9.01 K/9, 2.89 BB/9, 1.26 WHIP, 0.4 fWAR

2022 Stats: 27 games, 43.2 IP, 2.27 ERA, 2.27 FIP, 12.16 K/9, 2.89 BB/9, 1.01 WHIP, 1.4 fWAR

They were similarly unimpressed with the growth Michael King showed last year and expected that he would stagnate a season later. That said, I’m not sure anyone could have predicted the breakout we are witnessing. King is currently second among qualified relievers in fWAR, strikeouts, and innings pitched thanks to a three mph uptick in fastball velocity over the last two years and his mastery of the patented Corey Kluber breaking ball.

Aroldis Chapman

2022 FanGraphs Depth Charts Preseason Projections: 64 games, 64 IP, 32 saves, 2.93 ERA, 3.11 FIP, 14.59 K/9, 4.83 BB/9, 1.17 WHIP, 1.6 fWAR

2022 Stats: 18 games, 14 IP, 9 saves, 5.14 ERA, 5.62 FIP, 9.64 K/9, 8.36 BB/9, 1.86 WHIP, -0.2 fWAR

Aroldis Chapman has been one of the top closers in baseball since he entered the league, and the projections expected that to continue this season. Though they recognize a natural drop off in effectiveness since his days throwing 101 and above, they nonetheless felt he still had it in him to improve upon an admittedly uninspiring campaign last season.

It appeared they knew what they were talking about through his first 12 appearances this year. Until he forgot how to throw strikes. Since then — and possibly because of the Achilles inflammation that kept him out for 41 days — Chapman has become completely unplayable, walking almost as many as he strikes out, throwing with severely depressed velocity, and losing all feel for fastball command.

Jonathan Loáisiga

2022 FanGraphs Depth Charts Preseason Projections: 70 games, 70 IP, 3.33 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 10.01 K/9, 2.84 BB/9, 1.18 WHIP, 1.4 fWAR

2022 Stats: 18 games, 16.2 IP, 7.02 ERA, 5.10 FIP, 9.72 K/9, 5.40 BB/9, 1.56 WHIP, -0.2 fWAR

Jonathan Loáisiga’s breakout as the Yankees’ 2021 relief ace took many of us by surprise, which is why it was equally surprising to see him revert to pumpkin status. He was performing as one of the worst relievers in baseball before landing on the IL with a shoulder injury. He has already given up three home runs — his total for all of last season — while the walk rate has almost tripled. How he performs when he returns from injury will say a lot about whether last year was just a flash in the pan.

Chad Green

2022 FanGraphs Depth Charts Preseason Projections: 77 games, 77 IP, 3.62 ERA, 3.69 FIP, 11.32 K/9, 2.55 BB/9, 1.10 WHIP, 1.1 fWAR

2022 Stats: 14 games, 15 IP, 3.00 ERA, 2.85 FIP, 9.60 K/9, 3.00 BB/9, 1.20 WHIP, 0.3 fWAR

As dependable as Chad Green has been for most of his Yankees tenure, this year the projections finally conceded that regression would come for the righty. The strikeouts and fastball velocity had been steadily decreasing year after year and it was time to reevaluate. Even though it doesn’t feel like it, it appeared Green was on his way to staving off that inevitable regression for at least one more year until injury struck. Now he is out for the rest of the year and likely most of next year after undergoing TJS and has likely thrown his last pitch for the Yankees.

It’s a testament to the Yankees pitching development that they lost Chad Green and were without Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Loáisiga for long stretches, yet haven’t missed a beat in the bullpen. They seamlessly replaced Green, Chapman, and Loáisiga with Holmes and King, which certainly bodes well for the future.