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Schmidt can earn postseason trust with strong rotation performance

With Nestor Cortes on the IL, Clarke Schmidt is getting an opportunity to prove he belongs as a starter in the postseason rotation.

New York Mets v. New York Yankees Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The New York Yankees have had to deal with the injury bug almost all season, but more specifically, in the last month and a half. One player that recently went on the injured list due to a groin injury is Nestor Cortes, and with that unfortunate event unfolding, Clarke Schmidt is being promoted to the rotation to fill his spot.

Schmidt has had another strong season, but also one where he was in Triple-A at points even though he certainly should not have been. Luckily, he’s getting another chance to showcase his obvious talent to manager Aaron Boone and the Yankees coaching staff.

Clarke Schmidt Pitch Distribution and Percentile Rankings 2022
Baseball Savant

Schmidt is a unique pitcher in many different ways. As the percentile rankings show, not only is his fastball one that generates a ton of spin, but his curveball does the same thing. Not only has it been evident in MLB, but during his appearances with the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Railriders, it was as well. The video in this tweet is the perfect representation of how well his pitches spin and how deceiving they can be.

The 26-year-old righty has primarily been a reliever when he’s donned the pinstripes, but now is his time to showcase the kind of talent he can bring to the rotation whenever he’s handed the ball. But not only is it an excellent chance for him to bid for an everyday rotation spot during the regular season, it also provides Boone another option for his postseason rotation.

Schmidt is pitching to the tune of a 2.18 ERA and a 178 ERA+. However, his other numbers suggest that his numbers could be much worse. With a 3.88 FIP and 4.61 xFIP, there is certainly room to improve. Although, that has all been in relief, so walking to the bump as the official starter could bring the best things to come in terms of performance.

An important thing to remember is that Schmidt has never pitched this many innings (33.0) in major league baseball, so the territory is already foreign. But if he can go back to a role where he feels comfortable, we will hopefully see a different side of him.

More pitching depth is never a bad thing, and the Yankees rotation is missing a vital piece. Not only does Cortes bring unpredictability, but he brings a diverse pitch arsenal that compliments his sometimes unusual pitch delivery. The good news is that they aren’t losing a ton of said diversity with Schmidt.

Cortes possesses a 4-seam fastball, cutter, slider, changeup, sinker, and curveball (in order of usage). Schmidt on the other hand uses a combination of a slider, sinker, 4-seam fastball, curveball, and changeup. So the only difference between the two is the usage of a cut fastball and their usage of the pitches that they both possess.

From an outing where he pitched six perfect innings to nabbing a rotation spot due to an unfortunate injury, this is one of the biggest opportunities for Schmidt in his young career. Having an all-star pitcher on the injured list is never a good thing, but the good news is that a just-as-talented player who hopefully has a chip on his shoulder can come in and fill that void.

The goal at the end of the day is to make Boone’s decision process harder. If Schmidt can perform well as a starter, I see no reason as to why he should not get serious consideration to pitch over a player like Domingo Germán, who has admittedly also been pitching well of late. If Luis Severino isn’t back in time to start the postseason, or if Boone feels that he would be better served coming out of the bullpen, it’s game on. No matter what, this fight for rotation spots is going to be uber-competitive, but that means Schmidt has to bring his best.