Clarke Schmidt made his Yankee debut in the shortened 2020 season, but didn’t make his first real impact in the big leagues until 2022. That season, he worked 57.2 innings on the bump, mostly out of relief, and was quite effective. The former first-round pick maintained a 3.12 ERA and 3.60 FIP en route to a productive season out of the ‘pen.
In 2023, amid a flurry of injuries, Schmidt was not only thrust into the starting rotation, but ended up throwing the second-most innings among Yankee pitchers behind just newly-minted Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole. As a “No. 2” starter, Schmidt’s 2023 season could be seen as a disappointment, but someone who can go out every five days and pitch at a close-to-average level is certainly worth something.
2023 Statistics: 33 games, 32 starts, 159 IP, 4.64 ERA (93 ERA+), 4.42 FIP, 4.36 xFIP, 21.5 K%, 6.6 BB%, 1.8 fWAR
2024 Contract Status: Entering first year of arbitration
Headed into the season, the Yankees rotation felt as secure as ever. In fact, I even wrote something preseason to that exact effect. Cole was outstanding, of course, capturing his first ever Cy Young Award, but the rest of the rotation was ultimately a massive disappointment. They will or have all been discussed individually in this report card series, but behind Cole, the injury-riddled rotation ended up being headlined by Schmidt and Domingo Germán, who ended the year on the restricted list. Not ideal.
If you looked at Schmidt’s season through the lens of him being the Yankees second-most prominent starter, you might be disturbed. But, out of the role he was supposed to be in, battling for the fifth spot in the rotation, it wasn’t all that bad.
Schmidt was, for the most part, an average big-league starter. Over his 159 innings of work, he managed a 4.64/4.42 ERA/FIP, which placed him right around average with a 93 ERA+ and 102 FIP-. Compared to his fairly successful 2022 campaign, Schmidt also made some strides in his overall profile, or at least was able to avoid any huge steps back.
The 27-year-old’s strikeout rate dropped a bit, but his walk rate dropped by an even greater margin to a very solid 6.6 percent, to put him in the 77th percentile among big leaguers. The quality of contact Schmidt allowed did take a slight turn for the worse, as he experienced higher average exit velocity and hard hit rates than he ever had in the Majors, which resulted in less favorable expected stats across the board as well.
Along with his move to the ‘pen, the right-hander also underwent a change in his pitch mix. His sweeper, which he threw nearly 40 percent of the time in 2022 dropped down to a 27.4 percent usage, and a brand new cutter immediately became his primary pitch, while he completely ditched his four-seamer.
Amidst the change, Schmidt’s sweeper became much less effective, as opponents wOBA against the pitch jumped from .250 to .372, while the whiff rate dropped from 40.7 to 26.3 percent. It was not exactly an ideal shift for Schmidt in any way, but it wasn’t a complete disaster either, which is really what his season was all about.
Before the season began and the injury bug got a taste for Yankee blood, it seemed as though Schmidt might not even have a spot in the rotation. But alas, he did, and a significant one at that. It’s not his fault as to whichever role he falls in to, and looking purely at his performance, Schmidt was fine.
There is always something to be said about the value of an average player, particularly when he boasts a not-often-talked-about appreciated value. That being his ability to just be out there, and keep things afloat. He wasn’t on shutout watch every night or racking up double-digit Ks; he was just grinding through innings at a respectable rate, which can be worth a whole lot. Schmidt started 32 games this season (even though it felt like 90), which only nine starters in the sport were able to surpass — there is much to be said about simple availability.
It would seem a B- grade reflects Clarke Schmidt’s season well, nothing special, but it certainly got the job done in times of need, a state the Yankees found themselves in quite often in 2023.