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Yankees 2014 Roster Report Card: Brandon McCarthy

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Best trade deadline acquisition and hilarious off the field? What's not to like?

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Grade: A-

2014 MLB Statistics: 32 GS, 200 IP, 4.05 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 7.9 K/9, 1.5 BB/9

2015 Contract Status: Free agent

couldn't believe it when the rumors started to emerge that the Yankees were acquiring Brandon McCarthy for Vidal Nuno. Sure, the Diamondbacks righty had struggled somewhat in the first half with a 5.01 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and a .295 batting average against (not to mention the 3-10 record), but he had solid peripheral numbers that strongly indicated a rebound was in order. The skinny, from Eno Sarris of FanGraphs:

ERA does not tell the full story of Brandon McCarthy‘s season so far. Look across his line, and you see career-best strikeout (20%) and ground-ball rates (55.3%) paired with his customary excellent command… and then you see that he’s giving up twice as many home runs on fly balls [20.0%] as he has his whole career.

Meanwhile, Vidal Nuno was Vidal Nuno, an underwhelming 27-year-old rookie who was just absolutely getting pummeled by AL hitters with a 5.42 ERA, 5.17 FIP, and a 1.44 WHIP. Yet on July 6th, the deal was complete: Brandon McCarthy was going to be a Yankee, and Nuno was being sent to Arizona. Oh, and the since-fired Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers paid extra for the privilege of employing Nuno, covering half the cost of McCarthy's contract for the rest of the year. Amazing.

Sure enough, when McCarthy came to the Bronx, he got into a groove, the reverse of what normally seems to happen when a National League pitcher move to the American League. In his 14 starts with the Yankees, McCarthy pitched to a 2.89 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 8.2 K/9, 1.3 BB/9, and a 1.15 WHIP. The real McCoy McCarthy shined through, as people who embrace traditional statistics realized that he was nowhere near as bad as his first half numbers indicated. The 1.2 HR/9, .345 BABIP, and 66.7% LOB% corrected themselves to more typical McCarthy rates of 1.0 HR/9, .307 BABIP, and 76.9% LOB%.

The fact that McCarthy became a work horse made matters even better. The Yankees desperately sought some stability in their rotation with 80% of their Opening Day rotation absent for the majority of their season, and McCarthy brought consistency to his starts. He regularly worked into the seventh inning, averaging over 6 1/3 innings pitched per start, thus permitting manager Joe Girardi to use dominant arms Dellin Betances and David Robertson without needing many outs from the other shaky relievers. There was even one game when the bullpen was exhausted, and McCarthy delivered a much-needed reprieve with a four-hit, eight-strikeout shutout:

The big righty was everything the Yankees could have hoped for in a trade acquisition, and it would behoove them to bring him back for 2015 now that he's a free agent. He has had some injury problems in the past and his health was a bit of a surprise this year, but it's not like health has ruined any of his seasons since reinventing himself in 2011. Even in his 18-start 2012 (partially limited due to a scary line drive off his head that required emergency surgery), he pitched 111 valuable innings with good numbers. The Yankees can afford to take a little bit of risk with a guy with potential like McCarthy.

McCarthy won't be dirt cheap, but the three-year, $36 million contract proposed by Steve Adams at MLB Trade Rumors sounds like one that I would take McCarthy back on in a heartbeat.

Come back, Brandon McCarthy. We need your pitching. And you and your wife's tweets.

And Hobbes. Please.