This season, the Yankees’ starting rotation has given up 145 home runs, the third most in the majors. Should the Yankees be worried about this trend heading into next season? If you take a closer look at who was giving up those home runs, the Yankees can be optimistic about next season.
The biggest culprit was Michael Pineda, who really struggled with fly balls turning into home runs at a rate of 17% (the fifth worst rate among qualified starters.) With such a bad HR/FB rate, it’s somewhat impressive that Pineda was such a productive pitcher, owning a 3.2 fWAR. He also suffered from a very high BABIP (.339). Pitchers really don’t have a lot of control over the rate that fly balls turn into home runs and the rate that batted balls in play turn into hits, so if those numbers return to normal next season, the Yankees can expect a good rebound year from Pineda.
Yankees’ ace Masahiro Tanaka had a 12% HR/FB rate and was in the conversation for the Cy Young award. Tanaka pitched 199.2 innings this season and appears to be healthy, so the Yankees should have no concerns about him going into next season. If a few extra flyballs end up staying inside the park next year, he should be a legitimate Cy Young contender.
After Pineda and Tanaka, the Yankees will have CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, Luis Cessa, Bryan Mitchell, and possibly Chad Green as rotation options next season. But, they will certainly look outside the organization too. Last week, Jon Heyman wrote that the Yankees will be looking to upgrade their starting pitching. With a very weak free agent class, any upgrade would have to come through a trade.
There are two pitchers who struggled with high HR/FB rates this season who the Yankees should consider. Jaime Garcia pitched like an ace in 120+ innings in 2015 but had the worst HR/FB rate of all qualified starters this season. If St. Louis picks up Garcia’s option, he’ll likely be available because they shopped him at the deadline. He could be a good gamble to bounce back and have another productive season on the mound.
Another option is the Rays’ Chris Archer, who also had a very high HR/FB and was available at the trade deadline. Archer just turned 28 and was worth 5.2 fWAR in 2015. The Yankees should make a run at him because he is likely to rebound next season and is under a team friendly contract through 2019.
If they had been a little luckier with fly balls this year, the playoff picture might have been a little different. Whether they add to the rotation mix or focus on internal options, they should be optimistic that their pitchers will pitch better and their young arms will find a way to be better.