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The Yankees' staff has demonstrated a worrisome trend

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Without some trades, the Yankees' rotation isn't going to be very good next year. One reason for this could be many of the pitchers' shallow arsenals, which create a lose-lose situation for New York.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

I'm going to get straight to the point: The Yankees' rotation is not very good. Although they had the 19th best ERA in baseball last season, which isn't horrible, the normally five-man staff currently has just three pitchers. One of those pitchers finished the year sidelined with a forearm strain (Masahiro Tanaka), another is 36-years-old and is slated to have ‘cleanup' surgery on his knee (CC Sabathia), and the third had the seventh worst ERA among qualified starters in 2016 (Michael Pineda).

The slew of options behind the trio aren't overly appealing, either. There's Bryan Mitchell (3.24 ERA as a starter last season), Luis Cessa (4.01 ERA), Chad Green (5.94 ERA), and Luis Severino (8.50 ERA), while prospects such as Chance Adams, Jordan Montgomery, Dietrich Enns, and James Kaprielian also present faint possibilities of making the club. Put simply, next year's rotation could very well be a liability.

When looking at the staff as a whole, there are two trends that stick out. The first is that many of the pitchers aren't very good. The second is that there is a worrisome pattern of shallow repertoires for many of the hurlers. A few pitchers lean heavily on just two pitches, which simply isn't a sustainable habit for major league starters. When looking at data from 2015, only a couple pitchers really relied on a pair of offerings, and those select few struggled mightily.

Before going into the examples of this, though, we should probably mention the exception to the rule: Masahiro Tanaka. He has undoubtedly been the Yankees' rotation savior over the past few seasons, thanks in large part to his six pitch repertoire. Having such a wide array of pitches is incredibly rare, but it has allowed Tanaka to be a Cy Young candidate despite a mediocre fastball. He has been able to keep batters off balance by throwing one of a four-seam fastball, splitter, sinker, cutter, slider, or curveball. Even if only one of those pitches is truly elite (the splitter), the sum of Tanaka's parts makes for an ace.

In contrast, there's the Japanese pitcher's rotation-mate in Michael Pineda. The former top prospect features a mediocre cutter, which he throws more than half the time, and a slider that is thrown nearly as often. Mixed in at times is a shaky changeup that Pineda rarely trusts and often leaves too far over the plate. For the most part, Pineda is a two-pitch pitcher whose third pitch's sole purpose is to occasionally throw hitters off balance and occasionally get belted into the outfield bleachers.

CC Sabathia, for his part, also features a diverse arsenal, but Luis Severino is the opposite. He's commonly been pegged as a future reliever, and that's because of his lack of a strong third pitch and a top-heavy delivery. While the four-seam fastball and slider are both nasty, Severino's changeup played a similar role as Pineda's. The offspeed pitch has often been inconsistent and easy to hit, and was a big reason behind the 22-year-old's demotion to Triple-A this season.

The lack of a quality third offering explains Severino's discrepancy between dominant bullpen performances and struggles out of the rotation. He simply doesn't have enough to keep hitters guessing multiple times through the order, and is stuck throwing what can be a meatball of a changeup to try and amend this problem. Out of the bullpen, the changeup has largely been trashed, which has led to a 0.39 ERA as a reliever and 8.50 ERA as a starter.

Then there's Luis Cessa, whose overall PITCHf/x profile for this past season looks the part of a pitcher with plenty of offerings, but in reality is yet another two-pitch man. In July, the rookie introduced a slider to his repertoire, which quickly replaced an ineffective curveball and changeup. Replaced is no exaggeration, either—the slider went from never being thrown to a 33% usage rate in three months, while the curveball dropped to about 1% and the changeup 6%. By the end of the season, Cessa relied heavily on his four-seam fastball and slider, while all but getting rid of the curveball and changeup.

While pitchers will encounter struggles borne out of a two-pitch arsenal, the Yankees' staff as a whole may suffer as well. When each arm only has so many offerings, there's bound to be some pitch overlap from start-to-start. Considering all but Sabathia are right handed, the similarities between all the arsenals could make things easier on the batters in a three-game series. And, worryingly, the extent of resemblance between the pitchers is very large.

Pitcher

Pitches used over 10% of the time

Pitches used under 10% of the time

Masahiro Tanaka

Splitter

Sinker

Slider

Cutter

Four-seam

Curveball

Michael Pineda

Cutter

Slider

Changeup

CC Sabathia

Cutter

Sinker

Slider

Changeup

Four-seam

Bryan Mitchell

Cutter

Four-seam

Curveball

Changeup

Luis Cessa

Four-seam

Slider

Changeup

Curveball

Luis Severino

Four-seam

Slider

Changeup

Chad Green

Cutter

Four-seam

Slider

Sinker

It's not hard to see the obvious patterns emerging when it comes to the staff's favorite pitches (and their weak third offerings). For example, cutters, four-seam fastballs, and sliders are remarkably popular as main pitches, while the changeup is the preferred secondary offering. When hitters are seeing this from multiple pitchers, it can become easier to adjust. Considering the problems already sprouting from shallow arsenals (and external factors such as injuries and a weak free agent market), this is the last thing the Yankees need.