Though C.C. Sabathia started Opening Night for the Yankees in Houston on Tuesday, it is apparent to many that he is not the sure-fire ace that the Yankees payed for in 2009 and may even be in a permanent decline. The same might also hold true for Hiroki Kuroda, who finished the 2013 season with a 4.25 second-half ERA.
Both starters struggled during their first few innings of 2014. Sabathia gave up 6 earned runs on 6 hits during the first two innings of his season-opening start, but recovered by not allowing a run over the next four innings. Though Kuroda was solid overall, giving up only two runs and three hits over six innings pitched, he gave up runs in the first and third innings. Though it’s too soon to judge, it’s only natural to wonder how much Sabathia and Kuroda have left.
After a rough first half of 2013, which included a trip to Scranton in June, Ivan Nova posted a 2.78 ERA after the All-Star break and is now the Yankees’ third starter with the expectation of a break-out season in 2014.
Nova, 27, started the third game of the Yankees season and even though he gave up 6 hits and 5 walks in 5.2 innings pitched, he only gave up only 2 runs. While the overall performance wasn’t Nova’s best, he minimized damage, including getting the Astros to ground into four, count ‘em, four double plays. Tightroping out of trouble has been a problem for him in the past.
Masahiro Tanaka, who was signed to a 7-year $155 million contract this off-season out of Japan, is considered one of the games brightest young stars and is projected to be a future ace. He was certainly impressive during spring training, going 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP while holding opposing hitters to a .190 batting average. He also struck out 26 batters in 21 innings while walking only 3.
After missing the 2012 and 2013 season due to shoulder surgery, 25-year-old Michael Pineda earned a spot in the Yankees rotation with a strong spring training. He posted a 1.20 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP in 15 innings pitched this spring, while striking out 16 batters and only walking 1. He also seems poised for a strong second season.
Is it too early to write off CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda? It certainly is. It’s also a fair question as to whether this is the year that Ivan Nova, Masahiro Tanaka, and Michael Pineda take over the top spots in the Yankees rotation and carry the pitching staff.