The Yankees starting rotation looked quite strong when the 2014 season began, but that isn’t the case anymore. Of the five pitchers who began the season as starters, three of them are on the disabled list.
The declining staff ace, CC Sabathia, will be out until July with an inflamed knee. Before the inflammation was discovered, he had been struggling mightily, posting a 5.28 ERA and a 1.478 WHIP. Opponents are hitting .310 with 10 home runs against him. The reason he’s been hit so hard is because of a steady decline in fastball velocity.
According to Fangraphs, Sabathia’s average fastball speed has gone from 93.9 MPH in 2011 to 88.5 MPH this season.
As a result of this change, the southpaw can no longer get away with poorly located pitches that may not have hurt him when his velocity was consistently in the low to mid 90s. Now that he can’t throw as hard, many of his mistakes will end up over one of the outfield fences.
Sabathia’s DL stint may wind up saving his season, as it will give him an opportunity to work on his mechanics without having to worry about opposing hitters.
The third injured starter, Michael Pineda, had been sidelined for two seasons since being traded to the Yankees and was finally starting to return to form. As a member of the Mariners in 2011, Pineda went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA while holding opponents to a .211 batting average against.
Before his most recent injury, a strained back (which will likely sideline him until June), Pineda was 2-2 with a 1.83 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP.
These injuries have left the Yankees with a make-shift rotation of Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka, David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, and Chase Whitley. Aside from Kuroda and Tanaka, the rotation is filled with temporary stop-gaps. This team needs more depth.
Hammel, 31, has pitched in the American League East in the past and has been successful. In 2012 he was quite possibly the Baltimore Orioles’ best pitcher, winning 8 games in 20 starts and posting a 3.43 ERA, a .234 batting average against, and a 1.24 WHIP.
Though he struggled in 2013, the righty appears to have returned to form this season. He’s already won 5 games with a 2.91 ERA and an abysmal 0.90 ERA and an opponents batting average of .190
His recent success and his (likely) moderate price tag makes him one of the most attractive options for Brian Cashman to pursue as trade season approaches.
Another attractive option is Wednesday’s Cubs’ starter, Jeff Samardzija, who is off to a stunning (yet hard luck) start in 2014. Though his strikeout rate is a bit lower than usual (54 punch-outs in 68 innings pitched), he has held opponents to a .211 batting average as well as owning a 1.46 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.
The hard throwing ace might be a bit more costly in terms of prospects, as he is having a career year and is more of a strikeout pitcher.
Either one would go a long way towards giving the Yankees some much needed depth.