Yankees: Where’s Their “Downright Nasty” Starting Pitcher

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

The Yankees, for all the good pitching they have enjoyed over the years, haven’t had anyone in their rotation who’s downright nasty since “The Rocket.” It’s hurting them, and it needs to change.

The Yankees are missing a lot of things when it comes to their starting pitching. Most of the holes will be filled as the 2017 season moves along. But one that is not likely to be filled is the lack of a starting pitcher who qualifies as being downright nasty when it comes to both stuff and personality.

I can’t believe I’m asking this question, but where is Roger Clemens when we need him? Because for all that he wasn’t as an “honorable” man and all the steroid stuff, he was absolutely the pitcher who defined the Yankees staff when he pitched.

Don’t believe me, just ask Mike Piazza who happened to run into Clemens in the 2000 World Series. Here’s the video of that encounter:

Clemens was nasty before nasty was even invented. Clemens was intimidating, and he combined that with impeccable control to keep hitters off balance in the box. And pity the poor batter who “dug in” against him.

The Yankees Need To Bring Back The Nasty

The current Yankees staff is missing that element, and it’s hurting them. In the Japanese way, and this is not a criticism, Mashiro Tanaka is a gentleman on the mound as he probably is in his daily life. He can get it up there at 93-94 on a good day, but he lacks a presence on the mound that gives hitter pause to wonder where the next pitch might be heading.

And if you go through the rest of the staff with CC Sabathia, Luis Severino and Michael Pineda, whose idea of being intimidating is to put “war paint” his neck with pine tar, the point becomes even more profound.

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The Yankees lack and they need that Noah Syndergaard, who at 6 feet  6 inches tall, stands on the mound with those blond locks flowing in every direction and throwing 97 mph fastballs and 94 mph sliders that dive off the right side of the plate as hitters wave at them.  Ditto Corey Kluber and Jacob deGrom.

These are the kinds of pitchers who keep hitters awake at night knowing they are going to be facing them tomorrow. They are, if you will, an ace within an ace.  To where your number one has a built-in advantage before he even takes the mound to make his start.

Where’s That Nasty Man Coming From

A look at the future of the Yankees starting staff wonders where the nasty guy is coming from if indeed, there is one. James Kaprielian could be the one, as witnessed by his dogged determination to pitch in the Bronx despite the team’s exercising caution following an arm injury last year.

And perhaps, Jordan Montgomery, because of his stature at 6 feet 6 inches on the hill, could be that kind of a pitcher. But beyond that, there’s Chance Adams, Justus Sheffield, Chad Green, etc.

Now before you jump to any conclusions about what I’m arguing here, there are many ways to get major league hitter out. Jamie Moyer and Greg Maddux did it for many years with a fastball that seldom topped 87 mph. That’s a given.

What I’m saying, though, is what do the Yankees have that equals a pitcher like Corey Kluber who strikes out, what was it – the first seven hitters he faced in that 40-degree weather in October that is so common on the East Coast during the Playoffs?

And you need that guy on your staff if you expect to move further into the October Sweepstakes than just an “appearance” in the playoffs.

It might not matter much this year as it would be a pleasant surprise if the Yankees were to even make the Playoffs. But from next season forward, it’s going to be a difference maker and something that Brian Cashman needs to begin planning for when the full complement of the Baby Bombers makes its way to Yankee Stadium.