The Yankees need to pitch for the playoffs now, not later

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Yankees, barring an act of God or a stretch of unbelievable bad luck, will be playing baseball in October. The time to plan for those games and innings pitched begins right now.

The Yankees, God forbid, do not want to wind up like their cross-town rival Mets, who gave it all they had in 2015 when they made it all the way to the World Series, only to lose that tournament and so much more with a pitching staff that is now, all but decimated.

The Yankees need to begin planning for the playoffs yesterday, but soon will be good enough if they act quickly by moving to a six-man rotation to prepare for those extra arm crushing innings that will come in October.

Six weeks ago, I touched on the idea, and I see that Pinstriped Alley has followed with a piece calling for the same adjustment in the rotation.

The Yankees, in anticipation of the playoffs, are rolling the dice when it comes to the number of innings being logged by their starters. The Mets loom as a reminder of what can happen.

To illustrate the point, consider this:

Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, and Masahiro Tanaka have all made ten starts and are between 55-60 innings pitched at a little more than the quarter-pole of the season. Last year, the trio logged between 175-200 innings, with Tanaka leading the way at 199 innings.

Unlike these veterans, though, Luis Severino pitched only 71 innings last season. He already has 55 innings in 2017. And Jordan Montgomery after his start today in Baltimore will have similar numbers and well on his way to surpassing the 139 innings he pitched last season by September.

And when you project these numbers out over 30-35 starts, every one of these hurlers will have 200 innings before they throw one pitch in the playoffs.

The lack of planning for this eventuality on the part of the Yankees is not typical of their organization, and frankly, it surprises me almost to the point of alarm when you consider the possible consequences.

And it’s not like the Yankees lack the manpower to provide relief to their current starters by moving to a six-man rotation. In fact, unlike most other teams, they have a myriad of quality pitchers who could move into the rotation without blinking an eye.

Internally, Chad Green has both experience and productive numbers as a starter. Ditto Adam Warren. Granted, moving either of them would create a hole in the bullpen where their value has been critical to the team this season. But the bullpen is Joe Girardi‘s forte, and he would figure something out as a way of replacing the gap.

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Or, if the Yankees wanted to leave the 25-man roster intact, they could dip into the wealth of talent in the minor leagues, with Chance Adams or Justus Sheffield being the most logical choices for a promotion. Again, this would upset the dogged planning set forth by Brian Cashman to leave these pitchers where they are, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

And none that even considers doing now what they Yankees almost assuredly will do by August in bringing in a pitcher from the outside via a trade. And whether it’s a number two like Sonny Gray from the A’s or Chris Archer from the Rays, or yes, even that worn out by now name, Jose Quintana from the White Sox, each is a solution to the problem.

Or, the team could go all out to land a number one in Gerrit Cole.

It should be no secret either why Tanaka has these ups and downs. He’s pitched as a big-leaguer since he was 18-years old and has ten seasons under his belt. He needs that extra day, and before coming to the Yankees, he’s always had it. The YES Network analysts explain in this video:

And what of Sabathia? How much should the team, at his age and almost 14,000 batters faced over his career, expect from him?

Typically, both Montgomery and Severino would be pegged for no more than 180 innings this season. Does that mean the Yankees plan to shut them down sometime in September and go with a three-man rotation in the playoffs?

It’s been done many times before successfully, and if you have a horse like Madison Bumgarner, you can do it with even less. But it’s risky, and it’s too close to what the Mets did in 2015 with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard.

The time to plan for October is in June by developing a plan that ensures that the Yankees indeed make the playoffs, which is not yet a certainty, while also ensuring that their pitchers have enough left in the tank to carry the team further. I don’t see it happening, and it concerns me.