The Yankees starting rotation has suddenly become a major strength

HOUSTON, TX - MAY 02: Luis Severino #40 of the New York Yankees pitches in the fifth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on May 2, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 02: Luis Severino #40 of the New York Yankees pitches in the fifth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on May 2, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

The Yankees are absolutely rolling right now, winning 14 of their last 15 games to raise their record to 23-10 on the season. During this stretch, the starting pitching has been a major strength after many thought it would be a weakness of the team coming into the season.

On Saturday afternoon it was Sonny Gray who continued the trend of great work from the rotation in the Yankees 5-2 win over the Indians. In their last 15 games, the starting rotation has been outstanding pitching to 2.01 ERA and a .173 opponent batting average according to James Smyth of the YES Network.

For Gray, that’s now two straight quality starts for him against two AL playoff teams after he struggled mightily for most of April.

The turnaround could be due to the weather finally warming up in addition to him pitching exclusively to backup catcher Auston Romine. It’s no secret that Gray prefers throwing to Romine because when he does his numbers are so much better compared to when Gary Sanchez catches him. According to YES entering Saturday, Gray has an ERA of 2.64 in eight starts with Romine compared to a 6.07 with Sanchez in 11 starts.

As the season wears on, the hope is that Gray can get on the same page with Sanchez, especially for the playoffs. But in the meantime, Aaron Boone is making the right decision having Romine catch him.

CC Sabathia has found the fountain of youth

Friday’s starter CC Sabathia has been outstanding all season after a short DL stint in early April. Since his return, CC has pitched like an ace as he continues to amaze with his transformation from a power pitcher into a crafty lefty who relies on location. In six starts CC is 2-0 with a 1.39 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP. So far he’s been even better than he was a season ago when he had his best campaign dating all the way back to 2012.

He induces more soft contact than anyone in the rotation or in baseball for that matter in large part because of the use of his cutter. It’s the same pitch Yankees legend Andy Pettitte used over the course of his great career and one he really helped CC develop in recent years. Like Pettitte, CC has become the stopper of the Yankees rotation and come October there’s nobody they trust more to take the mound in a big game.

You just hope he can remain healthy over the course of 162 because right now in year 18 he’s on track to have one of the best seasons of what should end up being a Hall of Fame career.

Luis Severino has taken the next step as a dominant ace

One day, hopefully, Luis Severino can join CC in Cooperstown because right now he is pitching like one of the premier aces in the game today. Sevy has been special all season long and on Wednesday he delivered the best performance of his young career to date.

He went into Houston against the defending champs and dominated on his way to his first career shutout while lowering his ERA to 2.11 in the process. All night he was locked in like nothing I’ve ever seen from him before as he mowed down the Astros lineup with little resistance.

It’s clear that last year’s breakout campaign from Sevy was no fluke and he is determined to have an even better season in 2018. So far he’s done just that and once again he’s put himself squarely in the conversation for AL Cy Young.

He’s the one starter in the Yankees rotation they never need to worry about. Every time he goes out there he gives them length and holds the opposition down to put his team in the best position to win. That’s everything you could ask for from your ace.

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Along with Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka was one of the main reasons this Yankee rotation got off to such a slow start. In his first four starts he was pitching to an ERA over 6, but over his last three, he has looked the Tanaka of last postseason. His patented splitter has been unhittable of late and he’s kept the ball in the ballpark, lowering his ERA to a more respectable 4.39.

Tanaka is so important to the front end of this Yankees rotation because when he’s on there’s no question he has some of the best stuff in the game. The problem with Tanaka is obviously consistency, but right now he’s on a good run and looks like a second ace to compliment Severino.

Can German stick in the rotation?

Sunday afternoon will be a big test for the Yankees starting staff when Domingo German takes the mound in place of the injured Jordan Montgomery. Montgomery strained his elbow in Houston and now he’ll be out of action for the next 6 to 8 weeks. German was very good when he came in to replace Monty on Tuesday, but it remains to be seen if he has the makeup to stay in the rotation.

This will be his first career start so you hope that he can make his mark and earn another turn in the rotation the next time around. With Montgomery out for potentially two months, this will essentially be like an audition for German to stay in the starting five moving forward. The Yankees have other potential options in prospects Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield but they’re not on the 40-man roster. That means they would much rather prefer for someone like German to take advantage of this opportunity.

Next: Will this year be Brett Gardner's last go around with the Yankees?

These next couple months will tell us a lot about where this Yankee rotation stands and whether or not there will be a need to make a trade as we approach the summer. The expectation is that the Yankees will be in the mix to acquire another front-line starter, but if the current staff continues to pitch at this level that might not be necessary.