Clarke Schmidt turning into key 2024 Yankees starter is 2023 twist nobody expected

What a turnaround for the former top prospect. Hat tip.
Houston Astros v New York Yankees
Houston Astros v New York Yankees / Adam Hunger/GettyImages

Clarke Schmidt!! Come serve me the Stone Cold Stunner I deserve! Back in the beginning of 2023, after about a month and a half of frustrating starts from the right-hander, a lot of New York Yankees fans (including myself) wanted him out of the rotation.

Could you blame us, though? Schmidt carried a 5.01 ERA through May and had a 6.30 mark after his first nine outings. It doesn't get much worse than that!

But Schmidt sure did buckle down and become an integral member of the starting rotation, beginning with his May 14 outing against the Rays where he allowed seven runs (thanks to Albert Abreu surrendering a grand slam in relief) on six hits and three walks across just 4.2 innings of work.

Schmidt now has a 4.23 ERA and 4.32 FIP on the season, effectively shaving over two full runs off that mark in just fewer than three months. He was dealt some terrible luck from May 25-June 23, too, when the Yankees won zero of his six starts despite the fact Schmidt allowed just seven total earned runs over that month.

Everything has since normalized. The Yankees are now 7-0 in Schmidt's last seven starts, and though none of those were of the quality variety, he has not surrendered more than three earned runs in an appearance dating back to May 19. He's allowed just 17 total over his last seven.

Clarke Schmidt turning into key 2024 Yankees starter is 2023 twist nobody expected

Brian Cashman gets a golf clap for seeing this experiment through -- one of the few that has worked for him. Schmidt was used primarily as a reliever in 2022 before making a full-time transition to a big-league starter. He was always a starter in the minor leagues, but never overly impressed.

Turns out, he was saving his best work for his time on the Yankees' roster. He's improved his cutter, which has made him more effective against left-handed hitting. Despite some troubling peripheral metrics, Schmidt has been efficient in avoiding too much trouble. His incredible 6.3% walk rate has played a role in offsetting his 9.2 H/9 and 1.3 HR/9.

But most importantly, he's weathered the storm of endless criticism, as well as the regressing pitchers around him. He's essentially become the Yankees second-most reliable starter behind Gerrit Cole. Injuries to Nestor Cortes and Carlos Rodón thinned the rotation, while the exiling of Domingo Germán and league-worst performance from Luis Severino have killed what was supposed to be a promising unit.

Schmidt, like so many other Yankees do, could've easily withered away in the face of this extreme adversity. The 27-year-old has been better through it all, and that's unquestionably earned him a rotation spot in 2024.