Most widely-disseminated statistics about the June 2023 Yankees involve marks of futility. "Worst Since X," "Lowest Since Y," "Most Pathetic Since Yesterday" ... you've heard them all by now.
One Yankee has managed to somehow pair the impressive with the pathetic in a frustrating statistical melange that shows just how far behind the current offense lags, as well as just how unlucky a pitcher can be, even when he's beginning to figure out the ebbs and flows of being a big-league starter.
As recently as May 14, Clarke Schmidt was the Yankees rotation's biggest problem, especially with Luis Severino's return around the corner. He was threatening to post his third straight solid start, this one coming against the powerhouse Tampa Bay Rays, only to see things fall apart in the middle innings, as Albert Abreu cleaned up his inherited runners in the worst way possible. Abreu surrendered a grand slam, hanging 7 earned runs in 4.2 innings on Schmidt's ledger, leaving him with a season ERA of 6.30.
Below the surface, though, something was brewing. Schmidt's April was marred by an inability to retire left-handers and a propensity for outright collapse the third time through the order. His cutter wasn't working; in fact, the tinkering might have led to imprecision on his other offerings. Schmidt's bloated 6.84 ERA at the end of the month was nearly matched by a 5.43 FIP that didn't portend much growth ("Hey, if he regresses back to his expected stats, he could still be quite bad! Alright!").
At the end of the start Abreu poured gasoline on, though, his FIP was all the way down to 4.67 (he lowered it from 4.88 during that game. Thanks to seven largely effective starts since that date (four of which have featured at least one out recorded in the sixth inning or later), that number now sits at 4.20 after plummeting all the way to 3.93 on May 31 at Seattle.
For the past two months, Schmidt has been mostly excellent. He held the rival Red Sox to three earned runs in 10 innings across two starts. He held contenders like the Rangers, Orioles and Reds largely in check. He shrugged off a sticky stuff controversy in Cincinnati.
And, because he pitches for the 2023 Yankees in June, the team refused to win any of his past six starts, prior to Thursday afternoon in Oakland. Grrrrrrreat.
Yankees starter Clarke Schmidt turning corner?
Schmidt's 1.97 ERA over those six starts has been matched with just nine total Yankees runs, leading to six undeserved losses. ERA below 2.00 in a six-start span without any victories? You KNOW that's never been done by a Yankee before! Katie Sharp confirmed as such, but you just knew it in your bones before the statistical backup arrived.
Schmidt's numbers still have a ways left to crawl downward before he's confirmed cured. Due to his early-season struggles, his elevated WHIP remains above 1.40, and lefties still collectively have a .908 OPS against him. That remains untenable.
When Schmidt silences the history-making Rangers, though, you kind of have to win that game. Especially if you've lost his previous five also-pretty-good games. Don't worry about a move to the bullpen for now; goodness knows this rotation mess will eventually work itself out. The Yankees will want to limit Nestor Cortes' innings. Domingo Germán has lost his way. Injuries always present themselves.
For now, Schmidt being forced out of the rotation is at the bottom of this troubled team's grocery list, something you never would've anticipated two months ago. Now, if the Yankees' offense would only play along, we'd be in great shape.
Considering how imbalanced they are and how few lefties they carry, facing the Yankees' lineup might be the only way Schmidt's season could be trending even further upward.
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