With each passing day, 2009 becomes more and more a distant memory. In reality, the time elapsed since the most recent New York Yankees championship does not pose as a significant drought, but with the organization’s commitment to winning every year, it certainly feels that way.
In 2o09, they rode three starting pitchers – CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte – to the World Series victory. 11 years later, the Yankees’ rotation is filled with uncertainty. Three key free agents – Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ – leave a lot of question marks on the staff, after Gerrit Cole.
Given baseball’s current economic state and potentially a big contract heading DJ LeMahieu‘s way if they re-sign him, the Yankees cannot rely solely on the free agent market to plug their rotation holes. They have a surplus of internal options to use, including, once reinstated from his domestic violence suspension, right-handed pitcher Domingo German. Although German opened eyes at times in 2019, his status is truly that of a wild card. That is due to both the uncertainty of his roster spot and his ability to pitch.
Domingo German Uncertainty
As of Tuesday, the question of whether the Yankees bring German back has no definite answer. Hal Steinbrenner recently said that he needs to feel that German has turned his life around after the incident. If Steinbrenner feels confident that German is a changed man, then the Yankees have another high-upside asset for their rotation in 2021.
However, the road back for German will be daunting. His off the field behavior continues to be closely monitored as he pitches in the Dominican Republic Professional League. He looked good in his debut – striking out seven in four hitless innings – but it will still take time before he is ready to face MLB hitters again after a long layoff.
He has many challenges to overcome on his journey back, and not facing an MLB batter since September of 2019 proves the most obvious. If and when he returns, he also needs to prove he can be a consistent MLB pitcher. Consistency was something he lacked throughout what was a breakout 2019 season. A hip flexor injury was a factor, but his up-and-down performances throughout 2019 make him even more of a question mark than he already is.
By the Numbers
Although Domingo German won 18 games, a deeper dive of his numbers illustrate his inconsistencies. After starting the season with a 2.56 ERA in March/April, his monthly ERA only sat below 4.00 once the rest of the season. Excluding June, the month he officially landed on the injured list, German posted 4.40, 4.67, 3.82, and 4.22 ERAs in May, July, August, and September before his suspension.
Additionally, he posted drastically different numbers in wins versus non-wins. When he won, his ERA was 2.39 in 101 2/3 innings pitched. When he didn’t have his best stuff, he struggled mightily. In losses, he pitched 21 2/3 innings with a 7.06 ERA. No decisions were even worse. In 19 2/3 innings, he pitched to a 9.15 ERA.
By total starts, his losses and no decisions accounted for one-third of his starts, nine of 27. Still, 16 of the 30 home runs he allowed came in those nine starts. Pitching on the road was an issue, as well, where his ERA was over three runs higher than at home.
Of course, German displayed flashes of dominance throughout the season that have kept him relevant after the suspension. His performances in wins while possessing his best stuff is evidence of that. Other examples come from the March/April he put together where he posted a 0.853 WHIP to go along with his sub-3.00 ERA. He posted a K/9 of at least 9.1 in five of six months he pitched in, and allowed an OPS of under .800 in four of those months. He also saw his K/BB ratio reach as high as 6.00 in July. The issue will be consistency, and keeping starts without his best stuff from imploding the way they have.
In order to make a return to the Yankees, Domingo German has a lot to prove. After that, it is apparent he will have even more to prove if he wants to stick in a Yankees’ rotation desperate for quality arms after Cole.
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