The need for quality creates pressure. The need for quantity creates opportunity.
So far, it appears, the Yankees need quantity more than quality. Although they’d best maintain an eye on the quality — be it Dallas Keuchel, Max Scherzer, Marcus Stroman or anyone else — just in case.
Masahiro Tanaka’s rough first inning put the Yankees in a hole from which they never quite escaped Tuesday night, as they suffered a 5-4 loss to Manny Machado and the Padres at Yankee Stadium.
San Diego scored four runs before Tanaka recorded an out, and the visitors’ big blow came on an Eric Hosmer three-run homer off a hanging splitter. Through his interpreter, an unusually candid Tanaka acknowledged he had never battled with his money pitch for such an extended period. Nevertheless, the right-hander sports an ultra-respectable 3.20 ERA in his 12 starts.
“I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to [get through] this one,” Tanaka, who grinded through six innings, said of his mini-crisis, and he sure as heck has earned the benefit of the doubt.
Given the significant hits the Yankees’ starting rotation has taken as part of the greater organizational injury epidemic, the unit has done its part to keep the team atop the American League East. And it’s getting healthier for the moment, with lefty James Paxton (left knee) set to start Wednesday’s series finale after nearly a month on the injured list and de facto co-captain CC Sabathia scheduled to start Sunday night against the Red Sox after resting his perennially bothersome right knee for 10 days.
“I think it’s something that probably doesn’t get talked about enough,” Aaron Boone said before the game. “…[W]e’re not in a position to win games as consistently as we have if we’re not getting good starts consistently. And we have.”
Entering Tuesday’s action, the Yankees’ starting pitchers had tallied 4.8 wins above replacement, as per FanGraphs, ranking them fifth in the American League. Their relievers, as has become the norm, paced the industry with 3.7 fWAR.
With Luis Severino (right shoulder) hoping to return for the second half, and with Jordan Montgomery (left elbow) a possibility if he completes his rehabilitation from last year’s Tommy John surgery in time, the Yankees possess myriad interesting options to start postseason games. Paxton and his high-end stuff represent the most obvious upgrade from last year’s rotation that put up a 10.38 ERA in the AL Division Series loss to the Red Sox. (The lesson from that fiasco, by the way? Go to the bullpen quicker this time.)
Paxton, of course, seems to get hurt as often as David Caruso dramatically puts on his sunglasses in “CSI: Miami,” and the Yankees can’t count on their ace Severino righting himself by October. Throw in Domingo German’s innings limit — The Post’s Joel Sherman envisions a cap of 150, and the right-hander currently sits at 60 ¹/₃ — and you can see why the Yankees must give themselves more options.
Maybe it’s Keuchel, the free agent whom the Yankees just scouted and who would cost only money (and probably only one year). The Blue Jays, needing more time to rebuild, surely wouldn’t mind trading the Long Island native Stroman (a free agent after next year) within their division. The Rangers can see the logic of selling high on the lefty Mike Minor, who is signed through next year. Madison Bumgarner, the postseason legend, surely would generate the most fan excitement, and his strikeouts-to-walks count of 5.38 projects better than his current 4.10 ERA. It would require some major chutzpah for the highly disappointing Nationals to trade the three-time Cy Young Award winner Scherzer, who is signed through 2021.
Could the Yankees work more of their transactional magic and find a pitching diamond in the rough a la last July’s acquisition of Luke Voit? That becomes a more realistic scenario if quantity continues to trump quality as the priority.
The most realistic scenario is the Yankees add to their arms supply. You can count on that even more than Tanaka solving his splitter problem.
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