By Jason Keidel
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Only a sadist roots against CC Sabathia this year. But even if the hefty lefty emerges from the dim lights of his demons, stays sober and wins 20 games, there’s ample reason to be concerned about the Yankees‘ pitching this year.READ MORE: Wild Roll To Win Against Devils
Sure, it’s early. Every pitcher has had to kick the frost off the mound, his red fingers choking the ball in refrigerated ballparks. Starting the season in Detroit and the Bronx barely after March smacks of incompetence. (In 1960, the Yankees opened on April 19, under 75-degree skies.)
But the rest of the rotation, while younger, faster, stronger, etc., is also equally unaccomplished. Remove Sabathia, and the Yankees don’t have one pitcher who won 15 games (forget 20).
Luis Severino, perhaps the most glittering of their young arms, doesn’t even have 15 career wins. Tom Verducci wrote a fascinating feature for SI.com, in which he studied gifted pitchers under the age of 25, drawing a correlation between lapping innings on a young pitcher and injury.
Severino falls right into the sweet spot. In the minors, he tossed 82.9 pitches per start, which was bumped to 93.3 in the majors, an increase of 13 percent. Over the entire 2015 season, he hurled an additional 48.2 innings than the year before, which totals 43.1 percent. That’s a perilous place for a neophyte.
Nathan Eovaldi is 29-38. Hopefully the youngster drank the same water as Nolan Ryan, who, like Eovaldi, is from Alvin, Texas. But he, like the rest of the staff, is a big variable, with high ceilings and low production so far.
Michael Pineda (27-25) is wildly talented but also tormented. His dedication to the game has already been questioned, as have the extent of his litany of injuries. Not long ago he showed up to spring training way out of shape, love handles bulging over his belt. If he can get his body and mind in alignment, he can return to his All-Star form — a big if.READ MORE: DeRozan, LaVine Help Bulls Hang On To Beat Knicks
Masahiro Tanaka (25-12), paid like an ace, tries to pitch like one, while his brittle right arm could snap at any moment. His ulnar collateral ligament is tender, at best, after he eschewed Tommy John for rehab. No one doubts his guts, guile or gifts. But the Yankees didn’t invest $150 million for a No. 2 starter. They paid for a stud. You can decide which one he’s been so far.
Sabathia has 215 regular-season wins over his career, about 2.5 times as many wins as the rest of the rotation combined (85). Yet despite his age, wage and wear on his left arm, he’s the only Yankee to last at least six innings in a start so far.
So the burden will fall upon Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman, the holy bullpen trinity that has fans drooling at the prospect of a six-inning game with the trio then closing the lid like a coffin.
If you believe in the physical and metaphysical, you could wonder what Chapman brings to the table beyond his volcanic fastball. While he wasn’t convicted of a crime, the details behind his domestic violence beef are haunting, at best. If nothing else, folks don’t squeeze off eight rounds in your garage after a lover’s quarrel. At least you and I don’t.
But we all know your second chances are commensurate not to your remorse but rather your talent. As long as you can run 40 yards in 4.3 seconds, can dunk from the foul line or short-circuit the radar gun, you will be a cat with myriad lives.
If you flatly dismiss the import or impact of karma, just talk to the Dallas Cowboys, who got in bed with Greg Hardy. He’s out of a job, and the Cowboys are out of contention. Is it a coincidence that they were 12-4 one year and 4-12 the next? That’s more than just Tony Romo’s faulty clavicle.
But don’t fret. The moment Chapman sends batters corkscrewing into the dirt after chasing his epic heat, the book will slam shut on his malfeasance. And the Yankees will take every mile per hour they can get.
So it’s a good thing the Yanks have a nuclear bullpen. Because they could have a toxic rotation.MORE NEWS: Karlsson Scores In OT To Give Sharks Win Over Islanders
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel