Whether it be Murderer’s Row of the 1920s or the Baby Bombers of today, the lineup has always been the marquee attraction of the New York Yankees. Now, with the addition of James Paxton, the New York Yankees are poised to roll out a dominant starting rotation.
The Harlem River runs just half a mile west of Yankee Stadium in the Boogie Down Bronx. This gives some nice alteration to the pitching staff’s nickname I just drummed up. The Harlem River Hurlers. I’m sure it will catch on.
On Monday, Nov. 19th, Brian Cashman turned up the heat on the MLB Hot Stove. The Yankees aquired James Paxton by shedding pitching prospect Justus Sheffield. The 22-year-old left-hander was the best player in the Yankees farm system.
New York did not want to wait to see if Sheffield would develop into a front line starter, so they made the move for Paxton, who is a 6 year veteran with a no-hitter under his belt.
Paxton had his best season in 2018 and is approaching the middle of his prime. He pitched 160.1 (hmmm..very close to 161, aka E161st Street) innings last season. That is not a gaudy amount of innings you want to see from a #1 pitcher, but that is a result of the changing landscape of MLB.
Also, with the strength of the Yankee bullpen, Manger Aaron Boone will not need to depend on Paxton to pitch 200+ innings. 5 good innings are all Paxton needs to produce each game, and Boone will happily hand the ball over to the monsters in his bullpen out in right-center field. However, Paxton did lead the league with 2 complete games and one shut out (his no hitter) so he has the potential to go the distance and eat innings.
Also, he added 208 strikeouts and an impressive 1.09 WHIP (walks/hits per inning pitched). In his career, Paxton has pitched to a 3.13 FIP, which measure just the results a pitcher can control: home runs, walks and strikeouts. We read FIP similarly to ERA. Last season, Paxton had a 3.23 FIP. For reference, Jacob deGrom had a 1.98 FIP in his Cy Young season and the league average FIP was 4.16.
Okay, so bare with me here. The probable rotation for the Yankees next season will be Severino, Paxton, Tanaka, Happ, and Sabathia. Last season, that group collectively pitched to a combined 3.54 ERA. That would have been good enough for the third best staff-ERA in MLB, behind a Dodgers staff who pitched to a 3.38 ERA and an Astros staff who flaunted a 3.11 staff-ERA.
The combination of those five starters has the potential to be electric next season, thus deserving of a catchy nickname like the Harlem River Hurlers. The would-be 3.54 ERA would have been the Yankees’ best ERA since 1978.
Also, do no forget about Jordan Montgomery who fell to injury early in the 2018 campaign. In six starts, Montgomery was 2-0 and pitched to a 3.62 ERA. He will be excellent relief if any starter falls to injury, and can be plugged in as sixth starter to add some help and keep guys healthy.
The pitching rotation will fuel the Yankees to another postseason run. Severino will carry the weight and be supplemented by Paxton, who can be a #1 ace in a bunch of other cities. Tanaka is always reliable, and Happ was undefeated in his tenure with the Yankees last season with a sub-3 ERA. Sabathia resigned to win another ring. As long as his knee holds up, he will anchor this dangerous rotation and provide good innings while adding a veteran presence in the clubhouse.
Pair the Harlem River Hurlers with the Baby Bombers and you have a clear favorite for the AL Pennant, and a 28th World Series Title.
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