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An opener for Domingo German?

When Domingo German went out to Baltimore on May 21st he looked gassed by the fifth inning. The next time up against Kansas City he gave up 7 runs in another 5 inning effort. For his last start against Boston, he struck out 8 but was only able to go 3.2 innings.

Before this string of starts that has ranged from terrible to mediocre at best, Domingo German was the king of New York. In his first 50.1 innings pitched he had a 2.50 ERA and held opponents to a .179 AVG and .533 OPS. In that time the Yankees were 8 – 1 in games he started. With Luis Severino out you couldn’t help but call him ace.

It was after this stretch of games where we first heard inklings of Domingo German’s innings limit. At the time it was preposterous thought. “How could they do that to our ace,” we thought. Now, after seeing some of his struggles, you can understand why the Yankees would want to limit his load. He has never pitched as much as he has this year and he doesn’t have the conditioning to go deep consistently.

Now in those innings before Domingo German’s meter reaches E, we get those flashes of greatness we saw in his first 50.1 innings. This is why I think of the best way to utilize German this season isn’t just to have him go 4 or 5 innings at a clip to start a game. Maybe give the kid an opener?

Chad Green could be that guy. After Chad Green’s destructive inning against Toronto the other day, we’re seeing that he’s close – and maybe he’s there now. In his last 6.1 innings Green has dominated. In this time he has 10 k’s, a 1.42 ERA and has held opponents to a .208 AVG and .532 OPS.

Imagine that recent Domingo German start against Boston but with Green as his opener. Say Green goes two innings. If German comes out and gives the Yankees 3.2 innings with 8 k’s, that’s solid. He’s coming out of the 6th with 1 out left in it.

Let’s say you do the same in that May 21st game against Baltimore. German didn’t give up runs until the 5th inning. If you have Chad go two innings and follow that up with having German go 4 shut out innings before taking him out, that is, once again, another solid outing. From there you get the usual suspects lead by Adam Ottavino and nail the door down for a W.

This strategy is akin to what Yonny Chirinos of the Rays did to the Yankees twice this year. In back to back games on May 11 and May 17 Chirinos had Ryne Stanek as his opener. They won that may 11th game when Chirinos threw 4 innings of 2 run baseball and the next game, he was even better. He threw 4.2 innings of shutout baseball. They ended up losing that second game but Chirinos did his job.

I found a great article in the Tampa Bay Times about what the Opener strategy did for the Rays once they began implementing it in 2018. The article found that in the first inning the Rays allowed .41 runs per inning. This was well below the MLB and American League average. In the second inning they gave up .44 runs in the second inning. This ran along the lines of MLB average but was still below the AL average. They were below the MLB and AL average up until the 7th inning where they finally saw a spike in runs.

I adamantly hated the opener as far back as three weeks ago but when I thought about it for German, it makes sense. If the Yankees do it they can utilize his talents for longer since he’s pitching less innings every game. Let’s say his limit is 150. If he’s going out 3 to 4 innings at a time, it will take him longer to reach that point.

Plus, it doesn’t only help German. It can help Chad Green as well. In that same article they pointed out how Openers far exceeded their expected ERA’s in 2018.

Ryne Stanek (actual ERA of 2.98 vs. projected ERA of 3.79), Diego Castillo (3.18 vs. 4.90)
Hunter Wood (3.73 vs. 4.64)
Ryan Yarbrough (3.91 vs. 4.56)
Yonny Chirinos (3.51 vs. 4.43)
Vidal Nuno (1.64 vs. 4.86)

There isn’t much risk in the Yankees doing this. Worst case scenario is they go back to the old way and switch when Green and German are supposed to come into a game.