In 2018, Domingo Germán won himself a spot in the rotation when he threw four shut out innings in relief against the Houston Astros. Once Jordan Montgomery went down doing a poor man’s impression of the 2019 injury bug (this wicked plague brought about by God since he’s a salty Red Sox fan), Germán had been rewarded for doing so well against the Yankees’ blood rival on their turf.
Germán looked like he was poised to be a mini-Luis Severino and this was especially the case when, after that Houston relief effort, he came out and tossed six innings of no-hit ball against another 2017 blood rival in the Cleveland Indians. Unfortunately, it was after that Cleveland start where things started getting dicey.
In five innings against Oakland he gave up six runs. For his next start, he barely got out of the fourth inning and gave up another six. Then, when the Houston Astros came to town, he had a bit of a better effort where he went toe to toe with Justin Verlander and gave up three runs in 5.2 innings. It was .1 innings away from a quality start, but because Verlander had embarrassed the Yankees again, it was nothing to get excited over.
In those first 27 innings after that Houston relief game, Germán sported a 6.33 ERA and hitters had a .220 AVG, .310 OBP, .390 SLG and a .700 OPS against him. Basically, it was the kind lackluster opposing batter production people would fawn over if Greg Bird did it.
Disaster was a bad word to use for a talented kid like Germán. Maybe a more diplomatic phrasing would be to quote the philosopher Joe Girardi:
“It’s not what you want.”
There were a few underlying numbers that did show promise in 2018, though. To put a reference to this particular set of data, I wanted to line it up with what Blake Snell did for his 2018 Cy Young campaign.
The Domingo Germán of 2019 isn’t just better, though. To start the season, he is everything you’d expect from his fallen comrade, Luis Severino. Here’s what Germán has done this year in that same time frame as last year:
In 25 innings he has a 1.75 ERA and opponents are hitting for a .143 AVG, .212 OBP, .254 SLUG, and a .465 OPS.
Those underlying numbers I mentioned before have also shown a slight improvement. I’ll use Jacob deGrom‘s 2018 Cy Young Campaign as a point of comparison here.
Right now, Germàn is so dominant, he currently has the lowest H/9 in the league with a 4.6. Germàn’s worst outing came against against the Royals last week and it wasn’t even that bad: 6 IP, 3 ER, 9 K, 0 BB. In 24 At Bats that game he was able to induce 18 swings and misses. For a game that would be remembered as sloppy, that was Germàn’s personal best for the year. If Dumpster Can Chris Sale did the same thing, Red Sox fans might think their season is back on.
There’s probably a few reasons for Germàn’s early success — and hopefully, knock on wood, he keeps it up. For a simpleton such as myself, my answer is that the Baseball Gods of Old and the Baseball Gods of New blessed him as the newest fireballer in the Yankees rotation. If you were to ask a more scientifically gifted writer like our own Frank Marco, Germàn has just become a smarter pitcher.
According to Frank, Germàn putting a premium on his curveball over the last year may be playing a part in his success:
“Every pitch tracker I found says that Germàn has ditched his slider and throws more of a curveball nowadays. It’s either a slow slider or a fast curveball. Either way, he uses this pitch about 35% of the time. One of the best ways to judge the effectiveness of a pitch is by looking at whiff rates, the percentage of times a batter swings and misses at a particular pitch. Last year Germàn generated a 41.3% whiff rate on his curveball. To put that into perspective, Luis Severino had a 37.4% whiff rate on his slider. So yeah, Germàn’s curveball is good.”
To put an image to what Frank said here, just look at which Germàn pitch in his repertoire has been highlighted the most throughout the year by Rob Friedman and the Pitcher’s List:
When you think back to Germàn’s inconsistencies in 2018, it’s fair to be a little skeptical. Only the greats make that leap from unreliable to staff ace in a short amount of time. Take Roy Halladay for instance. His evolution seemingly happened overnight. In 2000, Roy Halladay had a 10.64 ERA in 67.2 IP. Two years later he lead the league in innings pitched with 239.1 IP, had a 2.93 ERA and became an All-Star. Year after that Halladay won the Cy Young.
I’m not saying Germàn will be Roy Halladay — although him being a third of Halladay from this point on would be real sweet — but, as rare as it is, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for his success to continue. Its happened before and to quote another great philosopher: “That’s baseball, Suzyn.”
Germàn has consistently shown great stuff. It’s just he always found his way into trouble in 2018 and that’s something we can hope he avoids this year.
Also, when you factor in that his 2015 and 2016 seasons were lost due to injury and he was finally able to muster a full season in 2017, maybe that inconsistent 2018 was the aberration? Maybe the problem with Domingo German last year was that he’d barely had a year under his belt at that point and the kid needed reps in order to get himself right?
I’m hoping that’s what it is. Just imagine a world where Sevy figures it out and your playoff rotation after that is Germàn, Paxton and Tanaka.