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Rotation question marks leading the way early

The 2017 Yankees were full of question marks entering the season. How would the youth fare? Did Matt Holliday have anything left in the tank? Could Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury get the run game going again?

But the biggest question mark of all was probably the starting rotation. If there was anything to be certain of it was that if Masahiro Tanaka could stay healthy, he’d perform well. Everything after him was a giant question mark. Could Michael Pineda find consistency? Would CC Sabathia continue his transition to crafty old pitcher? Can Luis Severino revitalize his top prospect pedigree? What about the fifth starter?

Well half a month into the season has the rotation questions flipped on their head. The Yankees find Tanaka struggling while the rest of the rotation thrives. Yes, the season is young but the 2-4 starters are delivering results exceeding probably the most optimistic fans and analysts. An interesting side-thought is whether or not Austin Romine taking over at catcher over the last week is relevant.

Masahiro Tanaka – 14 IP, 8.36 ERA, 1.93 WHIP, 8.4 K/9, 5.1 BB/9

Tanaka has struggled through his first three starts, with his most recent game yielding his best, though still not great, results. His walk rate is up, having already walked eight batters when he hasn’t walked more than 36 in a single season. Assuming he’s healthy, he should return to his dominant self. The concern here would be if his lack of control is a result of his health, which can often be the case in initial signs of elbow trouble. Considering his dominant spring this is hopefully nothing to worry about. It sounds like Tanaka has been reported throwing harder than usual, which could be contributing to his wildness.

Michael Pineda – 18.1 IP, 3.44 ERA, .927 WHIP, 11.3 K/9, 0.5 BB/9

If there’s a single wildcard in this season, it’s Pineda. If he ends up putting together the type of dominant season many think him capable of, the Yankees could see themselves in the midst of a playoff race come August and September. He’s dominated his last two starts against poor offenses, and it will be interesting to see if he can continue on against better hitting clubs. Nobody doubts that Pineda can be a dominant pitcher at times, the question will be if he can continue consistently win games, even when he doesn’t have his A+ stuff. Of interesting note is CC Sabathia predicting that Pineda would win the Cy Young this year. The ESPN broadcasters mentioned last night how CC has taken Pineda under his wing, even yelling from the dugout when he senses him losing focus.

CC Sabathia – 18.1 IP, 1.47 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 5.4 K/9, 3.4 BB/9

Old man CC might finally be transforming into a crafty old pitcher. Boasting the lowest ERA on the staff through three starts, Sabathia has found ways to get hitters out without a high-speed fastball. His strikeout numbers are low, but it might not matter for someone who’s learned a lot about pitching in his career. Remember that last season Sabathia posted a very respectable 3.91 ERA as the #5 starter.

Luis Severino – 12 IP, 4.50 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 12.9 K/9, 1.5 BB/9

I’d consider Severino’s first start encouraging. He was performing well until he blew up in the 5th inning. So it was both exciting and perhaps not overly surprising that he broke out in his second start. Severino dominated the Rays across seven innings while striking out 11. If anything the performance should help boost the confidence of the young pitcher, who didn’t record a single win as a starter last season.

Jordan Montgomery – 4.2 IP, 3.86 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 13.5 K/9, 3.9 BB/9

The newest Yankee pitcher battled his way to a spot from a fringy darkhorse candidate. His first start was encouraging, lasting 4.2 innings and striking out 7. He started the game by striking out the first two batters he faced before running into brief trouble and giving up two earned runs. It will be interesting to watch him tonight in his second start, but the Yankees continue to rave about his four-pitch arsenal. If the rest of the staff continues to perform well, it may keep some pressure off of him as a 5th starter.