Nathan Eovaldi's putaway problem

The scouting report on Nathan Eovaldi is pretty simple: a hard-throwing yet hittable right-hander, who has struggled to rack up strikeouts despite a dazzling fastball that he throws consistently in the mid-to-high 90s. The stats back up the scouts, too. Eovaldi's heater last season averaged 95.7 mph, fourth-highest among starting pitchers, yet his strikeout rate of 16.6 percent ranked 70th in that group of 88 qualified starters. He racked up just 142 strikeouts in 199 2/3 innings last year, one more than Masahiro Tanaka managed in his injury-shorted season of 136 1/3 innings.

Eovaldi even admitted that his lack of strikeouts remains one of the biggest holes in his resume. “That’s one of the big issues I’ve had, not being able to finish the batters off,” Eovaldi told reporters this spring.

So why did Eovaldi struggle so much to get strike three and putaway hitters, despite a fastball that nearly reaches three digits? You know the drill, let's dig into the numbers to see if we can make sense of the apparent disconnect between Eovaldi's high heat and mediocre strikeout rates.

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Discussion: Six-man rotation?

Yesterday, we heard Yankee pitching coach Larry Rothschild suggest that the Yankees may use six starters for a particularly tough stretch--30 games in 31 days--in April and May. Bryan Hoch's story later in the day included a clarifying quotation from Rothschild:

"It's a result of some of the stuff that's gone on over the last few years, not just here, but everywhere," Rothschild said. "We're aware of situations here and early in the season, we need to get these guys through these stretches. Being that possibly early in the spring, some of them aren't going to be able to throw a lot, we're going to need to build them up too and give them the extra days when we can."

My gut reaction to a six-man rotation in the past has always been aversion, and probably for good reason. Six-man rotations give a possibly fringy starter starts and they take starts away from the top pitchers in the rotation. However, the 2015 Yankee rotation is making me rethink things.

As it currently stands, we're looking at this for the rotation:

Masahiro Tanaka CC Sabathia Michael Pineda Nathan Eovaldi Chris Capuano

That is...not inspiring? If things break right, which is a rather big if, it could be a strong rotation, especially the top three. However, we all know that things usually don't break right in baseball, especially when all three of those guys have health concerns (an elbow, a knee, and a shoulder, oh my!) and missed significant time in 2014. There's also the distinct possibility that Capuano doesn't work out the way we want him to. Those factors are somewhat tipping me in the direction of the six-man rotation, at least at the start of the year.

The six-man rotation may rob Tanaka and Sabathia and Pineda of some starts over the course of the season, but given their gigantic injury potential, it might be wise to give them extra days off. And given Capuano's Chris Capuanoness, it might be worth it to give the sixth starter--Adam Warren? Bryan Mitchell? Esmil Rogers?--an audition period to take over for when the six-man rotation is no longer necessary. Granted, those names aren't the most confidence-inducing, either, which is another potential issue with the six-man rotation.

We should also take into account the strong Yankee bullpen as a reason why they could survive with a five-man rotation, even through a tough stretch if need be. But the other side of that coin is the bullpen getting worn out. Perhaps a sixth starter could help give them rest ever few days.

This would all be a lot better if the Yankees had one absolute sure thing in the rotation, but such is life. It may take some tinkering to get it to work and a six-man rotation could help do that. It's by no means a foolproof plan, but it's a definite possibility.

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