This week we’re breaking out a new feature titled (at least for now) “The Tuesday Discussion.”
In short, a question will be posed to our writers to answer. There will be one question each week, and hopefully lots of answers.
Here is today’s question:
If the playoffs started tomorrow, who would be your Game 1 starting pitcher for the Yankees, and why?
Lincoln Mitchell: I am assuming the Yankees will win their division and have one of the top two records in the league as I answer this question.Two pitchers come to mind for this assignment Masahiro Tanaka and Domingo German. The question is tough to answer because there are so many unknowns, most notably the opponent, but also the health of various relievers, who is pitching well and healthy going into the playoffs etc. In my heart, I would choose German because he seems to have a higher ceiling and is more likely to shut down a good offense. However, one thing we know is that the Yankees will almost certainly be the home team in that game, so I would choose Tanaka. He has pitched much better at home on the road, whereas German has been slightly better on the road. If Tanaka started Game One, he would be slated for a game five if necessary. I am confident that he would have at least one very good start, which should be enough to help the Yankees get to the next round.
Patrick Gunn: Masahiro Tanaka is my Game One starter in the postseason for the Yankees because they have no better options and his October experience. James Paxton is a great strikeout artist, but has been inconsistent all year and has never pitched in the postseason. Luis Severino may be their best pitcher, but his slow recovery from a spring training shoulder injury has been concerning so he's not even a certainty come October. J.A. Happ and CC Sabathia have not pitched near ace levels this year. Domingo German has been their best starter, but, again, has little postseason experience and may be pitching on an innings limit due to his youth.
Although he has been inconsistent, Tanaka has been the one pitcher this season who has been able to give the Bombers innings and quality performances. His eight shutout innings against the Blue Jays is a prime example. In addition, he has been superb in the postseason, posting a 1.50 ERA in 30 innings over five starts. Yes, he has not been pitching well lately, but Tanaka is one of the fiercest competitors in the game who brings his A game in big time performances. He's not perfect, but right now, Masahiro Tanaka is the pitcher I would pencil in to start game one.
Paul Semendinger: For Game One, if it started now, I’d have to choose between Domingo German, Masahiro Tanaka, and James Paxton. Tanaka just pitched an absolute gem against the Blue Jays. That is encouraging. Paxton has been better of late, but his first inning troubles concern me. I don’t want the playoffs to begin with the Yankees losing right away. German has been the best pitcher on the staff throughout the year. It’s a tough question to answer…
I don’t always believe in “he is a great post season player” and narratives like that, but in this case, since it’s true and because German has never pitched on the big stage, I’d go with Masahiro Tanaka. He’s the ace of the staff, the guy the team has turned to time and again in big spots. He often steps up on the big stage. I’ll hope he does it again!
Mike Whiteman: As the roster stands here today I would start Tanaka in Game One.
If Sabathia is able to get healthy for the stretch run I can see things lining up well for him to start the first game:
Game 1 (Yankee Stadium) - Sabathia
Game 2 (Yankee Stadium) - German
Game 3 (Road) - Tanaka
Game 4 (Road) - Paxton
Game 5 (Yankee Stadium) Sabathia and everyone else
This doesn't take into account Severino coming back into health. Let's hope we have that option.
Frankie Mandile: If the playoffs began tomorrow, my starting pitcher would be Domingo German. He has been the Yankees' most consistent starter this season. As wins for pitchers continue to be devalued by the analytics community, I believe German's 15-2 record still speaks volumes. The right-hander gives his team a chance to win every time out, posting an impressive 1.12 WHIP and 117:25 K:BB on the year. In a season defined by overcoming injuries and young/inexperienced players stepping up in roles they never expected, why not give the ball to German for Game 1?
Phil Cashier: For the playoffs, the Yanks have to go with the hot hand. Right now that's Tanaka. However, I'd love to see Sevy come back and earn that start.
Andy Singer: If the playoffs started tomorrow, I am choosing to live and die by the idea I threw out in the off-season: tandem starters. Using that methodology, I would want to see Domingo German throw his nastiest stuff for 2-3 innings, followed by (a hopefully healthy) Luis Severino for 2-3 innings. Both guys have experience coming out of the 'pen, so really, you can flip this arrangement however you want. From there, allow the best bullpen in baseball (more on this in a later post) to dominate an opposing lineup for 3-5 innings. Both guys have limitations with regards to innings, but they represent the Yankees' best options with regards to starting a big game.