Analysis

Yankees: Could Domingo German Start ALDS Game One?

We are just a few short weeks away from the beginning of the ALDS, but does Domingo German have any chance of starting game one?

The Yankees are in the midst of the final month of an incredible regular season, and while the team’s starting pitching was their biggest question mark for much of the season, the rotation has improved significantly since the trade deadline. Domingo German, Masahiro Tanaka, and James Paxton have all looked impressive in the second half, and with Luis Severino on the mend and expected to return in September, the team is capable of putting together a more than respectable playoff rotation. With the way the standings look as of early September, the Yankees are likely to host the Athletics, Twins, Indians or Rays at Yankee Stadium in ALDS Game one at Yankee Stadium less than a month from now.

While the Yankees would feel comfortable rolling with any of these pitchers to start a playoff game for them come October, here’s why German should get the ball for the Game one of the ALDS.

Simply put, German has given the Yankees a solid chance to win almost every time he takes the mound. Though the win statistic for pitchers is largely an outdated one and isn’t used much anymore to show a pitcher’s true value, German’s 17 wins are tied for the most in MLB as of September 7th, and if his 17-4 record isn’t enough to show you how much he has contributed to the Yankees this season, other stats should.

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The Yankees are 19-5 in German’s starts this season, and while he has been roughed up by the Red Sox and Athletics in two of his recent outings, more often than not he has been able to do a fantastic job as a starter before handing the ball off to the Yankees’ immensely talented bullpen. German has allowed three or fewer earned runs in 18 of his 24 starts this season. German landed on the IL on June 9th with a left hip flexor strain, and two of his six starts in which he allowed more than three earned runs took place within the two weeks before he was placed on the IL. This suggests that those two bad starts were anomalies and largely due to the fact that he was pitching with an injured hip flexor, preventing him from being able to fully land on his right side after delivering pitches. This would make a lot of sense given German’s impressive stats before the injury occurred, as he went 8-1 in his 10 starts (plus one other win in his sole relief appearance of the season) with a 2.60 ERA prior to his May 26th start against the Royals, the first of those two starts in which he allowed four or more earned runs before the IL stint.

If you take the three starts in which he was supposedly pitching through an injury out of the equation, German’s 4.21 ERA drops to 3.69.

The Yankees could very well roll with Tanaka or Paxton in ALDS Game one and save German for the road, but the rotation as a whole has struggled much more on the road than at home, and it might make sense to save a pitcher with plenty of playoff experience like Tanaka to pitch on the road later in the series. German has perhaps fallen victim to road struggles more than any other Yankees pitcher, as his 5.73 road ERA this season is more than three whole runs higher than his 2.35 ERA in the Bronx.

He has especially struggled with the long ball on the road, as he’s allowed 20 home runs in his 14 road starts as opposed to just 10 home runs in his 10 home starts. Oh, and those six starts of his in which he’s allowed over four earned runs? All six of those have come on the road. It’s no secret that Germán is significantly better at home than on the road, and if the Yankees want him to pitch to the high level they’ve seen this season once the calendar turns to October, they should do everything in their power to make sure his starts can come at home.

Another reason that the Yankees should turn to German for Game one of the ALDS is his durability. Rumors had swirled earlier in the season of a reported innings limit that the team was planning to enforce on German, who has already had Tommy John surgery once in his career. Ultimately, no limit was ultimately put in place, as his IL stint from June 9th – July 3rd already ensured that the27-year-old wouldn’t throw an egregious amount of innings this season. This brought a smile to the face of many Yankees fans, as part of the reason that German has been so valuable this season has been his durability and ability to pitch deep into games. He has completed at least six innings in 13 of his 24 starts this season, and has been pulled prior to the end of the fourth inning only twice.

No team in baseball values their bullpen getting its rest more than the Yankees, as they are the only team in baseball that has yet to use a reliever three days in a row this season. ALCS and World Series games 3, 4 and 5 would all take place on consecutive days if the Yankees were to go that far, meaning there’s a chance the team would be forced to employ a reliever three days in a row.

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Not overworking your relievers is incredibly important in the playoffs, and there’s no better example of this than when the Cubs overused closer Aroldis Chapman (who they had acquired from the Yankees that July for some kid named Gleyber Torres) in the 2016 playoffs. The Cubs had Chapman pitch 13 games in 26 days from NLDS Game 1 on October 7th to World Series Game 7 on November 2nd. They had him throw 42 pitches in Game 5 of the World Series on October 30th, only to then have him throw another 20 in Game 6 on November 1st and another 35 in the decisive Game 7 on November 2nd.

This decision to overwork Chapman came back to haunt them, as a clearly gassed Chapman gave up a game-tying homer to Rajai Davis in the 8th inning of Game 7, nearly blowing the series for them before the Cubs eventually won in extra innings. The Yankees cannot afford to overwork the bullpen, their strongest weapon, like the Cubs did with Chapman, so having a starter give them six or seven innings in ALDS Game 1 would certainly be a good place to start- and as German has shown time and time again, they can definitely rely on him to do just that.

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