Great stuff from Jeff Passan today -
Over the last half-decade, the Yankees have developed pitching depth almost as poorly as any team in the major leagues.
For this study, we tallied the pitchers who debuted between 2008 and 2012 and tied them to the team with which they arrived. Then we compiled their Wins Above Replacement, via Baseball-Reference, with that first team only. By this measure, actually, the Yankees actually are one of the better teams in baseball, with 16.4 WAR, more than three-quarters of which come from reliever David Robertson, since-jettisoned Alfredo Aceves and Nova, who will compete for the fifth-starter job with Phelps.
Beyond that is mostly a pitching wasteland, and that is where the last five years get so damning. Robertson, Aceves and Nova are the only pitchers who debuted with the Yankees to throw more than 100 innings for them. Just as bad, Phelps (99 2/3 innings) and the departed Phil Coke (74 2/3) and Hector Noesi (56 1/3) are the only others with 25 or more innings. Only one other team has fewer than six homegrown pitchers with 25 or more innings: the Boston Red Sox, with five.
Don’t view this data in a vacuum. Coke was part of a trade that landed Curtis Granderson. Noesi went to Seattle for Pineda. The innings cutoffs are arbitrary, too. And considering the Yankees lock up a roster spot every time they spend big money in free agency, it is ostensibly tougher to crack their roster than most.
Still, it puts in perspective the Yankees’ stated philosophy – develop pitching, especially starters – and the inability to do so that prompted them to pursue Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte for the last two seasons in free agency. The average starts from homegrown pitchers over the last five years among the 30 major league teams is 197.9. The Yankees have 82.
This study is neither predictive in nature nor damning for the next five years. Phelps or Nova or Brett Marshall or maybe all three could thrive. Even just a year makes a difference. Go back to 2007, in fact, and the Yankees universe looked entirely different.
Following the 2007 season, Cashman felt vindicated. For years he had philosophized the New York Yankees would lard themselves against the rising cost of free-agent pitching with homegrown starters, and it seemed as though they had found three dandies: Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy.
Then came 2008, an all-around disaster in which the Yankees so babied Chamberlain’s arm it needed a pacifier to sleep at night, and Hughes and Kennedy combined to go 0-8 with a 7.45 ERA. Cashman’s system wasn’t dead. Just on hold for the winter, when he spent nearly a quarter-billion dollars on CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and was rewarded with a championship ring a year later.
Still, pervading the organization was Cashman’s ideal that guaranteeing so much money to aging players was not just too risky but inefficient compared to a player coming at 1/50th the price of Sabathia if only the organization could rear such talent. Cashman forged ahead. The Yankees’ future, even if Hughes was a mid-level starter, Chamberlain an oft-injured reliever and Kennedy, now an Arizona Diamondback, would be with pitchers developed in the organization. The Yankees’ future would be with pitchers developed in the organization.
It’s been five full years since that Hughes-Chamberlain-Kennedy group ascended the minor leagues. And the Yankees have done far better at getting rid of talent than nurturing it.
Kennedy, dealt in the Granderson trade, has 9.5 WAR for the Diamondbacks, while Coke has grown into a lockdown left-handed reliever for Detroit. Tyler Clippard, who also debuted in that ’07 rookie class, was sent to Washington for Jonathan Albaladejo in one of the worst trades of Cashman’s career. He has 6.5 WAR for the Nats.