Will the Yankees rotation better their offense in 2023?

Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes are first and third on the Yankees rotation.

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The Yankees can always hit, and they almost always hit a lot of home runs. But this doesn’t mean the Yankees rotation didn’t ever play a role in their 27 World Series wins. In 2023, they have another rotation that seeks admiration.

The Yankees have hit more home runs than any team in history. Aaron Judge just broke the Yankees and American League home run records with 62. His team led the world in home runs again last season with 254. Baseball fans always look at the Yankees because they have the most home runs. But what if the Yankees rotation is the best in the league this year?

Last October, when Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes started the last two games of the Yankees’ season against the Astros, there was nothing magical about it. But everyone knows what Cole is capable of when he is healthy, even after a 13-8 season. Cortes was the Yankees’ pitching star by surprise. He went 12-4 and had an ERA of 2.44. After coming off the injured list, Luis Severino made 19 starts and had a 7-3 record with 112 strikeouts in 102 innings. Now Carlos Rodon joins the Yankees rotation with a 14-8 record, a 2.88 ERA, and 237 strikeouts in 178 innings.

But, since the Yankees last won the World Series, they haven’t had enough pitching almost every time. The Yankees rotation never had starters like Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez, who could win when it matters the most. Now, they just lost Frankie Montas for the first month of the season because of shoulder problems that keep coming back. This has put question on their No. 5 starter. But the four pitchers ahead of him in the rotation, have a chance to be the Yankees’ best front four in 20 years.

In 2003, Andy Pettitte (21-8) was the ace of the Yankees rotation. He was followed by Mike Mussina (17-8), Roger Clemens (17-9), and David Wells (15-7). In a season where the Yankees won 101 games, the top four pitchers in the Yankees rotation notched up several wins. The irony here was that Joe Torre’s No. 5 pitcher in 2003, relief pitcher Jeff Weaver, let Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins hit a walk-off home run in the 12th inning of Game 4 of the World Series when the Yankees had a chance to go up 3 games to 1. In Game 6, when the Marlins beat the Yankees and won the series, a young pitcher named Josh Beckett blew the Yankees away at Yankee Stadium and looked like the best pitcher in the world.

The Yankees have only been to the World Series once since 2003, and they won it in 2009. By the time they got to the Series, there were only three men in the Yankees rotation: CC Sabathia (19-8 in the regular season), Pettitte (14-8), and A.J. Burnett (13-9). Sabathia was the best of them all during that postseason run. He joined other Yankees stars who had carried their teams through October and, in Sabathia’s case, into November.

Since then, the Yankees have come the closest to making the World Series when they were up three games to two against the Astros in the American League Championship Series in 2017. Sabathia, who was 36 at the time, and Severino, who was 23, were the two best starters in the Yankees rotation that year. For Joe Girardi, they both won 14 games. But the Astros lit up Severino in Game 6, and Girardi took Sabathia out of Game 7 with one out and five hits, and three walks, even though CC only gave up one earned run that night. And in the end, it didn’t matter much because the Yankees only scored one run in the last two games and lost by an 11-1 score.

The next year, they played a great Red Sox team in the AL Division Series. The Yankees and Red Sox resumed the series at Yankee Stadium at 1-1. Again, Severino and Sabathia led the Yankees rotation in the last two games of their season. Same results, but in a different year. Again, Severino got hit hard in a game that the Yankees lost 16-1. The Yankees lost the game 4-3, which also ended their season.

Now, at least on paper, the Yankees rotation looks like they have a lot going for them, even though they have clear worries about Montas. When the Yankees announced that Rodón would be Aaron Boone’s second choice behind Cole, general manager Brian Cashman said:

“The best-starting rotations are the ones when you have a deep talented staff, and every day, yesterday’s starter hands the ball off and the competitive spirit to his teammate and says, ‘Now top that.’ If you can get a collection of talented pitchers that have that type of capability and makeup, that’s when some magical things have a chance to happen.”

The Yankees always have more than enough bats. This time, they might have the arms to back it up. At Yankee Stadium, that hasn’t happened in a long time. The time is for the Yankees rotation to change that.

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