Yankees' pitching staff is off to its best start in 64 years -- here are three under-the-radar reasons why - CBSSports.com

All things considered, the New York Yankees have started the 2022 season about as well as they could have hoped. They are 3-1-1 in their five series despite an offense that, prior to Sunday's blowout win (NYY 10, CLE 2), had not scored more than six runs in a game, or scored more than five runs without the benefit of the automatic runner in extra innings. It's been a grind offensively.

The pitching, on the other hand, has been magnificent. It's almost become cliche to say the Yankees have pitching issues -- there are very real injury concerns with some members of their staff, no doubt -- but they were second in the American League in park-adjusted ERA last season (15 percent better than average). They've been even better in the early going in 2022.

Here is the early season ERA leaderboard:

  1. Dodgers: 2.22
  2. Giants: 2.51
  3. Yankees: 2.53
  4. Mets: 2.78
  5. Cardinals: 2.88

The Yankees have not had a starter allow more than three runs in a game yet this season, and their 44 runs allowed through 16 games are their fewest since 1958 (40). Adjust that ERA for ballpark (the Yankees have played 10 of their 16 games at homer-happy Yankee Stadium) and the offensive environment (scoring is way down), and New York's staff has been 49 percent than the league average so far this year.

Here are three under-the-radar reasons the Yankees have excelled at preventing runs 16 games into the new season.

1. Cortes is proving he's for real

Nestor Cortes
NYY • SP • 65
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New York's best starting pitcher has not been Gerrit Cole. In fact, Cole was pretty bad up until Sunday's outing against Cleveland, when he struck out nine in 6 2/3 scoreless innings. Cole allowed seven runs and 16 baserunners in only 11 1/3 innings in his first three starts, and he heard boos at Yankee Stadium on Opening Day.

The Yankees best starter this season has been Nestor Cortes, a journeyman left-hander who is in his third stint in the Yankees organization and had a 6.72 ERA in 79 big league innings prior to 2021. Last season he made a few changes to his pitch mix, added some velocity, and broke out with a 2.90 ERA in 93 innings spread 14 starts and eight relief appearances.

This year, Cortes has been even better. He's struck out 25 and allowed only two runs in 15 2/3 innings and three starts. His velocity continues to rise and he's also embraced the sweeper, which is the hard slider that is becoming popular across MLB (The Athletic's Lindsey Adler noted the Yankees call their version the "whirly"). 

"I thought he was really sharp today," Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters, including MLB.com's Bryan Hoch, following Saturday's game, when Cortes held Cleveland to two runs in 6 1/3 innings. "... Even when he was missing, it was just off where he wanted it. I felt like he was really pinpoint (with) his command, efficient, and working fast." 


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