The New York Yankees are back in the playoffs. With a 4-1 win over the Red Sox last night, the Bronx Bombers clinched a Wild Card spot and are all but guaranteed to be playing the game in the Big Apple.
Taking a look at the Yankees, however, you can see that they really do not have an ace. They have a handful of solid starters, but do not have the No. 1 pitcher to anchor their staff.
So who do the Yankees start in the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday?
The safe choice -- Masahiro Tanaka
Tanaka pitched on September 30, making him the most rested option on the Yankees staff, assuming he won't start again this year. Tanaka also has been the most consistent starter for New York, going 12-7 with a 3.51 ERA and 3.99 FIP in 154 innings, posting a solid 139 to 27 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He's been even better as of late, working to a 3.06 ERA in September, along with a great 29 to 3 strikeout-to-walk ratio and .659 OPS against in 32 1/3 innings.
Assuming the game is at home, Tanaka would have to avoid the long ball in the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. Tanaka has allowed 17 home runs in just 87 1/3 innings there, but has still managed to work to a respectable 3.71 ERA in New York.
High risk, high reward - Michael Pineda
The 26-year-old Pineda has shown flashes of brilliance. On May 10, Pineda struck out 16 Orioles hitters over seven innings of work, allowing just one run. His ERA was a fantastic 2.72. In just a month half, Pineda was showing the Yankees why they traded then-top prospect Jesus Montero for him. Since, he hasn't been as good and the strikeout totals have diminished. On the season, even with that performance, Pineda isn't even averaging a strikeout per inning.
There can be a case for Pineda too. Again the victim of the long ball at home, Pineda has averaged more strikeouts per nine innings at Yankee Stadium than on the road. He had a decent September, but when he is on, he could be arguably the best pitcher on the Yankee staff. In a one-game playoff, though, he may not be the best option. On the season, Pineda is 12-9 with a 4.24 ERA and 151 to 21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 157 innings.
The dark horse - Luis Severino
The rookie Severino would definitely be an interesting option to start the AL Wild Card game. Since the 21-year-old top prospect first appeared in the big leagues on August 5, he has been the Yankees' lightning in a bottle. Severino is 5-3 with a 2.77 ERA and 50 to 22 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 55 1/3 innings.
Severino's best start game on August 29, when he went six innings in Atlanta, allowing just four hits and striking out five, compared to three walks. He has, again, shown flashes of what he can be. The issue with him, however, is he does not pitch deep into ballgames, with the Yankees not letting him pitch past the sixth inning yet this season, probably in an attempt to save his arm for the future. Though the Yankees bullpen is good, they would probably prefer a pitcher with experience pitching late into games to limit how long their bullpen will have to pitch. Severino may be an interesting option, but his lack of experience hurts.
My choice for the Yankees Wild Card starter? Pencil in Masahiro Tanaka if you named me manager.