Wandering eyes will be focused on the likes of Toronto’s Marcus Stroman, the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner and perhaps Cleveland’s Trevor Bauerover the coming weeks as the Yankees look to fortify their starting pitching for the stretch run and beyond.
And though there’s no denying the importance of adding to their rotation — including a healthy Luis Severino at some point in the second half — none of the starters who figure to be available by the July 31 trade deadline will fix the team’s pitching issues alone.
Instead, the Yankees will need the existing members of the rotation — J.A. Happ and James Paxton in particular — to do their part, which is more than they did in the first half.
And there are conflicting signs as to whether the Yankees can expect the two lefties to turn it around by the end of the season. Happ has traditionally been a better pitcher after the All-Star Game, with a 4.35 career ERA prior to the break and a 3.49 ERA the rest of the way.
A year ago, Happ had a 4.18 ERA in 20 starts with the Blue Jays, but a 2.69 ERA in 11 outings after being shipped to the Yankees in July. Still, a similar reversal is no guarantee in 2019, as Happ is dealing with some unprecedented struggles.
In his first full year in The Bronx, Happ entered the break with a career-low strikeout rate of 7.1 per nine innings. Perhaps more alarming, few pitchers have experienced more issues with the home run surge around the league than Happ — who is giving up 2.0 homers per nine innings, the highest number of his career and nearly double his career mark of 1.2.
Paxton showed some hope in the latter part of the first half, when he allowed two runs or less in four of his last five starts. But his first months in pinstripes have not gone smoothly — he’s had a 1.428 WHIP, his worst stretch since 2015, and the injury-prone Paxton has already spent time on the injured list with a left knee strain.