When Domingo German stepped on the mound as a Yankee in 2018, the talent and the hint of potential success in the big leagues was evident. However, German failed to consistently deliver positive results and eventually fell out of favor down the stretch.
None of that matters to the Yankees now because it is clear that German gained valuable experience from all those major-league reps.
With Luis Severino on the injured list since the beginning of the season, German has done more than fill a void: He's risen to the top of the Yankees rotation. German has been in control from the outset, demonstrating immense poise along the way.
When the Yankees received German from the Marlins in the 2014 trade headlined by Nathan Eovaldi, New York might not have anticipated the magnitude of his importance in 2019. The vision began to take a turn last season as the club needed German to fill in for injured starters along the way.
Once Severino was shelved this spring, the Yankees were at first hopeful that German would simply supply some innings at the backend of the rotation as the veteran guns J.A. Happ, James Paxton, CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka were all expected to step up with Severino out of the picture. Happ got off to a rough start, Paxton is on the injured list, Sabathia is a five-inning pitcher and Tanaka has been up and down as he tries to find his splitter.
Meanwhile, German has flourished. The 26-year old right-hander sits at or near the top of the statistical leaderboards among American League pitchers. German ranks first in wins (seven, leads MLB as well), seventh in ERA (2.70), sixth in ERA+ (165) and fifth in WHIP (0.95.) German has tossed 43 1/3 innings (seven starts and one relief appearance) and recorded 44 strikeouts (9.1 K/9).
German's maturation has been witnessed in part in two ways. First, German's limitation of walks, a production culprit from last season (2.9 BB/9 versus 3.5 BB/9) has been a welcomed improvement. German has also split his home-run rate in half from last season (0.8 HR/9 in 2019 and 1.6 HR/9 in 2018). These signs of learning have unquestionably boosted German's confidence.
Baseball Savant's data reveals German is mixing his pitch repertoire quite well - curveball (34.7 percent), four-seam fastball (34.1 percent), changeup (17.8 percent) and sinker (12.6 percent) - and the variety is keeping hitters from success. While opponents are hitting just .229 and .231 off the four-seamer and sinker, respectively, it's the curveball (.121 BAA) and changeup (.136 BAA) that have given batters fits.
With Severino out until at best the All-Star break and the possibility of a completely lost season hanging over the Yankees' heads, German's innings count might become a navigation point as his highest number of frames thrown in a season is 123 2/3, accomplished in 2017. German threw just 85 2/3 innings in 2018, meaning the Yankees might begin to monitor his usage as the season progresses.
German is more than halfway to last season's innings total, but he's been quite economical along the way, averaging 90 pitches and 5.9 innings per start, or about 15 pitches per inning. German has not worked an abundance of stressful innings, and if that continues it might allow the Yanks to stretch German throughout the entirety of the season without overworking him.
At the moment, the Yanks cannot concern themselves with what's to be in August and September. For an ailing club, German's expectation level continues to rise, and by all accounts he's up for the challenge.