CC Sabathia was supposed to pitch tonight against the Chicago White Sox, but with the big lefty nursing a sore groin, rookie Adam Warren will take the mound instead. When the 24-year old right hander from Alabama throws the opening pitch, it will mark the first time in five years that the Yankees have had a starting pitcher make his major league debut. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
The last Yankees’ rookie pitcher to debut as a starter was Ian Kennedy, who beat the Rays on September 1, 2007 by allowing only one earned run over seven innings. Kennedy was the sixth starter to make his major league debut for the Yankees that season, doubling the previous franchise high (as of 1918). The results from the rest of the group were a mixed bag, as Tyler Clippard and Matt DeSalvo also topped a game score of 60, while Phil Hughes, Chase Wright, and Kei Igawa couldn’t crack 45.
Since 1918, the Yankees have had 79 starting pitchers make their major league debut. The best outing was turned in by Russ Van Atta, who shutout the Senators on only five hits on April 25, 1933. At the other end of the spectrum, Stefan Wever’s first game as a Yankees also turned out to be his last game in the majors. On September 17, 1982, Weaver allowed nine runs in 2 2/3 innings to the Milwaukee Brewers and then was never heard from again. The Yankees and Warren will both be hoping for a better fate.
For the most part, Yankees’ rookies have not been very impressive when making their debut as a starter. In addition to a cumulative ERA of 5.14, the Bronx Bombers kiddy corps has also turned in a lack luster average game score of 45 (5.43 and 45 at home versus 4.92 and 46 on the road) to go along with K/9 and BB/9 rates of 5.1 and 4.5, respectively. Of course, the rest of baseball’s rookie crop hasn’t been much better. In all other major league debuts since 1918, non-Yankees’ starters have posted an ERA of 4.71 and average game score 47. Where the Yankees have the rest rest of baseball beat, however, is the rate of team success in games started by a first timer. Since 1918, the Bronx Bombers have won 59% of games featuring the first big league appearance by a starter, compared to the rest of baseball at only 45%.
Even the most talented prospects often struggle when first called up to the majors, so it’s hard to be optimistic about a rookie starter making his debut. That Warren hasn’t been particularly impressive in the minor leagues only adds to the apprehension. Although Joe Girardi would love to have Warren turn in an outing like Kennedy did five years ago, he’d likely sign up for a much more modest outcome. After all, with a first timer on the mound, the most memorable outings are usually the ones you’d like to forget.