Author: Randy Page 3 of 24

Game 9: There’s An Odor In Here

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So, this game was pretty wild, right? I’m sure all of you missed these games where you run through the entire spectrum of emotions. You hate the team for a few innings, and then you end up loving them because they remind you they’re great. It is also nice to get the first win of the year against the Rays. The pinstripes take the final game of the series by the score of 8-4 in ten innings. They are now 4-5. Here are the takeaways.

1.Montgomery’s Grind: Coming off a stellar performance in his season debut, nothing came easy for Jordan Montgomery today. It was clear from the onset of the game that he didn’t have his control. He hit Austin Meadows up and in. The hit by pitch was an immediate indication that Montgomery would be fighting it all game. There wasn’t one pitch that Jordan could turn to help bail him out. It was a frustrating performance, to say the least.

Over the course of his career, Jordan Montgomery has done a good job of limiting hard contact. That was not the case today. Coming into this game, the Tampa Bay Rays ranked 20th in the Majors in barrel %. No one is going to confuse this lineup with Murderer’s Row. Yet, Tampa routinely teed off on Montgomery during his start. Here is a pretty exit velocity chart:

If your computer, tablet, or phone started heating up, don’t worry about the device. It’s just all the fire coming from those exit velocities. This is a direct result of Montgomery’s inability to control or command the strike zone. The Rays were able to square up Jordan’s offerings consistently. It didn’t matter if it was up in the zone, low in the zone, away, or inside; the Rays were getting their hacks in. Monty had a real tough time finding a reliable pitch to help navigate through the start.

For as great as his changeup was in Jordan’s first start, that is how bad the pitch was in his second. I mentioned in an earlier takeaways post that the Yankees are really emphasizing increased changeup usage. Montgomery used to throw the pitch as a younger pitcher but lost the feel for the pitch after Tommy John surgery. As previously mentioned, the change looked great in the first start. It wasn’t very good in this game. Here is his pitch chart.

The location on 95% of these pitches is bad. That is not where you want the majority of your changeups to live. It reached a point where the Rays started sitting changeup. Out of his five pitches, the changeup gave up the loudest contact. The problem was turning to a pitch that he could command consistently. This is Montgomery’s full pitch chart:

The command was really the issue today. His stuff looked pretty good. Some pitches had good movement. There wasn’t anything alarming that stood out. He couldn’t harness his pitches. Out of his 82 pitches, 48 of them were strikes.

There is one positive to take from this start. Montgomery is much more efficient than his first year in the majors. Despite struggling all game, he made it into the fifth inning and may have gone a little longer if it wasn’t the second start of the year. A younger version of Jordan Montgomery wouldn’t have made it to the fifth. It wasn’t a good start, but there is growth.

2. The Bullpen Continues to Perform: Amidst the inconsistent performances from the offense and starters early on in the season, the Yankees bullpen has been shoving since Opening Day. Quite frankly, the bullpen won this game for the team. Chad Green was fantastic this afternoon. He came on for Montgomery in the fifth and recorded the next seven outs.

Chad Green shut the Rays’ offense down. I mentioned earlier that the Rays were making loud contact off Montgomery. That was not the case with Green. They couldn’t barrel his pitches up.

This looks much better than Montgomery’s exit velocities. Green has done a fantastic job with his fastball/curveball mix. He’s been able to get a lot of strikes off both offerings. His fastball had a 37% called strike/whiff rate, while his curve was 25%. When you’re a two-pitch pitcher, and both of them can generate rates like this, you’re going to be pretty effective.

The formula is pretty clear for Green. He wants to throw the four-seamer up in the zone and then have you chase the curve off the plate. It’s a pretty straightforward approach, but the execution needs to be good. Green executed really well.

That is what allows a pitcher to go 2.1IP of no-hit, scoreless ball. Green is off to a great start.

Aroldis Chapman is also off to a great start. Bobby wondered in our Views slack if Chapman’s bout with Covid impacted his velocity last year. It could very well be the case. Either way, he’s routinely throwing gas again.

Of course, Aroldis threw over 100 last year. But he wasn’t throwing this hard this early in the season last year. He needed to build up to that velocity. This isn’t the case this year. He’s going after hitters with gas and swag. He’s also flashing good control of the pitch as well.

We’ve seen a bunch of these fastballs sail over the catcher or the batter’s head on numerous occasions. There always seems to be a fear in the back of Yankees’ fans’ minds that Chapman may walk the park. This is the elite and dominant version of Aroldis right now. He isn’t messing around. The closer gave up a double to Yankee-killer Mike Zunino and then promptly disposed of Plado in the next at-bat with easy gas and a staredown. He put the Yankees in a position to win the game in the tenth. Aaron Boone also deserves some love for his decision to go with his closer in a tied game in the ninth. It was the right call, and it paid off.

Here is a great note about the bullpen quartet of Chapman, Green, and O’Day, and Jonathan Loaisgia from New York Yankees Stats on Twitter:

3. The Offense Wakes Up At Just The Right Time: The offense is the big topic amongst Yankees’ fans early in the season. Whether it’s Jay Bruce or Aaron Hicks or pick your favorite Yankee, the lineup has repeatedly drawn the ire of a frustrated fan base. I’ve routinely practiced patience about the offense. They arguably have the best lineup in MLB. They’ve demonstrated this year in and year out. They deserve the benefit of the doubt because they put up elite numbers every season. Before today, the Yankees played eight games. Eight. There are times throughout the season when an offense will be inconsistent for eight games.

The key thing to remember is that the Yankees have created traffic in almost every game they’ve played. In a little over 50% of their games, they’ve put at least twelve runners on base in a game via a hit, walk, or HBP. Run production is the ultimate function of any offense. You can’t score many runs if you don’t have runners on base. The main problems for the Yankees are getting the big hit and a general lack of power. It isn’t an ability to put men on the bases.

It appeared this game would be another virtuoso performance of missed opportunities. The Yankees had the bases loaded twice and hit into double plays. They had two runners on base with no outs and failed to score because of poor baserunning and untimely hitting. They had a runner on third base and ran into an out because of the silly contact play. There were numerous chances to blow this game wide open, and the Yankees seemingly did everything in their power to lose it.

Until the new guy, Rougned Odor, stepped up to the plate in the tenth inning and delivered the early season’s biggest hit. Odor put up a professional at-bat against Collin McHugh and hit a single into center field for the go-ahead run. This is why Cashman traded for him. He is a low-cost, power-lefty bat that gives the lineup some flexibility. He had pretty strong at-bats all game without positive results. Odor came through when it mattered the most.

And keeping with the theme of big hits, the Yankees immediately blew the game open. It isn’t a coincidence this happened as soon as Odor knocked in the go-ahead run. They just needed that one knock to shift the momentum. They got back-to-back hits from Gary and Gio, and the game was over.

Speaking of Gary and Gio, they have been two of the bright spots in the Yankees’ lineup so far. Gary has been the team’s best hitter despite the thoughts of a racist journalist who should retire and spare us from his garbage takes. After a shaky start, Gio has been heating up. He’s been hitting the fastball well lately, which is a good sign considering his elbow surgery recovery. The duo is trying their best to keep the team afloat while the other guys find their hitting strides.

This is a reminder the offense will be fine. That is the unit you should worry the least about.

The Yankees will be back at it tomorrow against the Dunedin Blue Jays. The game starts at 7 pm ET and will be on YES. Gerrit Cole will be on the mound. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday evening.


Game 5: A Cole Night in the Bronx

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The Yankees’ winning streak is now at two. They’ve won the series against the Baltimore Orioles behind a dominant performance from Gerrit Cole and the power of Aaron Judge. The pinstripes took this one home by the score of 7-2 and now have a record of 3-2. Here are the takeaways.

1. Gerrit Changing It Up: At times, it is hard to write about Gerrit Cole. He is so good that finding nuanced things to say becomes really challenging. We can marvel at him throwing upper 90’s seeds with a relatively high pitch count in only his second start of the season. Of course, the emphasis can be on the 13 K’s and franchise-leading eleventh consecutive start with seven strikeouts or more. The low-hanging fruit is discussing how dope it is to have an ace pitcher in pinstripes. But something happened over the course of Cole’s start that hints at a larger trend for the Yankees’ pitchers. They are throwing way more changeups than in the recent past.

The changeup is Cole’s fourth-best pitch. It’s a good pitch. It’s only fourth because the other pitches are excellent. Before this season, the change was a pitch that Cole would use sparingly. Well, things have changed (sorry, I had to do it). Here is Cole’s pitch % chart over the course of his career:

As you can tell from the legend, the green line is the changeup. In 2019, MLB’s last full season, Cole threw the change 7.4% of the time. Last year, he threw the pitch 5.6%. That number might be a little higher if there was a full season. In two starts this year, that number has jumped to 14.4%. The obvious small sample size caveat obviously applies, but the usage is noticeable. It was a very effective pitch in tonight’s game.

Cole threw 97 pitches over seven innings. Of those 97, 14 of them were changes. Remember, we’re talking about one of the game’s elite power pitchers. Cole’s max fastball tonight was 100.5 MPH. The changeup generated a called strike/whiff percentage of a whopping 57%. The Orioles were unable to put one change up in play. It had an average spin rate of 1841 MPH, which is a good thing. The change had outstanding downward movement. Take a look at his pitch movement chart. Again, the green is for the changeup:

Cole averaged 24 inches of vertical movement. When you pair this up with a blazing fastball and a darting slider, you’re going to get an insane amount of swing and misses. Speaking of which, Cole had 27 swings and misses out of 53 total swings. That is a 51% miss rate. This is a ridiculous number. It is also the fourth-best of his career. The dude is a monster. I’m glad he’s a Yankee. Here is a nice little nugget to highlight his dominance tonight from Seth Rothman of the YES Network:

The changeup appears to be a point of emphasis for the entire Yankees’ pitching staff. If you have it in your repertoire, the team wants you to throw it. Cole, Lasagna, Monty, etc., are all using the change more with great results. They’re all using the pitch aggressively as well. It has put away a few hitters over the first five games. It isn’t a show-me pitch. They’re looking to attack with it. Now, this could be a small sample size, so it’s worth paying attention to as the season progresses. So far, it is making a difference.

2. Aaron Judge Is Good: It is a familiar refrain for every Yankees fan: imagine what Aaron Judge can do if he remains healthy. Well, he’s off to a good start in reminding us just how impactful he is. Aaron Judge is their best position player. He can alter the course of a game at the plate and in the field. Judge is a true elite two-way player. He was the heart of the Yankees’ offense tonight.

Judge was pretty aggressive in the zone tonight. Judge does a great job going deep into his at-bats. It is almost a given that he’ll see a full count at least once in a game. That wasn’t the case tonight. He saw the least amount of pitches out of every hitter in tonight’s lineup. Judge only saw 12 pitches in five at-bats. The Orioles were trying to get in on him all night, and they weren’t executing well. Here is Judge’s pitch chart:

There are times when Judge will let these mistakes go by. The patient approach is always effective, but so is crushing mistakes. It was nice to see him swing at these pitches early in the count. The slider in the fat part of the plate led to this:

This is an 0-1 mistake. I hope Judge jumps these pitches more as the season rolls on. I’m not sure how you pitch to him if he doesn’t let you dictate an at-bat. An aggressive Aaron Judge is a very dangerous Aaron Judge.

This was another strong team performance. The win felt routine which is always a good thing. The Yankees will be back at it tomorrow at 6:35 pm. The game will be on YES. Have a great night.

Game 2: Things Are Back To Normal

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The nightmare is over. The Yankees earned their first win of the season. They rebound from a disappointing Opening Day to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3. They are now 1-1 on the season. Let’s get to the takeaways.

1.A Solid Start from Kluber: We were reminded almost every day that Corey Kluber is a part of the starting rotation trio that pitched one inning last year. This is Kluber’s first “full start” since May 2019. The first victory is coming out of the start, presumably healthy. The quality of Kluber’s stuff is the second victory. He flashed some of his elite vintage movement. The command was inconsistent at times, but it wasn’t alarming by any means. If you’re a Yankees fan, you should be pretty encouraged by Kluber’s performance.

Pitch movement is the foundation of Kluber’s approach. He’s never been a power pitcher that relied upon velocity to dominate hitters. He has a five-pitch mix that attacks both sides of the plate and largely lives at the bottom quadrants of the zone. If his ball is darting all over the place, you know his stuff is on point. That was certainly the case today. His most impressive at-bat may have come against Rowdy Tellez in the second inning. Here is a video courtesy of friend (and brother) of the blog, Lucas Apostoleris:

This is ridiculous. He’s throwing frisbee-like curves to his arm side against a lefty perfectly. Kluber could tell Tellez what he was throwing and where he was throwing it, and it wouldn’t matter. The movement alone freezes Tellez, but the command elevates every pitch. This is pinpoint. Take a look at this pitch chart:

You’re not hitting these pitches. Sometimes, you tip your cap and get him next time. To bring home the point about Kluber’s stuff, here is a chart of his pitch movement. This is pretty impressive:

It isn’t easy to square the ball up consistently when the ball is flying around like this. A batter has to contend with potential offerings, and then they have no idea what direction those pitches are going. Kluber was able to minimize contact all game as a result. The Blue Jays lineup, one we expect to do quite well this year, averaged a 93MPH exit velocity. He led the game with 10 swing and misses. Kluber has the ability to throw five pitches at any time with effectiveness.

Kluber lost his command later in his start. It felt like he fell in love with his curve a little too much. He threw the pitch 30% of the time, which topped his usage rates. A few got away from him as the game progressed. It felt eerily similar to his spring training starts, where he started strong command-wise, and he started to lose it as the game moved on. I wonder if this is where the long layoff plays in. A pitcher can lose command as he tires. As he builds up, Kluber will most likely iron the inconsistent command out. His final line is 4IP, 5H, 1ER, 3BB, and 5Ks. It was a nice debut from the Yankees’ #2 pitcher.

2. Jonathan Loaisiga’s New Toy: So, it looks like Bobby’s boy, Jonathan Loaisiga, has a nice change-up in the repertoire. And it is pretty filthy. In seasons past, Johnny would come into a game pumping fastballs and curveballs. I would do the same if there were a 98MPH fastball in my pocket. It appears the Yankees felt like he needed a pitch to get hitters off his four-seamer. The plan worked today.

Out of his 26 pitches over two innings, Loaisiga threw nine changeups. That was about 35% of his offerings on the day. His called strike/whiff percentage on the pitch was 56%. He is going to be a key piece for the pen all year, but especially in the early going. Justin Wilson and Zack Britton are both on the IL and Loaisiga has a chance to fill the former Chad Green role. He can be a multi-inning weapon that bridges the starter to the back end of the pen. This is especially important as guys like Kluber, Taillon, and Germán build up innings.

The change-up could be the pitch that unlocks things for the reliever. We know his four-seamer is electric, but if he can find a consistent offspeed compliment, we’re talking about a potentially dominant arm. This is an example of what he can do for the season:

This works.

3. A Way Too Early Thought On The Offense: The Yankees offense has put a lot of runners on base. They’ve been displaying patience and getting plenty of hits so far. Their lineup racked up eleven hits and earned six walks. The quality of at-bats for most of the hitters in the lineup has been strong. None of that is an issue. Their at-bats with runners in scoring position have not been as strong.

They’re being a little too aggressive in these situations and expanding their zones a bit over the first two games. DJLM, Stanton, Judge, Gleyber, Bruce, and Hicks have all fallen victim to this. I have very little concern, though. It’s the first series of the season. There is more energy with fans in the stands. The team wants to get off to a great start. It’s natural to expand a bit when there are so many opportunities.

The most important thing is the Yankees are doing a great job of creating traffic. They’ve given themselves multiple opportunities to blow the first two games open. This feels like a great sign. The pitching has been the star of the show so far, but the offense is quietly doing the right things. This is all happening with Hicks and Stanton struggling a bit.

It is also important to point out that Gary Sánchez looks like a different hitter right now. He has his second home run of the year. He sees the ball out of the pitcher’s hand really well. His timing is also solid, which is the bedrock of his at-bats. He’s dictating the at-bat every time he steps in the box. Out of all the hitters on the team, Gary appears to need positive reinforcement from his hitting the most. He’s in a really strong place right now and could lead to a very nice season.

The Time Has Come for the New York Yankees

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The time has arrived.

Opening Day is finally here. There will be bunting on the facade. The pinstripes will be so fresh and so clean. We’ll hear an actual roar from a limited crowd. Baseball is back. Except, this isn’t the time I’m referencing.

It’s time to be all-in on the 2021 Yankees. Yankees fans have engaged in endless debates focusing on the potential flaws of this roster. That needs to end. This team has the potential to be a juggernaut. There is a genuine possibility that these 26 (and by extension, 40) men will run roughshod through the American League. It is ok to proclaim that faith in this team.

Optimism hasn’t been this fan base’s default for a while now. I get it. They always fill up the IL. The closer gives up big postseason home runs to both stars and random players who thrive in a 60 game season. The front office doesn’t spend $500 million every winter on every free agent like the good old days. The rotation never feels deep or good enough. It’s been eleven years since experiencing the ultimate glory.

All of that stops today. It is time to embrace our excitement and wildest dreams for this team. Great rewards come from great risks. We’ve already experienced disappointment, and we’ve made it to another Opening Day. We’ve survived a lot. We can take that collective big leap and raise our hopes that this is the year the Yankees play the final game of the season.

They have the best lineup in the game. Gerrit Cole will have a full season to establish his presence as one of the best in the game. The rotation has a strong chance of being one of the best in the game with the depth to withstand injuries and workloads. The bullpen will be dominant again. This season can be one of the great ones we think fondly upon in a few years.

For the last few seasons, we’ve viewed the Yankees’ season through the lens of that one team who could challenge them for the pennant. This season, they are the team everyone else has to measure up against. They are the bully on the block. Sure, the Rays are the defending AL Champions. The only thing that did was help them add to their impressive banner collection. Their biggest feat this year will be their hype video starring WWE Superstar Drew McIntyre. We’re talking about real championship contenders over here. The Yankees are in that select group.

When the home plate umpire calls “play ball” to kick off the 2021 Yankees’ season, we should all embrace the expectations that come with this team. We don’t have to step into this year with cautious optimism. Be bold. Be confident. Let that cautious guard down and be fearless with your hopes. The Yankees will have a great season. We will eventually see how great it can be. But that shouldn’t stop us from acknowledging what is so clearly staring us in the face. Enjoy the season. Go Yankees.

The Views From 314ft Podcast Episode 48: Training In The Spring

Matt and Derek join Randy this week to discuss the latest news regarding the MLB alternate site. We touch upon all of the ramifications with this decision and how it potentially impacts players fighting for spots on the roster. The trio jumps into their initial impressions of Yankees camp and cover who has caught their eye in the early days of Spring Training.

The podcast is still being recorded remotely. We are operating over Skype, so we apologize in advance for any sound quality issues. We hope you continue to bear with us as internet connections can always be tricky during recording.

The podcast is now available on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher so please subscribe, drop a five-star rating, and spread the word. We hope this gives you some distraction from all the craziness in the world right now.

Again, we apologize for any sound quality issues. We’re making the most of an inconvenient situation as all of you are. Please don’t forget to subscribe to the pod and spread the word.

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