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Game 12: Bats go quiet after hot start in walk off loss to Toronto

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The Yankees dropped this afternoon’s affair to the Blue Jays, 5-4. Bo Bichette, who homered twice in this one, delivered a walk off home run against Chad Green in the ninth. The Yankees are now 5-7 and have lost three of the four series they’ve played thus far.

Corey Kluber delivered another less-than-ideal outing and the offense sputtered again. The bullpen kept the Yankees in the game, but the relievers can only keep doing so much. I’ll expand on Kluber, the bats, and the ‘pen in the takeaways from this one after the jump.

Just when it looked like the bats were about to break out, things went quiet. Sigh. Another frustrating game for the lineup. Toronto’s bullpen set down 10 of the last 11 batters faced, with the one being a (poorly scored) error which Aaron Judge reached base on.

Speaking of Judge: he was a bit of a one man show in this one. He stroked two homers, bringing his season total to four.

The other two runs came thanks to a clutch two out hit from Gio Urshela in the fourth. In doing so, he bailed out Jay Bruce, who continues to look toast. Bruce struck out with runners on 2nd and 3rd before Urshela’s single, and went 0-for-4 overall with 5 runners stranded. He also hit into two double plays, though one came on a soft liner in which Gleyber Torres got doubled up. Torres should not have been so far off the base. In any event, the Bruce DFA has to be coming sooner or later. Miss you, Luke Voit.

Anyway, after that four run fourth inning, the only other threat came in the sixth. Gary Sánchez and Gleyber Torres both reached base with one out, but Bruce followed with the aforementioned lineout double play. From there, the offense never put up much of a fight. So it goes so far this season.

The bullpen can only do so much. As written about multiple times so far this year, the bullpen has been this team’s saving grace. It’s helped win games and has kept them within striking distance for many games, including today. Still, there are going to be days when one of the team’s better relievers makes a mistake. It’s just part of the game. Today, Chad Green hung a curveball to Bo Bichette in the ninth inning. Even with poor location on the pitch, it didn’t look like the shortstop got all of it. And yet:

That’s the first earned run Green has given up all season. Came at a bad time, but then again, the Yankees can’t keep expecting the bullpen to shut opposing offenses down all season long. There are going to be days where this happens, even if this walk off homer got out by surprise.

And it’s not like the bullpen didn’t keep the Yankees alive for most of this game, anyway. As I will touch on later, Jonathan Loaisiga gave up one run which was aided by a missed call and missed block. After him, Darren O’Day and Justin Wilson tossed clean seventh and eighth innings, respectively. The offense, once again, couldn’t beat Trent Thornton or Anthony Castro. Brand names, I know. At least Rafael Dolis, who threw a scoreless ninth, is actually good.

This offense is too talented to continue struggling, even with Voit sidelined and retreads like Bruce and Rougned Odor playing frequently. It’s just frustrating to see — for what feels like the umpteenth time — the bullpen keep the team in the game, only to have the bats not pick them up.

Corey Kluber struggled again, but I think there are two positives from his outing. Don’t worry, I’ll discuss the bad in a moment. I’m not excusing him from another short outing. But I do think it wasn’t all bad. Let’s quickly discuss the good.

First, Kluber’s velocity was noticeably up from his first two starts of the season.

PitchTodayPrev. 2 Starts+/-
4-Seamer91.389.6+1.7
Cutter88.786.4+2.3
Sinker91.490.0+1.4

As long as this isn’t a calibration issue in Dunedin, this is great to see. It means that Kluber’s adding some strength. Look, he’s not a power pitcher at this stage of his career by any stretch of the imagination, but a couple more ticks always helps. Not that he was ever a power pitcher, of course.

The other positive: lots of whiffs, particularly against his cutter. It was easily his best pitch today. Jays hitters swung through 10 of them on 19 hacks (53 percent). And when they did make contact, it’s not like they squared it up.

Exit Velo. / Launch Angle against Kluber’s cutters.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s single was crushed, but the low launch angle prevented it from being much damage. Nothing else was struck well against the cutter.

OK, so that’s the good. Now, we have to discuss the bad. Obviously, lasting just four innings isn’t what you want. As I wrote this morning, outside of Gerrit Cole, the Yankees’ rotation is really having a difficult time giving length.

Kluber labored through this one from start to finish. It took him 77 pitches to complete four frames and he didn’t have a single 1-2-3 inning. In fact, Kluber has yet to record a clean frame in his first three starts. He has faced the minimum in an inning twice, but both times were a result of double plays. The fact of the matter is that he’s allowing too much traffic on the basepaths. And a big reason for that is a lack of command.

Today’s pitch heat map.

Kluber was missing off the plate to the first base side a lot in this one. These weren’t all bad pitches, per se, but Toronto hitters were able to lay off a lot of these. When Kluber’s right, the red on the heatmap will be a bit closer to the corner, forcing hitters to either take strikes on the black or make weak contact.

Also not great: Kluber gave up two more homers today, bringing his total to five allowed in 14.1 innings this season. This is very un-Kluber-like. In his prime, he consistently posted sub-1 home runs allowed per nine. He’s 35 now, so obviously his best years are far behind him, but this isn’t pretty. Hopefully there’s a little regression coming.

One of the homers Kluber allowed today brings me back to one of my points from my thoughts post this morning. Non-Cole starters are having a hard time putting away hitters away with two strikes, which is exactly what happened to Kluber in the second inning. Twice, in fact. He got to an 0-2 count against both Rowdy Tellez (single) and Alejandro Kirk (homer).

Those are a couple of awful 0-2 pitches. Tellez singled on a changeup over the heart of the plate and Kirk hit a dinger on a hanging curve.

The other homer he allowed, a solo shot by Bo Bichette, came against a sinker he didn’t get in on his hands enough. Still, it’s not an easy pitch to hit a dinger against, let alone to right center. Bichette is special.

I get that writing up a few positives about Kluber’s outing today can ring a bit hollow. Especially when he had yet another short outing in the midst of the team’s rotation struggling. But I’ll keep beating a dead horse: it’s early. If Kluber’s stuff looked terrible, I’d be honest about it. But to this point, I still think there’s enough to point to that indicates Kluber has something left in the tank. Get back to me in a few more starts if this keeps up.

Defense, as always, seems to keep finding new ways to hurt the Yankees. Jonathan Loaisiga pitched a clean fifth in relief of Kluber (in part thanks to a weird out between third and home discussed in Leftovers), but come the sixth, things got dicey. The young righty reliever, who’s in the midst of a breakout campaign, gave up a couple of leadoff singles to start the frame. Then the misfortune rolled in. The score was 4-3 Yankees at the time, by the way.

Before the defensive gaffe, a bad call hurt the Yankees. After those two singles, Loaisiga appeared to have caught Kirk looking at strike three for the first out. Except, not in the eyes of home plate umpire Tripp Gibson.

So instead of a called strike three, the count moved to 2-2. The very next pitch? Hit by pitch to load the bases. Sigh.

Yet, Loasiga appeared to bear down. He induced a force out at home plate against the next hitter, Josh Palacios. Up next: Marcus Semien, who Loaisiga eventually retired via a shallow fly out, but not before the Yankees’ defense struck again. Loaisiga was tagged with a wild pitch, but this was a poor effort by Kyle Higashioka:

Gotta make a better attempt there. Loaisiga got Bichette out after Semien to end the frame, and not to get all Michael Kay on you, but: fallacy of the predetermined outcome, Loaisiga could have been out of that unscathed with the lead in tact.

Leftovers

  • With an 0-for-3 today, Rougned Odor is off to a slow start. He’s now 2-for-15 with a couple of singles.
  • Forgot to mention in the Game Thread that this was just a regular day off for DJ LeMahieu. He had started all 11 previous games, so he was due a rest.
  • Aaron Judge is clearly playing things safe in right field this season, and for good reason. In the fifth, he tried to back a backhand shoestring catch on a sinking liner off Cavan Biggio’s bat. He whiffed and the ball went to the wall. Fortunately, Judge made a good throw to third base and Biggio rounded third a bit too much, and was hung up and tagged out.
  • I guess Deivi García isn’t a candidate to start Friday. He threw 76 pitches today at the Alternate Site, and pitched well. (Conor Foley)

There’s an off day tomorrow, thankfully. On Friday, the Yankees start a weekend series against the Rays. Hopefully the reprieve tomorrow and some home cooking turn things around. Until then, have a good evening everyone.

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18 Comments

  1. Alex

    Kluber looks atrocious out there and has all the makings of being a washed up pitcher now. $11 million is looking like a terrible gamble and just a continuation of Cashman’s terrible pitching decisions that have hampered this team for decades now. It is a joke that he is this team’s #2 starter. His statcast percentage rankings are horrifyingly bad and he has a 7.20 FIP, suggesting that he’s been lucky not to have an ERA worse than 6.10.

    The Yankees can’t afford to give him much time to figure it out so he needs to start putting up some quality outings or the Yankees need to replace him with someone who can.

  2. daryl

    This team is making it to the post season.Thats not a concern. But two things- so far, the two pitchers from the bottom of the barrel rehabilitation center that cashman selected seem to be the two worst possible options.

    Boone is managing the bullpen as if a starter had one random short outing, not like “the majority of the starters only last 4 innings”. The bullpen absolutely cannot be managed the same way, as this is not sustainable. nothing boone does indicates that he has a pulse on this. he’s a weasle.

    Kluber should be coming out of the bullpen after chad green opens. Dont like it? Too bad, stop sucking then.
    Mike King should be piggy backed to FINISH the game after James Taillon.
    and garcia should be brought up as the 5th starter to see what he can do. The minimum, we know damn well he adds razzle dazzle!
    I think German will re-emerge. Maybe in rotation, or maybe as a longman. rotation is preferred, but probably a mixture of both.

    BUT. Boone proves to be inept and couldnt stray from his path if you paid him… too concerned with a new contract and trying to sit on papas lap.

  3. Wire Fan

    1) DFA Bruce. Use Ford until Voit is ready

    2) Let pitchers not named Cole throw more than 80 pitches. Sure Kluber wasn”t sharp today, but 77 pitches? This is the 3rd turn thru the rotation and the Yankees are still easing starters in? Yeah it might cost a few extra runs, but the Yankees are going to need their relievers fresh at the end of the year.

    3) sometime in June look for a real utility IF, regardless of whether they bat lefty or righty. Cashman’s obsession with lefties with power is hurting the team. Would Cashman have acquired/signed Bruce or Odor if they batted righthanded?

    It shouldn’t matter whether the utility IF is right or left handed. It’s not like they are going to platoon or PH for any of the IF starters. Cashman said early in the offseason he was not going to get lefty hitters simply for the sake of getting lefty hitters…. Yet the bench (minus Higgy) is all left handed with two re-treads that aren’t good hitters and are bad fits on the roster. This is not random.

    Nor is the Yankees spacing lefties out evenly in the order regardless of how well they hit. Bruce hitting in front of Urshela is absurd and it cost them today. What is the rationalization for this? (Handedness only? it’s certainly not about the quality of the bat)

    • Derek

      Re: your second point – I think Kluber would have gone one more if not for today’s off day. Boone probably figured he could ride his bullpen harder yesterday with a built in day of rest before the Tampa Bay series.

  4. Zach

    This team is a lot closer to losing 100 games than they are to winning 100 games. And with the way Boston is playing, they could be 20 games out of first by the end of May.

  5. Jason

    This team loves to start slow and then pick up, only to fizzle out in the postseason. What gives people confidence that this group(whose best pieces are past the age 28) or manager will ever be a championship team? Is that what we want or is a good product not winner what we settle for these days?

  6. Boone clearly is a problem. This team is too unfocused. Gleyber is such a bad baserunner it’s painful to watch at times. Seems like the only player Boone can be tough with is Frazier. Showalter would be a great replacement.

    • I read a reference to Boone as a “laid back surfer dude”. Have no idea if it is true or not, but he seems to lack any game preperation, intensity or spirit, I feel it translates to the team. There is no sense of urgency. I suspect that is because there is no accountability. When asked to go “off script”, Boone stuggles, as he did trying to explain why Frazier was dropped from the starting line up yesterday.

      Cashman did not like Girardi and his “old school” methods, so he hired an inexperienced TV analyst. The experiment has failed.

      I has suggested Showalter as an alternative to Boone. People will say he never won anything but neither has Boone. Showalter, even as a placeholder, will prepare the team to play baseball, instill a sense of ugency and answer the hard questions.

  7. Dan Hermann

    Is Mike Ford rated so poorly by the organization that they won’t even consider giving him a shot? At least he’s a real first baseman. And why do the Yankees PERENNIALLY do such a bad job of developing young starters?

  8. Mungo

    So far in the young season the Yankees have had three series against good opponents, both in their division. They’ve lost all three series, dropping two of three games in each of them. That’s a trend that will have them finish in fourth place. If they want to be the the best, or even simply be good, they have to start by beating good teams. It’s early, so this is not a panic comment, but so far the team has produced disappointing results against the better teams.

    How was Judge’s third “hit” called an error? In an age of analytics, has there been a study on official scoring to see if some markets score opposing teams more harshly than they do the home teams?

  9. dasit

    i’m a big cashman defender but he may have some answering to do if kluber and tallison crap the bed

  10. Gerreddardit Cole

    Another day another worst loss of the season, Derek. And I agree with MG309, I just can’t watch this crap anymore. Too many strikeouts, too many DPs, too many errors, too many baserunning blunders. Girardi’s clubs were always so fundamentally sound. Boone’s are sloppy and there’s never any accountability. He just repeats the same cliches over and over or just outright lies to the media.

    Hal needs to give us a sacrificial lamb before Friday’s game . It should be both Cash and Boone but it won’t be so Marcus Thames should be fired. His “coaching” isn’t doing anything. Matt Blake could also go. Besides Cole his starters are pitching to a 6 ERA. And Jay Bruce should be DFA’d. Heads have got to start rolling.

    Kluber was yet another poor signing by Cash. There was nothing done to solidify the rotation when we knew it was a weakness. They’ve gotten lucky the pen was dominant and today that ended. Jay Bruce is not a major leaguer. Every year it seems like we have to turn to guys like Bruce and Tauchman because the roster is such crap. Look at the Jays roster. That’s how you build a good young core and supplement it with good FA signings and trades. Rays and Jays do it better than anyone. And the Sox just keep winning and winning and winning. I’m almost praying for a Rays sweep this weekend to put us out of our misery. If Boone isn’t going to play Clint then trade him and start trading some of our key players to contenders so we can rebuild to keep up with the Rays and Jays and Sox.

    • PeteBurgh

      Oh boy! 12 games in and we’re already at Defcon 1 aka fire the GM, fire the manager, and fire the coaching staff! Pace yourself guys, it’s a long season…

  11. I have no interest in watching a one dimensional team hacking away and hitting air day after day after day while playing bad defense.

    I’ve barely watched the last few games and have no plans to watch another inning.

    I could have gone to today’s game in Dunedin but why spend any money watching such futility?

    I’m done until something changes but not expecting much, if anything, of that.

    • Derek

      Did we watch the same game today? The Yankees struck out four times. The offense is definitely struggling, but they aren’t “hitting air”.

      Anyway, giving up after 12 games is a pretty big leap.

      • Going to disagree Derek. Most everyone is complaining about the general malize of the team. Not being ready to play and playing sloppy, uninspired baseball at what is supposed to be the highest level.

        To early for Boone to be fired, Cashman and Boone at the end of the year if there isn’t a turn around. Hal has a manager in waiting, Buck Showalter. Brings competitive baseball back to the Bronx.

        • Brian M

          LOL Buck Showalter. With him in charge the Yanks will finish 4th in the East, but at least they’ll be “gritty”.

          • Gerreddardit Cole

            Buck would be a great little hire and would allow him to come full circle. I’d hate to lose him in the YES booth but he’s the right man for the job. You always hire the opposite personality than you had before. They claimed Girardi was too tight so they went for the California dude Aaron Boone but all that has done is give us this sloppy club. Buck would get them in line.

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