The Yankees end their season series against the Baltimore Orioles with a record of 17-2. They won sixteen straight against the O’s. What started as another ho hum game turned into a bit of a nail biter towards the end. The Yankees pull out the win by the score of 6-5. They are now 81-41. This is the first time the Yankees are forty games over .500 since 2009. We all know how that season ended. The 2019 season has been dope. Let’s get to the takeaways.
1. Taking Care of Business: The 2019 Yankees are so good at dominating poor opponents. They were very good at beating bad teams last year, but this year’s version is relentless against them. Oftentimes, there is very little doubt who is going to win the game. There isn’t any way to quantify killer instinct, but you know it when you see it. This team clearly has it. They want to do everything they can to bludgeon the opposition and they’ve done a terrific job of doing that. They hit 61(!!!) home runs against the Orioles this year. It isn’t easy to win sixteen straight games against any team even if that team is terrible. There are so many things to like about the Yankees nowadays. The offense is rolling. The defense is impressive. The starting pitching has normalized for the most part. Crushing inferior opponents is towards the top of the list.
2. “He’s Just Kinda Chucking”: At the risk of stating the obvious, J.A. Happ is not having a good season. In looking at Happ’s free agency over the winter, there were clear red flags in the publicly available data. The most alarming trend was his declining fastball. For a pitcher that relies heavily on his heater, especially to control the inside part of the plate, losing both velocity and spin rate is not a good thing. Fastball issues have plagued Happ all season and that continued today.
Happ had a tough time controlling the inner half of the zone on both sides. He was either missing poorly off the plate or missing in the middle of the zone. Here is his strike zone plot:
The inability to control the inner half of the plate puts Happ in a real bind. One of the biggest consequences is relying on mediocre breaking stuff to compete in the at bat. There are too many instances when those offspeed pitches lead to poor results like in this first inning at bat with Jonathan Villar :
The YES broadcast brought up a great point with regards to Happ. It feels like he’s beginning his transition from a fastball reliant guy into more of a finesse pitcher. The early stages of that transition involves a lot of uncertainty on what pitch to throw in a particular count. The result is you don’t have a go to pitch to finish off at bats. This was really evident in the first inning when Happ threw 33 pitches mainly because he couldn’t put anyone away.
It is a positive that Happ is possibly realizing he’s not the pitcher he once was. The negative is the transition yields a lot of crappy results before turning into that new guy. We went through this with CC and it may be happening again with Happ.
3. Gary Is Becoming Scary Again: Gary Sanchez had a big hit in last night’s game. Beyond the result, the most important takeaway from that at bat was Sanchez hitting a strike with authority in the air. Prior to his injury, Gary was expanding his zone and hitting the ball on the ground far too much. It looks like Gary is building off the positives of last night:
This was a bomb. The pitch came in at 84.5 MPH and it left the field at 110.2 MPH. Bundy threw a meatball over the plate and Gary did exactly what great hitters should do with a pitch like that.
One important thing to take a look at on the home run is when Gary starts his load. A majority of hitting is about timing. A hitter wants a good rhythm and a pitcher wants to interrupt that rhythm. Even if a hitter is sound mechanically, poor timing can ruin everything As soon as Bundy starts his motion, Gary starts his leg kick. Doing this allows Gary time to recognize off speed and also allows his bat to efficiently get on plane. His first few at bats in Toronto showed rust, but it looks like Gary may be turning the corner.
4. The Bullpen (aka Luis Cessa) Struggled Today: Yes, it is true that Luis Cessa is having a decent season. Yes, his past poor performance has clouded the way Yankees fans view his recent production. With all of that said, Luis Cessa is doing everything he can to remind us that he isn’t a very good MLB caliber pitcher. Entering the 7th inning, Cessa had a comfortable four run lead. After getting Richie Martin to fly out for the first out of the inning, Cessa proceeded to give up a double, a walk, a hard hit line out to right and then a two rbi double to Renato Nuñez.
Adam Ottavino relieved Cessa and promptly gave up a 109.9 missile to Jonathan Villar to cut the lead to one. Ottavino was able to get out of the jam in the seventh and Zack Britton worked around a leadoff walk to have a clean eighth inning. Cessa finished the day with a line of 1.2IP, 2H, 1BB, 3ER.
Clearly Boone is trying to find ways to rest his bullpen guys. It doesn’t help that injuries to the lower leverage guys have compromised the options even more. A four run lead is a good spot to bring Cessa in, but it just feels like he has too many outings where things get away from him. The numbers state otherwise, but it’s hard to feel good when Cessa enters a game.
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately if you like competitive games), the Yankees won’t see Baltimore for the rest of the season. Cleveland comes into town tomorrow for what should be a fantastic four game weekend series. Chad Green will get the start for the Yankees. Adam Plutko will toe the rubber for Cleveland. That game will start at 7:05.
We’ll leave you with this tweet from Cameron Maybin: