If you are reading this, I’m sorry. It probably means that you, like me, care a lot about the New York Yankees. And it probably means you watched them limp to a 4-2 loss today to Tampa Bay. It’s their fifth consecutive loss, dropping them to 5-10 overall. They got swept by Tampa Bay in the Bronx. It is bleak right now.
It won’t last forever but good lord is it frustrating to be a Yankee fan right now. Let’s get to today’s takeaways, for some reason.
1. Sloppy is as Sloppy Does: The Yankees are inexplicably sloppy. This is not an overreaction to 15 games, either. It’s been true since 2018. They play sloppy baseball even when things are going well, most notably with lazy defense on routine plays. It’s a different person each game, too, so there’s not one person to blame. It’s been really bad in 2021. Today was just another example, and it came in the third inning. Here is the breakdown of events:
- Mike Zunino single
- Kevin Kiermaier single*
- Yandy Díaz single**
- Austin Meadows strikeout
- Manuel Margot sacrifice fly***
- Brandon Lowe strikeout
On its face, that doesn’t seem to be that bad. The Rays strung together some hits and made a good pitcher pay, right? Wrong. It was bad and it was made significantly worse by horrendous and inexplicable defense. I marked the offending plays with asterisks. Now let’s go through those.
Here is the Kevin Kiermaier single, if you want to call it that.
What the hell is this? Honestly. First, it looks like Hicks thinks he can catch this, which makes sense – it was a looped, lazy fly ball. Here is some photo evidence:
Looks routine. Except, approximately half a second later, the ball landed several feet in front of Hicks, short hopping him:
Hicks was clearly not prepared for this or in a position to field it clearly. It’s pretty clear that something bad is about to happen based on that alone, and, sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. Hicks bobbled the ball not once, but twice, which is best exemplified by this screengrab because it highlights the next bad part….
…because you can see Gleyber Torres pointing toward second, telling his teammate to throw the ball there. Mike Zunino, a slow-ass catcher, was obviously stuck in the middle on the play here. Because it was unclear if Hicks going to catch it or not, a clean play would have resulted in him being thrown out easily at second. Instead, the bobble prevented that chance. It meant there were runners on first and second with nobody out instead of on first with one person out.
Now, let’s make matters worse, shall we? Here is the very next play:
This one doesn’t necessarily merit a full frame-by-frame look. It’s just a bad play. It also had consequences, though: it allowed Kiermaier to get to third base with nobody out. Obviously, that gives the Rays two chances to get him home on an out. As someone reading this blog, I am confident you can guess what happened next. That’s right: the Rays scored on an out. It also had a baffling defensive decision. Here is that one:
Horrendous. What is Clint doing there? Again, this allows a Rays runner to advance. Hicks is obviously the man who will take most of the blame here, and he should – the Rays scored twice as a direct result of his defense. But Clint had a role to play, too, by making Cole pitch with runners in scoring position.
He threw 23 pitches in the inning, 20 of which followed the leadoff single, making them high-stress pitches. Cole gave this game everything he had but lazy defense from the Yankees once again cost them. This about says it all:
2. The Yankees Don’t Deserve Gerrit Cole: The Yankees, at least so far throughout 2021, do not deserve Gerrit Cole. That should be obvious from the above, but let’s go a layer deeper here. The man is disgustingly good at pitching. In 2021, he’s decided to just make his changeup – previously his 4th best pitch – and dominate with it:
He used his changeup 17% of the time today and got 6 whiffs on 10 swings. It continues a trend in which Cole relies heavily on the pitch in 2021. The rest of the arsenal was working for him today too, as he induced a 33% whiff rate against the Rays. A 2-strike HBP in the 2nd – it was a slider that just got the foot of the batter – and the 3rd inning added pitches to the final line, but this was a great performance from Cole today.
I say this because Boone correctly tried to steal an inning from him in the 7th when he had 98 pitches, but it backfired. Cole gave up back-to-back hits including a double to Tsutsugo (owner of a proud .187 MLB batting average) to give up a run and break the tie in the 7th. Cole will say that he should have gotten them out, and it’s true. But it’s also true that his defense failed him today and made the early innings more stressful.
Still, even with the 7th, Cole’s line is more than enough to win a game. In fact, if any other Yankee pitcher went 6.1 IP with 5 H, 10 K, and and 3 R (2 ER), we’d probably call it the best non-Cole performance of the season. That should be enough for the Yankees to win at home. Alas, it is not. But here is a fun fact, at least:
3. The Offense is Capital L-Lost: God, the Yankees are absolutely lost at the plate right now. They’re just lost and there’s no other way to put it. I noted a trend before the game, and it’s that the team just cannot hit middle-middle pitches.
They did not pass the test or step up. Aaron Judge is the key culprit, as exemplified by this at-bat in the first:
Inexplicable. It really is. But it’s not just him. There are a number of statistics I could list out right now – Judge’s last 30 at-bats, Torres’ entire season, Hicks’ stats as a LHB, and on and on and on – that would help illustrate this point in fine detail. They are not necessary. The only chart you need to see is right here. Be warned. It is ugly.
That physically hurts to look at. The only thing more painful is watching this happen, batter-by-batter, inning-by-inning, knowing what is going to happen before it does. The good news is that it won’t last forever, because it can’t. The Yankees are good offensively and this is hilariously awful stuff, so it’ll break eventually. But man is it brutal to watch right now.
- Gleyber Torres is Struggling: The Aarons Hicks and Judge got a lot of the attention above, but woof does Gleyber Torres look bad. He looks bad defensively and he looks bad at the plate. I’m sure he’ll turn it around, but it has not been a smooth early-going for the Yankee shortstop.
- Giancarlo has a Nice Game: It was a decent game at the plate for Giancarlo Stanton. He worked a nice walk in the 6th after falling behind in the count 0-2 and hit a laser beam of a home run to give the Yankees their first lead since Wednesday. (Not his fault it didn’t last!) Here is the video of the home run:
- At Least We Have DJLM: The Yankees’ other run came courtesy of a two-out DJLM single. He totally bailed out Clint Frazier and Rougned Odor, too. It followed an Urshela lead-off double that the Yankees came dangerously close to blowing. Alas, we have DJLM. Thank god for that.
- The Bullpen Can’t be Perfect Forever: Chad Green and Darren O’Day did a fine job for the Yanks today, pitching 2.2 innings for the Bombers, but O’Day did give up a two-out HR in the 9th to make it 4-2 Rays. That’s going to happen occasionally. It is completely unsustainable to expect the bullpen to be perfect each time they pitch. The offense is going to have to hit.
The Yankees are off tomorrow. They’ll be back in action on Tuesday against Atlanta in the Bronx. That game will be at 6:35 pm on YES and WFAN. Try to enjoy the rest of your afternoon, everyone.