Game 17: More Of The Same

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That was another boring game from the Yankees. There was an encouraging start from Corey Kluber, but that was the only positive to take from the contest. The Yankees lose to Atlanta by the score of 4-1. They are 6-11 on the season. Let’s get to the takeaways.

An Improved Corey Kluber

While the line isn’t going to look pretty, this was easily Corey Kluber’s best start in his early Yankees career. The knee-jerk reaction would be, “well, he couldn’t be any worse,” and that would be pretty off base. Through his first three starts, Kluber has generally shown good stuff. The velocity has been down, but there is good movement on multiple pitches. The biggest issue for Kluber is his control and command. There was some progress on that front in this game.

During the broadcast, David Cone repeatedly mentioned Kluber’s need to control the east and west portions of the strike zone. He lives on the corners with both his cutter and slider. If he isn’t flashing command on both the inner and outer portions of the zone, it will be a battle for him. Over his first three starts, we could see flashes of that, but many non-competitive pitches missed the corners. He would get swing and misses on some nasty offerings, but there were many instances when pitches were balls as soon as they left his hand. Kluber did a better job of hitting the corners for the majority of this start with his curveball.

Kluber threw a cutter, curve, sinker, and slider tonight. There were two changeups in there, but we can throw those out. It was clear that Kluber felt good about his curve. He threw the pitch 37% of the time. The cutter was second in usage at 25%. Kluber did his best work with the curve. Here is his pitch chart:

If you’re looking at the corners and down in the zone, you can see many good things here. He painted the corners. His ability to expand the zone is also encouraging. It felt like he finally found a pitch that allows him to control both sides of the zone and induce soft contact.

Speaking of soft contact, Kluber did a fantastic job of contact management today. If you’re struggling to find consistent control, a pitcher must minimize hard contact. A pitcher won’t survive if he has to come in the zone and gives up rockets all over the place. Kluber did well to avoid Atlanta’s barrels in this start:

Outside of two Sandoval at-bats, Atlanta couldn’t square up Kluber. There were a lot of off-balance swings throughout his start. This is the result of controlling the edges and strong pitch mixture. He threw his curve, cutter, and sinker over 20% of the time. The hitters could never really hone in on a pattern or zone. It was just good and smart pitching from Kluber.

The one downside to the start was the fifth inning. He clearly tired in the frame. His pitches were up in the zone, and he lost the corners throughout the inning. He surrendered three walks and put the team in a pretty tough situation. We will get to that in a moment. This is Kluber’s final pitch chart:

At first glance, this doesn’t look great, but context matters. Many of the pitches up in the zone came from the fifth inning when he ran out of gas. There are definitely encouraging signs from tonight’s game for Kluber. The movement is there, and he’s beginning to find the edges. This is a nice start to build on.

The Bullpen Decision That Changed The Game

This heading may be a little harsh but play along with me. Kluber exits the game in the fifth, with the bases loaded after three walks. Boone had Nick Nelson and Lucas Luetge warming in the pen. To Boone’s defense, Kluber was rolling, and then the inning quickly changed. I wouldn’t have warmed the pen up to start the inning, given Kluber’s control of the game. The issue was who the Yankees had up in the pen.

Although it was the fifth inning, this was clearly a pivotal moment in the game. We all know how poor the offense has performed this season. Run prevention is the most important thing the Yankees can control at the moment. Darren O’Day did not pitch yesterday. He’s on two days’ rest and is a veteran reliever who entered tough situations over his career. O’Day also has a funky delivery that can challenge the righty, Marcel Ozuna. The Yankees need one out to escape the jam. The decision to go with Nick Nelson instead of O’Day was a poor one.

You don’t need to save O’Day for a jam later in the game. The game is in the balance in the fifth inning. If Ozuna gets a hit there, it becomes hard to imagine the Yankees’ current offense being able to come from behind. Nick Nelson has talent. His stuff can be electric. He also hasn’t done anything to earn the game’s highest leverage moment. His opener performance against Tampa tells us he isn’t ready yet to take on a lineup’s best hitters. He also has the most control issues of anyone in the Yankees pen. The decision to go with Nelson was baffling. Predictably, he quickly walks Ozuna, and the game was pretty much out of reach in the fifth inning.

I don’t want to bash Boone. His decision-making isn’t the primary reason why they’re in this rough stretch. Boone does have to help the team out in these moments, though. O’Day is clearly the best option for that situation on a night when the manager is trying to stay away from his top relievers. There is still one top reliever available, and you have to read the magnitude of the moment. The fifth inning called for Boone to keep his team within striking distance, and he chose the wrong door. When it rains, it pours, but sometimes you need someone to bring an umbrella to keep you dry. Boone left the umbrella at home.

The Offense Falters Again

There isn’t much to say about the offense. It stinks right now. They’re not driving the ball. They’re not having good at-bats. They’re missing meatballs. They’re letting meatballs go by. They didn’t drive the ball into the outfield more than five times at the most tonight. They’re not just experiencing a power outage. The Yankees aren’t hitting the ball hard. It is bizarre and totally out of character.

The one thing I do want to touch upon is this idea of perception and eyewash. Because the Yankees aren’t hitting the ball, the focus is now on the team’s effort. There are now suggestions that the Yankees aren’t playing hard. There is one play making the rounds: Gleyber’s ground ball in front of the plate in the seventh inning. When things aren’t going right, people start taking liberties with their perceptions. It can’t possibly be as simple as the team not having good at-bats. It has to be a matter of effort and really wanting it. The Yankees don’t want it enough. Why else would Gleyber not run 3,000 MPH on a 25 footer in front of the plate?

Because displays like that are total eyewash. Gleyber running super hard down the line in forty-degree weather right after Gio Urshela left the game with back tightness while *running to first base* isn’t changing the outcome of the play. It doesn’t change how we feel about Gleyber as a player. The Yankees aren’t scoring a run on the play. His speed to first base is doing absolutely nothing to change the fate of the game. The only thing it’s doing is playing into a silly misperception of effort and competitive spirit. Gleyber wants to win. Gleyber posts up every day. His effort isn’t an issue and never will be. I don’t want the starting shortstop risking some soft tissue injury to satisfy some WFAN callers and some Twitter accounts. I need to see a healthy Gleyber get out of his rut.

The bigger issue on the play was the check swing. It’s a 1-1 count, and he took an unconvincing and off-balance “swing.” That is what we should be talking about. The at-bats suck. I don’t care if Gleyber takes ten minutes and trots around the bases backward if he jacks one out there. I want to see him hit some bombs from the fifth spot in the lineup. That is the “effort” the team needs and not some sprint speed test for Statcast.


The Yankees will face a non-East team in the regular season for the first time since 2019. How wild is that? They will face the Cleveland baseball team in Cleveland. It will be Doming Germán against Aaron Civale. The game starts at 6:10pm. Enjoy your night.

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15 Comments

  1. Wire Fan

    I strongly disagree the argument that a player shouldn’t have to run 3000mph or there is significant injury risk running to 1st base.

    Perhaps there is a middle ground? How about 85-90% effort, in case on a cold and windy night the throw pulls the 1st baseman off the bag or it is bounced to first. It may not have mattered on this play but pop ups occasionally fall in, routine grounders get booted or have bad throws (Gleyber of all people should know this). No need to Cano it to first base.

    There is a big range between busting it to first base like Jeter or Gardner on routine plays and trotting to 1st base because you have pre-judged the outcome to be an out. 90% effort is not too much to ask for and it is not an increased injury risk.

    • Randy

      Gleyber Torres posts up every game and competes every game. He doesn’t loaf and he doesn’t take plays off. Any questioning of his effort is misguided. It’s a non-story that people want to create because the team is playing poorly. It takes all of a minute to look at Gleyber’s demeanor and behavior on the field to see he competes. This conversation shouldn’t even be happening.

      • Wire Fan

        I agree with you that this conversation shouldn’t be happening. And it wouldn’t if Torres had run to first at 80-90% effort

        Your argument that this is eyewash is ridiculous. Diving into first is eyewash. Running into a wall or jumping at the wall when a ball is 20 rows back is eyewash. Running at 90% effort to first base on a routine play in case there is a misplay is not eyewash

        Also wish folks would not resort to reductio ad absurdum (painting a position one doesn’t agree with in an extreme light or with consequences that don’t actually exist). Sadly this is what a lot of society has turned into, especially social media.

        Folks challenging Torres’ effort on that play aren’t necessarily asking him to run 3000mph or risk injury. But I guess it is much easier to rationalize trotting to first base by making it sound like that 3000mph is the only other option.

        Is it really an unreasonable ask to have Torres, and all players, run at about 90% on routine plays in case there is a misplay?

        • Randy

          It is eyewash and performative. There are much larger issues at play than convincing you or anyone else that someone is putting in the “effort.” That kid plays day in and day out. All of this talk is silly. Enjoy the game tonight.

        • Randy

          And to be clear, I’m talking about asking a guy to run 90% on a ten foot ground ball on a cold night when they just lost one player running to first base is total eyewash and performative. People want that because it makes them feel better about something and not because of a potential misplay. If it’s a play like the Ozuna one, then I want him going all out. That is something that Gleyber has done in the last so wasting energy and words on a check swing ground ball makes no sense. There is no lack of effort on Gleyber’s part and this conversation should come to an end.

  2. CentralScrutinizer

    More absurd apologetics especially about Kluber. An “encouraging” start? Really 91 pitches to not even complete 5 innings and twice as many walks as strikeouts This is NOT spring training any more. I don’t care how his stuff looked or how he painted the corners. What matters now is the results. Our #2 starter has not been able to complete 5 innings in any of his starts and the Yankees have won only one of his starts. This guy belongs at the alternate site not taking a regular turn in the rotation.

    And your take on Torres failure to run out his dribbler in front of the plate is just plain stupid. Didn’t you notice how Ozuna hustled down the line to avoid a double-play and let a run score? If Torres runs hard then maybe the pitcher hurries his throw and throws it away? There’s no excuse for a young guy to not hustle all the time unless he’s hurt like Urshela last night. I’m not questioning Torres desire to win just his decision making. You can either get pissed off and not run because you’re disappointed that you didn’t hit the ball hard or you can run hard and try to force the other team into an error. We saw how Torres responded last night. It wasn’t good.

    • Randy

      You can disagree all you want but don’t ever describe my words as “just plain stupid.” Ever.

      • CentralScrutinizer

        Awwww. Why don’t you let Mommy kiss the boo boo? I’ll call your words stupid when they are, which they were.

  3. Dani

    Looks like the Yanks need to get their sign stealing shenanigans going again 😛

    What a frustrating season so far, pitching has easily been good enough to win the majority of games but the bats just continue to do nothing.

    • Alex

      Bring Beltran back. Whatever he did was more beneficial to the players than any of these coaches. It’s mind-boggling how he was the only coach who was able to correct Paxton’s pitch tipping. If the Red Sox can re-hire Cora and the Tigers can hire Hinch, both of whom were the masterminds behind the sign-stealing scandal, the Yankees can most definitely hire Beltran back in some capacity.

  4. JJ Dools

    On the bright side, the team is making lots of money by staying under the luxury tax threshold…

    The unwillingness to actually spend their money and instead taking this ‘value’ oriented approach is maddening (and doesn’t seem to make financial sense to me). They really needed to take an approach more like the Dodgers and spend money to win, which would presumably mean making more money. I just don’t get it. Maybe the brand will always sell itself and they never actually need to win another WS, but I am losing patience for this approach.

  5. Jason

    When is it legal to talk about their window closing?? October 2021?
    How can a “championship hunting” team this talented not turn it around by now?

    • Alex

      It should be now because the window has closed. And because Cashman has set this team back with awful long-term contracts like Stanton and Hicks, it’s not going to be easy to just sell off guys and re-set. The Yankees are going to have to move players under team control like Judge.

      Hopefully Hal just cleans house and can bring in a front office who can try to reverse a lot of the damage Cashman has done.

      • North

        Well – because their approach and offensive mindset is terrible.It is HR or bust, which the opposition know all to well. They know that Gary and Stanton make big hacks and thus they pitch accordingly. They bigger mystery is Gleybar Torres – I believe he’ll turn it around.

        I have no hope for Stanton or Gary. They’ll hit .225 at best with a OBP under .300 and hit 25 something homrerum, which means that for 125 games they will be a nonfactor

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