The Yankees have won two in a row. Can you believe it? It really looks like they are emerging from their malaise. It’s important to keep in mind the team has played nothing but East-division teams in the regular season since the beginning of last year’s weird season. It is nice to see different opponents. Maybe the Yankees needed to face less familiar foes to get going. The bombers took tonight’s game by the score of 5-3. They are now 8-11 on the young season. Here are the takeaways.
Too Many Damn Home Runs
Here at Views, we’ve routinely preached patience with the Yankees. They are nowhere near as bad as this recent slump indicates. It is incredibly frustrating to watch, but not an actual indication of this team’s talent level or fortunes for this season. You can look no further than the production, or lack thereof, of the Yankees’ offense. Bobby wrote a great piece searching for reasons behind the offense’s poor start, and he was stumped. We’re all stumped. Despite this, it feels pretty appropriate to describe the slow start as an anomaly. Tonight’s performance is a good indication of why that is the case.
The biggest struggle for the Yankees offense so far this season is the total lack of power from everyone in the lineup. They have done very little damage on mistake pitches. The lineup has done a pretty consistent job of putting itself in hitters’ counts, but there is little to show for that hard work. That wasn’t the case tonight. Logan Allen served up a bunch of meatballs, and the Yankees got fat.
The night’s biggest story is clearly the home runs, but there was more to tonight’s performance. The Yankees’ hitters were routinely smoking the ball. During this slump, the lineup has struggled to make consistent hard contact. There were games when the hitters couldn’t get the ball into the outfield with any authority. The Yankees reversed that trend at least for one night. Here are some of the exit velocities against Logan Allen:
This chart has more red than Cleveland’s uniform. As you can see, some of these at-bats resulted in outs, but the quality of contact is crucial to point out. We haven’t seen this type of consistent contact from most of the Yankees’ lineup in quite some time. As the team slowly creeps out of this malaise, it is really encouraging to see them begin to square up mistakes. This is a good indicator of offensive success.
And in a pleasant surprise, the Yankees actually smacked some home runs. Aaron Hicks kicked off the homer party. Rougned Odor, who we will get to in a second, joined in on the fun. Apparently, Giancarlo Stanton was jealous of his teammates and decided to steal the spotlight. Look at this:
Statcast measured this laser beam at 118 MPH. I’m going to take the liberty and add another 118 MPH. This ball went out at 236 MPH, and you can’t tell me otherwise. We’ve been talking about punishing mistakes, and Stanton certainly did that.
If that wasn’t enough, Giancarlo went oppo taco for good measure in his next at-bat.
Stanton is actually one of the few players who has hit the ball hard this year with some consistency. His issue is all of the ground balls. If he starts getting the ball in the air with regularity, we’re going to see a home run binge pretty soon.
I have a quick thought on Rougned Odor. I believe the trade for Odor was a shrewd one for two reasons. One, the cost was minimal. Second, he still has the ability to hit the ball hard. We’ve seen the Yankees pursue hitters with that hard-hit profile. He clearly has not been good the last few years. The thing is, those awful seasons weren’t with the Yankees. Those seasons have no bearing on what he can do in pinstripes. The organization deserves some benefit of the doubt with moves like this. We’ve seen it with Hicks, Voit, and Urshela. I’m not saying Odor will turn into a thirty home run hitter again, but he could be a solid contributor from the left side as a depth piece. Odor has come through with some big hits in his short time with the team. The move has been fine so far.
Jordan Montgomery Must Find Consistency
There is a lot to like about Jordan Montgomery. He has a five-pitch repertoire. He consistently induces soft contact. His chase rate and walk rates are good. With that said, we rarely see starts where he overwhelms a lineup. Of course, there are a bunch of good starts, but I can’t recall many dominant starts from him. There are too many outings where his control eludes him. Fortunately, this doesn’t lead to many walks, but it does lead to largely inefficient starts where he still can’t get deep into games with any consistency.
The first inning was a prime example of this flaw. Of his 89 total pitches, 37 of them came in the first. Aaron Boone had Nick Nelson warming up in the bullpen. In most instances, a starter has at least one pitch they can rely on to navigate an inning. That was not the case for Montgomery.
This is ugly. When he could get the ball in the zone, the Cleveland hitters were taking advantage. The Cleveland lineup had a 60% hard hit rate in the first inning. Here are a few of the exit velocities in the first:
This isn’t a good sign for a pitcher who thrives on managing hard contact. I don’t think we will confuse the 2021 Cleveland lineup with the 1995 Cleveland lineup. Montgomery needs to establish control of the game from the first pitch, especially against poor lineups. This feels like the next step in his evolution as a pitcher. We want to see that jump, but it’s frustrating when you see such a pedestrian performance.
The Yankees really need length from their starters. It’s on Montgomery to start providing that. Jordan has a responsibility to get the team as deep into the game as possible, and he’s not fulfilling it at the moment. He can’t throw almost half of his night’s pitches in the first inning. To his credit, he did settle down as the game moved along. But he put the team in an early hole and couldn’t complete the fifth inning because of 87 stressful pitches. If Jordan is to emerge as a truly dependable starter, these inefficient starts need to be a thing of the past. This and his propensity to give up the long ball are holding him back. This needs to change.
The Yankees look to win the series tomorrow and their fourth game in the last five contests. We’re getting a fantastic pitching match up tomorrow. It will be Gerrit Cole against Shane Bieber. The Yankees bats are starting to come around at the right time. The game starts at 6:10 pm. Have a great night.