The Yankees need to win this game. Baltimore is bad. They faced a bad pitcher. This specific game demands the Yankees put their best foot forward to win a series against the dregs of the AL East. Instead, the Yankees played down to their competition and lose a game they had no business losing by the score of 4-3. The Yankees are 11-14.
The Awful Tenth Inning
We will start at the beginning. The extra-inning rule is stupid. It doesn’t accomplish anything except undermine the competitive integrity of a nine-inning game. The rule is in place though. We can complain about it until we’re blue in the face, but it is part of the game for now. Teams have to perform accordingly.
When you are the road team in extra innings, it is advantageous to hunt for as big an inning as possible. The reasoning is pretty straightforward. The home team also gets a runner on second base and has the chance to win a ballgame without having to do too much. The Yankees were already at a disadvantage because Tyler Wade led off the inning.
If you’ve followed us on the blog or the podcast, you are very familiar with my feelings on Tyler Wade. He is not a major league-caliber player. He is a better baseball player than me, but who cares. Amongst his professional peers, Tyler Wade does not belong. With Wade leading off and a runner on second, the offensive options are minimal. If it was another hitter, I’m sure the Yankees are asking that player to hit away. Wade can’t hit, so you ask him to lay a bunt down to get the runner over. He was unsuccessful.
Tyler Wade has to get the bunt down. It is his job to do so. Instead of laying down a sacrifice bunt, Wade had three non-competitive attempts in his at-bat. When you can’t hit a lick, you have to execute fundamental baseball plays to make team contributions. Not only was he unsuccessful, but he also looked totally overwhelmed in the box. I understand Tyler was facing a nasty lefty, but he had no shot at laying the bunt down. There was poor technique. There wasn’t a competitive nature to the attempts. You could see the struggle immediately.
It is also curious to give the bunt sign with two strikes. You have to allow Wade the opportunity to run into a pitch he could pull. The chances aren’t high, but lighting can strike. I am not sure what Boone saw in Wade’s at-bat that made him think his hitter could get a sacrifice down. There wasn’t good execution or management in that spot.
The Wade bunt attempt wasn’t the only issue in the inning. We love to mention that it is early in the season. This is true with 130 plus games remaining on the calendar. With that said, the Yankees have an emerging Aaron Hicks problem on their hands. He’s obviously going through a power shortage, but his command of the hitting zone has deteriorated. Hicks has been susceptible to changeups all year. He is expanding the zone while also being uncharacteristically aggressive at the plate. This is the pitch from his at-bat in the tenth inning:
What are you doing with this pitch? If you turn on it, it may be a ground ball on the pull side, and the runner can’t advance. The alternative is hitting a weak fly ball that you hope finds grass. The result was the latter, but it landed in the fielder’s glove. This is anecdotal, but it always feels like the hitter in the box with a run-scoring opportunity and one out sways the outcomes of innings more times than not. Hicks was in a big spot. He was unable to come through, and it was a massive swing in the frame.
The tenth inning was a microcosm of a larger trend for the team that we will get into now.
The Inconsistent Offense Returns
Jorge López is not a particularly good starting pitcher on the Major League level. He entered today’s game with an ERA over 8. His career ERA is 6.18, along with a 1.50 WHIP. However, even with a lineup struggling to put it together, López is the perfect elixir for ailing hitters. So in true 2021 fashion, he was successful against the Yankees from a run prevention perspective.
This game followed a growing theme for this offense. They are routinely hitting the ball hard, but it isn’t always leading to run production. It also feels like there are more opportunities for the hitters to do real damage in the hitting zone, which isn’t consistent. López didn’t pitch well. His line looks better than his performance if we’re going by control and command of the zone. Here is his pitch chart:
There are changeups without bite, as well as sinkers that didn’t sink. There are a lot of pitches in the hitting zone. The funny thing about this is the Yankees were smoking the ball. Here are some of the exit velocities against López:
One would think these velocities would lead to success, but they didn’t. One reason could be everyone’s favorite baseball term: launch angle. It is important to keep in mind that launch angle is a measurement and not a technique. It gets a bad rep because some people misuse it. The sweet spot for launch angles is generally between 15 and 30 degrees. The lower end of that spectrum will result in line drives, while the higher will be more of the fly ball variety. The key is obviously combining elite exit velocities with launch angles in this range. That isn’t happening right now. Some of these balls are either below the spectrum or way above the spectrum. They’re not hitting that sweet spot.
We know this even with the eye test. There are a ton of ground balls from the lineup. The encouraging sign is the loud contact. The next step is to get this contact in the air with consistency. We see it a little bit more, but they aren’t there yet. Until that happens, the inconsistency from a run production standpoint will remain.
Jordan Montgomery is off to an inconsistent start this year, but this feels like his best performance of the early season. Jordan had four pitches working in unison with fantastic command. Pitch efficiency is something the young starter has needed to improve from start to start. He was far from efficient in Cleveland, but today was the total opposite. It all begins with Montgomery’s command.
We’ve paid attention to Montgomery’s velocity over the last few years, but the command is what makes him successful. He features a five-pitch arsenal that depends upon movement and location more than velocity. Montgomery has never really had control issues. He can throw strikes. It’s been a battle to locate pitcher’s pitches with consistency. This leads to stretches where he nibbles a bit too much and then has to battle to get back into counts. Montgomery did a fantastic job of dominating the zone today.
The change and curve were Jordan’s best friend today. The two pitches led his pitch usage today. They rewarded him. Of his twenty changeups, he earned a 25% CSW rate. The curve was even better. He threw eighteen of them, and it amassed a 44% CSW rate. Jordan had more called strikes on the curve than he did swing and misses. That is a good sign for a pitcher who relies heavily on the curve to induce soft contact and end at-bats quickly.
Montgomery’s issues came with the cutter. Trey Mancini’s game-tying home run came on a poor cutter. This isn’t to say the pitch performed poorly. It was just the one pitch that gave Jordan difficulty at times. Here is the chart on the cutter:
As you can see, there were some good ones and not so good ones. If he had a little bit better command of the pitch, there is a chance he wins this game.
I believe Boone had a pretty quick hook for Montgomery. He was cruising for the most part. I understand he had a relatively rested bullpen, but building Jordan up feels important. This is nitpicking, though. Jordan’s outing was encouraging.
The Yankees did have a successful road trip. It was 5-3. They could’ve easily gone 7-1 or 8-0 if we’re honest. There are still some things to clean up. The Yankees return home tonight to face the Tigers at the Stadium tomorrow evening. It will be Cole versus Skubal at 7pm. Enjoy your night and the NFL draft if you’re watching. The Niners better draft Fields or trade for Aaron Rodgers.