This was another incredibly frustrating game from the Yankees. The inconsistency, particularly against inferior teams, is hard to watch. The Texas Rangers are a below average team. You expect a fine performance when arguably the best pitcher in the game at the moment takes the mound. The ace faltered along with a lifeless lineup. The Yankees drop this one by the score of 5-1. Their record is now 22-19. Here are the short takeaways.
The Offense Needs To Get Going
Jordan Lyles may be one of the worst starting pitchers in the Majors right now. He relies on five pitches, and I honestly couldn’t tell you if one of them is good. It could be his changeup. He has thrown the change only 47 times. Here are the heat maps for his top three pitches:
This is bad. We normally refer to exit velocities maps when describing bright red colors, but we’re doing it with heat maps. He can’t turn to one pitch that can reliably get him out of innings without damage. Lyles can’t be that bad, right? Here are his 2021 percentile rankings:
Well, do you want some more Jordan Lyles numbers? Of course, you do. His xBA/xSLG/WOBA slash line is .281/.523/.343. His barrel rate is 10%. The line drive rate is 25%. You get the picture. Jordan Lyles is the type of pitcher even a compromised lineup should hammer. They proceeded to score one run against the struggling starter.
Their best chance in the game came in the first inning. DJ Lemahieu and Luke Voit started the game off with two singles. Then, Aaron Judge, the AL Player of the Week, struck out. Gio Urshela followed up with a single. It was at this point where one would think the Yankees were heading for a big crooked number. But, instead, Gary Sánchez smoked a ball to third for an inning-ending double play. That was the end of the threat for the inning and the game. Here is the win probability for tonight’s contest:
That first inning made a huge difference.
Remember those heat maps from earlier? The Yankees were incapable of attacking Lyles in the hitting zone. The lineup was clearly hunting in the zone as they swung at 39 of Lyles’ 85 pitches. They had twelve swings and misses. That may not seem like a ton, but it is for a guy like Lyles. The Yankees really struggled against the slider and curve. They had a 36% and 41% CSW rate against those pitches, respectively.
These pitches weren’t even located well. Jordan Lyles’ pitch chart looks like a mess. Take a look for yourself:
I’m having trouble finding which pitch was the best one. I would say the slider, but I’m peeking.
There has been a lot of focus on the depressed offense throughout the league this year. The Yankees aren’t impervious to this. It also doesn’t fully explain its performance so far this season. There hasn’t been any stretch where the lineup fired on all cylinders. The scoring largely comes from one or two hitters who get insanely hot. There are too many dead spots in the lineup, and it’s due to their performance and not the trends of the league.
One thing that continues to stand out is the lack of consistent contact in the zone. There are way too many pitches in the zone that Yankees hitters are missing, fouling off, or topping into the ground. In previous years, the lineup hammers these offerings. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case right now. I won’t pretend to know the reasons why, but the observation holds. There are encouraging signs like a high walk rate, but the high-quality contact isn’t consistent enough throughout the lineup. That needs to change in short order.
Gerrit Cole Battles In His Shakiest Start Of The Year
Gerrit Cole spoils us. We’re at the point where we expect him to dominate everyone in every start. I believe this too. Outside of Jacob deGrom, he’s been the best pitcher in Major League Baseball this season. But, while we don’t think it can ever happen, Gerrit Cole can throw a stinker or two at times. Tonight was one of those nights. He went up against a rather pedestrian Rangers lineup and struggled all night to hold them down.
Gerrit was fighting his stuff and his command. It didn’t feel like he had a pitch he could turn to whenever he was in trouble. Two pitches represented his struggles with both stuff and command. His slider wasn’t sharp, and his fastball was wild.
Gerrit Cole’s slider averages around 6.6 inches of horizontal movement. That may not be a big number at first glance, but his extreme vertical movement amplifies the sweeping nature of the pitch. The two planes obviously have to work in tandem to maximize the effect. Gerrit had typically great drop to it, but it stayed on the horizontal plane a bit too much. Here is his horizontal movement chart:
There are a few pitches that break the six-inch mark, but not many. The Rangers lineup tagged that pitch for a pretty decent amount of damage tonight. Willie Calhoun, in particular, jump-started his nice night with a stinging double down the line on a bad slider. I thought Kyle Higashioka called for that pitch way too much early in the game. It clearly wasn’t working. The change was a better option.
In hindsight, it probably didn’t matter because Cole’s fastball command was poor. Cole can almost beat a lineup just with his electric fastball. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case tonight. Here is his pitch chart:
We know that Gerrit lives up in the zone with his fastball, but this is the extreme and unproductive version of that. The fastballs in the zone were hit with pretty good authority by the Rangers hitters. It was an off night for the ace. These things happen. Maybe the intense eight-inning gem against the Rays took a little bit out of him.
The one positive is Cole broke the record for most strikeouts before a walk in Major League history. Gerrit struck out 61 batters before he issued his first of two walks tonight. That is pretty sick. There is nothing to worry about with Cole. It was just an off night. He’ll probably strike out 27 batters in his next start.
This was a pretty listless game to watch. Hopefully, tomorrow will bring about a better performance. It will be Taillon versus Foltynewicz tomorrow. The game starts at 8pm. Have a great night.