The Yankees’ winning streak is now at two. They’ve won the series against the Baltimore Orioles behind a dominant performance from Gerrit Cole and the power of Aaron Judge. The pinstripes took this one home by the score of 7-2 and now have a record of 3-2. Here are the takeaways.
1. Gerrit Changing It Up: At times, it is hard to write about Gerrit Cole. He is so good that finding nuanced things to say becomes really challenging. We can marvel at him throwing upper 90’s seeds with a relatively high pitch count in only his second start of the season. Of course, the emphasis can be on the 13 K’s and franchise-leading eleventh consecutive start with seven strikeouts or more. The low-hanging fruit is discussing how dope it is to have an ace pitcher in pinstripes. But something happened over the course of Cole’s start that hints at a larger trend for the Yankees’ pitchers. They are throwing way more changeups than in the recent past.
The changeup is Cole’s fourth-best pitch. It’s a good pitch. It’s only fourth because the other pitches are excellent. Before this season, the change was a pitch that Cole would use sparingly. Well, things have changed (sorry, I had to do it). Here is Cole’s pitch % chart over the course of his career:
As you can tell from the legend, the green line is the changeup. In 2019, MLB’s last full season, Cole threw the change 7.4% of the time. Last year, he threw the pitch 5.6%. That number might be a little higher if there was a full season. In two starts this year, that number has jumped to 14.4%. The obvious small sample size caveat obviously applies, but the usage is noticeable. It was a very effective pitch in tonight’s game.
Cole threw 97 pitches over seven innings. Of those 97, 14 of them were changes. Remember, we’re talking about one of the game’s elite power pitchers. Cole’s max fastball tonight was 100.5 MPH. The changeup generated a called strike/whiff percentage of a whopping 57%. The Orioles were unable to put one change up in play. It had an average spin rate of 1841 MPH, which is a good thing. The change had outstanding downward movement. Take a look at his pitch movement chart. Again, the green is for the changeup:
Cole averaged 24 inches of vertical movement. When you pair this up with a blazing fastball and a darting slider, you’re going to get an insane amount of swing and misses. Speaking of which, Cole had 27 swings and misses out of 53 total swings. That is a 51% miss rate. This is a ridiculous number. It is also the fourth-best of his career. The dude is a monster. I’m glad he’s a Yankee. Here is a nice little nugget to highlight his dominance tonight from Seth Rothman of the YES Network:
The changeup appears to be a point of emphasis for the entire Yankees’ pitching staff. If you have it in your repertoire, the team wants you to throw it. Cole, Lasagna, Monty, etc., are all using the change more with great results. They’re all using the pitch aggressively as well. It has put away a few hitters over the first five games. It isn’t a show-me pitch. They’re looking to attack with it. Now, this could be a small sample size, so it’s worth paying attention to as the season progresses. So far, it is making a difference.
2. Aaron Judge Is Good: It is a familiar refrain for every Yankees fan: imagine what Aaron Judge can do if he remains healthy. Well, he’s off to a good start in reminding us just how impactful he is. Aaron Judge is their best position player. He can alter the course of a game at the plate and in the field. Judge is a true elite two-way player. He was the heart of the Yankees’ offense tonight.
Judge was pretty aggressive in the zone tonight. Judge does a great job going deep into his at-bats. It is almost a given that he’ll see a full count at least once in a game. That wasn’t the case tonight. He saw the least amount of pitches out of every hitter in tonight’s lineup. Judge only saw 12 pitches in five at-bats. The Orioles were trying to get in on him all night, and they weren’t executing well. Here is Judge’s pitch chart:
There are times when Judge will let these mistakes go by. The patient approach is always effective, but so is crushing mistakes. It was nice to see him swing at these pitches early in the count. The slider in the fat part of the plate led to this:
This is an 0-1 mistake. I hope Judge jumps these pitches more as the season rolls on. I’m not sure how you pitch to him if he doesn’t let you dictate an at-bat. An aggressive Aaron Judge is a very dangerous Aaron Judge.
This was another strong team performance. The win felt routine which is always a good thing. The Yankees will be back at it tomorrow at 6:35 pm. The game will be on YES. Have a great night.