The Yankees win train keeps rolling. This is about as strong a start to the season as you could get. The Yanks are the best team on paper in the league and their record is reflecting that. The Yankees won the home opener against the Boston Red Sox by the score of 5-1. The Bronx Bombers look like they’re on a mission to end this season with a title. The win gives the Yankees a record of 5-1. Here are the takeaways.
Jordan Montgomery Dominates
Jordan Montgomery will be a mainstay in the Yankees rotation for years to come. In spring training, there was a great deal of focus on Monty’s bump in velocity. It was worth talking about. Another sign of growth from the tall lefty is his efficiency. Earlier in his career, Montgomery was notorious for nibbling on the edges. It led to high pitch counts and early exits. That wasn’t the case tonight. He was much more aggressive in the zone. This was complemented by a much more nuanced use of throwing pitches out of the zone. Here is his pitch chart:
Montgomery was filling up the zone. What this chart doesn’t capture is the sequencing. Jordan did a fantastic job of changing the eye levels of the hitters and setting them up for his incredibly effective changeup. This plan of attack also allows Monty to induce contact and stay away from walks. He finished his night allowing just one walk in the sixth inning to J.D. Martinez during an at-bat that started off 0-2. For his first start of the season, Jordan pitched pretty deep into the game especially considering his past. Montgomery had a plan and executed it well.
The changeup was Jordan’s best pitch on the night. He had good arm action and command of the pitch. Of his 81 total pitches, 20 were changeups. He induced 6 swinging strikes, which was the highest amongst his offerings. The change also had the lowest exit velocity at 74.5mph. Overall, Montgomery was creating soft contact all night. These are the exit velocities from his start:
There isn’t a lot of red in that chart. This was all due to impressive pitchability. We didn’t see the velocity bump from the spring tonight. This may be due to the pandemic break and abbreviated Summer Camp. There was plenty of velocity to be effective. In previous seasons, Montgomery heavily relied upon his sinker and curveball. If he can keep this changeup all season, his status in the rotation will jump up.
This was a great season debut for Gumby. We saw the evolution of a young pitcher. He was aggressive. There was a clearer understanding of how to set hitters up. And we saw improved command. With James Paxton’s issues and J.A. Happ being J.A. Happ, the Yankees need as many steadying forces in the rotation behind Cole as possible. Jordan Montgomery can be one of those guys.
Aaron Judge Is Pretty Good
So Aaron Judge is my 2020 MVP pick. One reason for the choice is his elite two-way play ability. He is one of the few players that can alter any game on both sides of the field. That was on display tonight. On a night when the Yankees didn’t look particularly imposing, Judge did everything in his power to win the game.
In the third inning, the Red Sox had first and second with one out and J.D. Martinez up at the plate. Martinez lifted a fly ball to Judge. And this is how the play turned out:
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. This is comically bad baserunning. I have no clue what Kevin Pillar was looking at. He was right to go halfway, but it is pretty obvious Judge was making that catch with ease. Pillar should’ve been breaking earlier.
Now that we have that out of the way, this is a great throw from Judge. He peeked at the runner before making the catch and knew he had a play. The release was quick. The throw was strong and accurate. There aren’t a lot of right fielders who could turn that play into an out. This was a pretty important play because Rafael Devers was up next. I would much rather see the Red Sox third basemen leading off an inning than in an RBI situation even with two outs. Judge was there for his pitcher.
All of you can insert your own cliché about a nice defensive play leading to a big offensive play. In the bottom of the third, Judge followed up a DJLM single with a two run blast to right field. Here is the video:
This is a fantastic piece of hitting. Weber missed his spot, but it isn’t easy to take a breaking pitch running in on your hands and go oppo taco. That requires a good deal of skill and power to accomplish. He was able to keep his hands in tight to the body, but more importantly, keep his body in the proper position for his bat path. Aaron was able to get the barrel as a result and his strength took over. Again, there aren’t a ton of hitters who can do this. This home run was the biggest hit of the game for the Yankees. On a night where the team largely looked lackluster offensively, the team’s best player came through big time.
The Bullpen Remains A Treasure
As most of you know, Tommy Khanle received some unsettling injury news earlier today. There is a very real possibility that he is lost for the season. Despite having a deep bullpen, this is a pretty big blow for the team. Kahnle is one of a few pitchers who allows Boone to not worry about the three batter rule. Tommy Tightpants is effective against both lefties and righties. Losing an effective piece like that is significant.
With that said, it is really nice to still have guys like Chad Green and Adam Ottavino to call from the bullpen. As noted earlier, Jordan Montgomery was fantastic, but the game was still close. We didn’t want a replay of what happened in Baltimore last night. Chad Green didn’t allow that to happen. He gave the Yankees two innings of shutout ball with four strikeouts. Otto came on in the eighth to record one out as well. After Brett Gardner’s two-run home run in the bottom of the eight, Jonathan Holder came on and looked pretty good as well.
Aaron Boone needs to manage the innings of the pen well with Kahnle down. The return of Aroldis Chapman is a big boost, but we don’t know when he will be active. Remember, he didn’t have a Summer Camp. And yes, the thirty man roster gives more options, but not every pitcher is in the circle of trust™. The Yankees don’t want to stress their bullpen arms too early in the season especially with potential double headers on the horizon. As the Yankees rotation continues to find its footing, Boone’s bullpen management will be in full focus.
- The Yankees had a fantastic pre-game ceremony celebrating the frontline workers of New York City. Both the Yankees and Red Sox banged on trash cans as a nod to the 7pm celebration for essential workers during the height of the pandemic in the tri-state area. It was awesome.
- The legend Suzyn Waldman sang the national anthem for her radio booth. For those that don’t know, Suzyn is an accomplished stage actress and singer. This wasn’t a gimmick. She did a fantastic job as usual. There is a great story about Waldman telling Gerrit Cole back in 2011 that she would sing the national anthem when Cole signed as a free agent with the Yankees. Cole and Waldman shared a great moment saluting one another once the anthem ended. Suzyn is a treasure.
- The series continues tomorrow night as Masahiro Tanaka makes his season debut. It will be great to see Masa on the mound after taking that Giancarlo Stanton line drive off his head in Summer Camp. The game will be on FOX at 7:05 pm. Have a great night everyone.