Like many other Yankees, Giancarlo Stanton is off to a slow start offensively. He went 0-for-4 last night, which brought his full season line down to .167/.231/.278 (43 wRC+) in 39 plate appearances. It’s a far cry from the Stanton we saw last October.
People love to point at Stanton’s strikeout rate when he’s struggling, but that’s not the issue for him right now. His 28.1 percent K-rate is in line with his career norms. Rather, Stanton’s batted ball profile is his biggest issue at the moment. Including last night’s game in which he hit three groundouts, Stanton now has 16 grounders on 25 batted balls (64 percent). We’re used to watching him hit lasers and majestic fly balls, not worm killers. It’s also worth mentioning that he has three pop-ups so far, too. Those are also no good.
Stanton’s lifetime ground ball rate is just north of 43 percent, making his current (extremely small sample) performance a major outlier. On the bright side, he’s still stinging the baseball. Giancarlo’s 60 percent hard hit rate is in the 92nd percentile of the league. So, it just seems like something is off with his swing. I couldn’t tell you whether that’s mechanical, timing, or both (or something else!), but it’s clear that something’s not right.
The Yankees got absolutely no offensive production from the upper two-thirds of their lineup – seriously! They went 0-19! – but they won the game 3-1 over Toronto anyway. That’s because they have a legitimate and incredible top-of-the-rotation ace in Gerrit Cole and got some clutch production from the bottom third of the order, namely the backup catcher.
In baseball, you are going to win 50 games and lose 50 games every year. It’s what you do in the other 62 that will make and break your season. This one had all the makings of one of the 50 losses but they got it done, and it feels like they stole a win today. They improve to 5-5 on the young season and they’re winners of two straight. Let’s get to today’s takeaways, right after the jump.
This will be the second time Gerrit Cole faces Toronto this season. Last time out, the ace struck out eight and allowed two runs in 5.1 innings. The Blue Jays counter with Robbie Ray, who’s making his season debut after beginning the year on the injured list. Here are the lineups behind the starters:
New York Yankees (4-5)
DJ LeMahieu, 1B
Giancarlo Stanton, DH
Aaron Judge, RF
Gleyber Torres, SS
Gio Urshela, 3B
Clint Frazier, LF
Rougned Odor, 2B
Kyle Higashioka, C
Mike Tauchman, CF
RHP Gerrit Cole
Toronto Blue Jays (4-5)
Marcus Semien, 2B
Bo Bichette, SS
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B
Randal Grichuk, CF
Cavan Biggio, 3B
Lourdes Gurriel Jr., LF
Rowdy Tellez, DH
Alejandro Kirk, C
Josh Palacios, RF
LHP Robbie Ray
News & Notes
Aaron Hicks is sitting out today. Aaron Boone relayed to the media that it’s been an understandably difficult day for Hicks after Minnesota police officer shot and killed Daunte Wright yesterday. (Lindsey Adler)
Although Stanton is still in the lineup, he’s weighing whether or not to play tonight. (Bryan Hoch)
Clarke Schmidt received a cortisone injection for his common extensor (elbow) strain. If it’s effective, he could start throwing again in the next couple of weeks. (Bryan Hoch)
First pitch is scheduled for 7:07pm on YES and WFAN. Enjoy the game.
Well it only took 11 days for the Yankees to see the same opponent twice. After starting the year against the Blue Jays in New York, the Yankees will face off against them again in their home of Toronto Dunedin. This tweet from Jayson Stark sums it up nicely:
Their story so far
Just like the Yankees, the Blue Jays are off to a 4-5 start and are yet to sweep a series or be swept. After taking two of three from the Bombers, the Blue Jays promptly lost two out of three to both the Rangers and Angels.
Two main storylines have emerged for the Blue Jays thus far. First, as we’ll get to more in a moment, are the injuries. In addition to the typical injuries Derek discussed in the last series preview, the Blue Jays are currently dealing with players on the COVID-19 IL. Both Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernández have been placed on that IL – vaccine side effects for Gurriel Jr. meaning he could return as soon as he feels better and exposure for Hernández who will miss this series.
Second is the Blue Jays current home at their Spring Training site in Dunedin. It was surmised that this bandbox will lead to lots of runs, and through three games so far, 36 runs have been scored. Look for offense and lots of it over the next few days. And of course, cue the complaints about the games taking too damn long. Now that I’ve said that, you can expect three straight pitching duels.
So, this game was pretty wild, right? I’m sure all of you missed these games where you run through the entire spectrum of emotions. You hate the team for a few innings, and then you end up loving them because they remind you they’re great. It is also nice to get the first win of the year against the Rays. The pinstripes take the final game of the series by the score of 8-4 in ten innings. They are now 4-5. Here are the takeaways.
1.Montgomery’s Grind: Coming off a stellar performance in his season debut, nothing came easy for Jordan Montgomery today. It was clear from the onset of the game that he didn’t have his control. He hit Austin Meadows up and in. The hit by pitch was an immediate indication that Montgomery would be fighting it all game. There wasn’t one pitch that Jordan could turn to help bail him out. It was a frustrating performance, to say the least.
Over the course of his career, Jordan Montgomery has done a good job of limiting hard contact. That was not the case today. Coming into this game, the Tampa Bay Rays ranked 20th in the Majors in barrel %. No one is going to confuse this lineup with Murderer’s Row. Yet, Tampa routinely teed off on Montgomery during his start. Here is a pretty exit velocity chart:
If your computer, tablet, or phone started heating up, don’t worry about the device. It’s just all the fire coming from those exit velocities. This is a direct result of Montgomery’s inability to control or command the strike zone. The Rays were able to square up Jordan’s offerings consistently. It didn’t matter if it was up in the zone, low in the zone, away, or inside; the Rays were getting their hacks in. Monty had a real tough time finding a reliable pitch to help navigate through the start.
For as great as his changeup was in Jordan’s first start, that is how bad the pitch was in his second. I mentioned in an earlier takeaways post that the Yankees are really emphasizing increased changeup usage. Montgomery used to throw the pitch as a younger pitcher but lost the feel for the pitch after Tommy John surgery. As previously mentioned, the change looked great in the first start. It wasn’t very good in this game. Here is his pitch chart.
The location on 95% of these pitches is bad. That is not where you want the majority of your changeups to live. It reached a point where the Rays started sitting changeup. Out of his five pitches, the changeup gave up the loudest contact. The problem was turning to a pitch that he could command consistently. This is Montgomery’s full pitch chart:
The command was really the issue today. His stuff looked pretty good. Some pitches had good movement. There wasn’t anything alarming that stood out. He couldn’t harness his pitches. Out of his 82 pitches, 48 of them were strikes.
There is one positive to take from this start. Montgomery is much more efficient than his first year in the majors. Despite struggling all game, he made it into the fifth inning and may have gone a little longer if it wasn’t the second start of the year. A younger version of Jordan Montgomery wouldn’t have made it to the fifth. It wasn’t a good start, but there is growth.
2. The Bullpen Continues to Perform: Amidst the inconsistent performances from the offense and starters early on in the season, the Yankees bullpen has been shoving since Opening Day. Quite frankly, the bullpen won this game for the team. Chad Green was fantastic this afternoon. He came on for Montgomery in the fifth and recorded the next seven outs.
Chad Green shut the Rays’ offense down. I mentioned earlier that the Rays were making loud contact off Montgomery. That was not the case with Green. They couldn’t barrel his pitches up.
This looks much better than Montgomery’s exit velocities. Green has done a fantastic job with his fastball/curveball mix. He’s been able to get a lot of strikes off both offerings. His fastball had a 37% called strike/whiff rate, while his curve was 25%. When you’re a two-pitch pitcher, and both of them can generate rates like this, you’re going to be pretty effective.
The formula is pretty clear for Green. He wants to throw the four-seamer up in the zone and then have you chase the curve off the plate. It’s a pretty straightforward approach, but the execution needs to be good. Green executed really well.
That is what allows a pitcher to go 2.1IP of no-hit, scoreless ball. Green is off to a great start.
Aroldis Chapman is also off to a great start. Bobby wondered in our Views slack if Chapman’s bout with Covid impacted his velocity last year. It could very well be the case. Either way, he’s routinely throwing gas again.
Of course, Aroldis threw over 100 last year. But he wasn’t throwing this hard this early in the season last year. He needed to build up to that velocity. This isn’t the case this year. He’s going after hitters with gas and swag. He’s also flashing good control of the pitch as well.
We’ve seen a bunch of these fastballs sail over the catcher or the batter’s head on numerous occasions. There always seems to be a fear in the back of Yankees’ fans’ minds that Chapman may walk the park. This is the elite and dominant version of Aroldis right now. He isn’t messing around. The closer gave up a double to Yankee-killer Mike Zunino and then promptly disposed of Plado in the next at-bat with easy gas and a staredown. He put the Yankees in a position to win the game in the tenth. Aaron Boone also deserves some love for his decision to go with his closer in a tied game in the ninth. It was the right call, and it paid off.
Here is a great note about the bullpen quartet of Chapman, Green, and O’Day, and Jonathan Loaisgia from New York Yankees Stats on Twitter:
3. The Offense Wakes Up At Just The Right Time: The offense is the big topic amongst Yankees’ fans early in the season. Whether it’s Jay Bruce or Aaron Hicks or pick your favorite Yankee, the lineup has repeatedly drawn the ire of a frustrated fan base. I’ve routinely practiced patience about the offense. They arguably have the best lineup in MLB. They’ve demonstrated this year in and year out. They deserve the benefit of the doubt because they put up elite numbers every season. Before today, the Yankees played eight games. Eight. There are times throughout the season when an offense will be inconsistent for eight games.
The key thing to remember is that the Yankees have created traffic in almost every game they’ve played. In a little over 50% of their games, they’ve put at least twelve runners on base in a game via a hit, walk, or HBP. Run production is the ultimate function of any offense. You can’t score many runs if you don’t have runners on base. The main problems for the Yankees are getting the big hit and a general lack of power. It isn’t an ability to put men on the bases.
It appeared this game would be another virtuoso performance of missed opportunities. The Yankees had the bases loaded twice and hit into double plays. They had two runners on base with no outs and failed to score because of poor baserunning and untimely hitting. They had a runner on third base and ran into an out because of the silly contact play. There were numerous chances to blow this game wide open, and the Yankees seemingly did everything in their power to lose it.
Until the new guy, Rougned Odor, stepped up to the plate in the tenth inning and delivered the early season’s biggest hit. Odor put up a professional at-bat against Collin McHugh and hit a single into center field for the go-ahead run. This is why Cashman traded for him. He is a low-cost, power-lefty bat that gives the lineup some flexibility. He had pretty strong at-bats all game without positive results. Odor came through when it mattered the most.
And keeping with the theme of big hits, the Yankees immediately blew the game open. It isn’t a coincidence this happened as soon as Odor knocked in the go-ahead run. They just needed that one knock to shift the momentum. They got back-to-back hits from Gary and Gio, and the game was over.
Speaking of Gary and Gio, they have been two of the bright spots in the Yankees’ lineup so far. Gary has been the team’s best hitter despite the thoughts of a racist journalist who should retire and spare us from his garbage takes. After a shaky start, Gio has been heating up. He’s been hitting the fastball well lately, which is a good sign considering his elbow surgery recovery. The duo is trying their best to keep the team afloat while the other guys find their hitting strides.
This is a reminder the offense will be fine. That is the unit you should worry the least about.
The Yankees will be back at it tomorrow against the Dunedin Blue Jays. The game starts at 7 pm ET and will be on YES. Gerrit Cole will be on the mound. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday evening.