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Lucas Luetge was a pleasant surprise [2021 Season Review]

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No one expected Lucas Luetge to make the big league team out of camp, let alone remain on the roster for the entire 162 games. And yet, that’s exactly what the veteran left hander did. An incredible Grapefruit League performance turned heads and earned him a spot on the Yankees’ Opening Day roster. Luetge rewarded the team’s faith with a 2.74 ERA and 2.84 FIP across 72.1 innings.

On paper, the Yankees’ bullpen looked terrific entering 2021. They didn’t need much more help with the likes of Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Chad Green, and Jonathan Loáisiga expected to handle the late innings. Things changed over time due to injuries (Britton) and performance variations (Chapman), but for the most part, the back-end of the bullpen didn’t need help. So when Luetge proved to be very effective, albeit more so in the middle frames rather than late in games, the rich got richer.

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Jordan Montgomery was a steady hand [2021 Season Review]

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There’s nothing overly exciting about Jordan Montgomery’s game. And yet, he sure is competent. The tall lefty made 30 starts, tossed 157.1 innings, and recorded a 3.83 ERA (112 ERA+) in 2021. He did miss a couple of starts because of COVID-19, but otherwise, he was about as dependable as it gets.

In spite of Monty’s strong year, some were left unsatisfied, mainly because of a brutal final performance. In fact, he picked the worst time to have his worst start of the season: Game 161 against the Rays. The Yankees still hadn’t clinched a playoff spot and Monty’s bad game (knocked out in the third inning) forced the Yanks into a pivotal Game 162.

Don’t let that clunker cloud your memory of Montgomery’s 2021 campaign, though. There’s no denying that it was awful timing for a miserable game, but the fact of the matter is that the southpaw was instrumental to one of MLB’s best rotations this year.

Gerrit Cole and the sticky stuff crackdown [2021 Season Review]

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On June 9th, Gerrit Cole tossed six innings of two-run ball against the Twins. He ended the day with a 2.31 ERA through his 13 starts of the season. Whether he knew it was coming or not, it was the last day the Yankees’ ace was able to utilize whatever grip enhancers he had enjoyed since his days with the Astros. In turn, a narrative was born.

Never mind that Cole pitched brilliantly for most of the season post enforcement and before he hurt his hamstring. A few ugly starts, along with a poor Wild Card game performance, left a bad taste in many folks’ mouths. Concern was understandable given his emergence with the apparent aid of sticky stuff, but there was a collective narrow mindedness about it too.

All told, the righty finished the season with a 3.23 ERA in 181.1 innings and was the runner up to Robbie Ray in the AL Cy Young Award voting. By no means was this Cole’s best work — I think he’d admit that — but it was a very good year even with a few bumps in the road.

The healthy and great Giancarlo Stanton [2021 Season Review]

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As noted in our bold predictions review, if before Opening Day you told me that Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge would be (mostly) healthy all year, I’d have expected the Yankees to be an offensive juggernaut. Of course, the Bombers weren’t in spite of two of the team’s biggest stars remaining available all year long. The offensive malaise certainly wasn’t their fault, though.

I thought Stanton might sneak in one or two 10th place MVP award votes thanks to his overall strong batting line (137 wRC+) along with a great second half. He didn’t, but that’s no biggie. More importantly, Stanton reminded us of what it’s like to have him in the lineup regularly again for the first time since 2018. And wow, was he fun to watch.

The Curious Case of Michael King [2021 Season in Review]

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Coming into 2021, Michael King was not necessarily envisioned to be a big part of the Yankees’ bullpen. A 2016 Miami Marlins draftee, King came into spring training with just 28.2 major league innings under his belt, all with the Yankees and mostly in the shortened 2020 season.  While his 2021 season, like much of the Yankees’ season, was up and down, King nonetheless showed growth and promise that the Yankees should hope to build on in 2022.

King made the major league roster out of spring training and immediately caught eyes – in his first appearance of the season on April 4, he tossed six scoreless innings in relief of Domingo German in a 3-1 loss to Toronto.  Efficient and effective in that outing, he used only 68 pitches to get through the fourth through ninth innings, giving up one hit and striking out three.  

He was optioned to the Alternate Site (RIP Alternate Site) after that outing, and after each of the two additional appearances he made for the major league club in April in more typical middle-relief roles.  Despite logging frequent flyer miles throughout the early part of the season, King continued to impress, throwing 11 scoreless innings before giving up his first run of the season on May 13.  

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