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Thoughts ahead of today’s rubber game against Toronto

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Happy hump day, folks. The Yankees are 5-6 as of this writing, and while that’s a less than ideal start to the season, it’s important to emphasize that there are still 151 games remaining on the slate. I’m not sure what the cause is, but it feels like everyone is hyper-focused and scrutinizing each and every pitch so far unlike any season prior. Perhaps that’s because people are more focused on baseball after 2020’s general awfulness. Nonetheless, as the old saying goes: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. So with that, I have some thoughts on the Bombers thus far.

The non-Cole starters need to do better finishing at-bats. Not everyone can be Gerrit Cole, obviously, but the rest of the Yankees’ rotation has had a lot of trouble putting away hitters when they get to two strikes. We saw it last night with Jameson Taillon, namely in his second inning. He wound up plunking a batter and walking another after getting to a couple of favorable two strike counts. Unfortunately, that’s been a theme for the Yankees’ starters thus far, other than the ace of course. Some numbers to chew on:

OBPK-Rate (%)
MLB.23345.0
NYY.26552.6
NYY excl. Cole.29744.5
SP in two strike counts.
OBPK-Rate (%)
MLB.19439.9
NYY.24540.6
NYY excl. Cole.30533.3
SP ahead in the count.

Ugly, to say the least. It’s no wonder that the rotation hasn’t been able to offer much length so far this season. Can’t go deep into games if you’re unable to put away opponents in pitcher’s counts consistently. As I noted in last night’s recap, the team has gotten 5+ innings from its starters four times in eleven games. All of those came from Cole and Jordan Montgomery.

Now, it’s very early in the season and I’m not ready to hit the panic button on this rotation. A few reasons why I’m still confident:

  • Corey Kluber will not maintain a 15.2 percent walk rate. Admittedly, his command has not been good to date. But we’ve seen flashes, and his stuff looks fine. There’s still some rust to shake off here.
  • Jordan Montgomery is terrific at suppressing hard contact. I know his last start didn’t exemplify this, but I believe that was a blip. Monty owns a career hard hit rate of 31.5 percent, well below the league mark of 35.1.
  • Jameson Taillon’s stuff looks sharp. He’s dotting his fastball up in the zone and getting tons of whiffs. He had a difficult time honing his breaking balls last night, but the movement and spin on those offerings are still very good. I think we’ll see more of the performance he gave in his first outing, plus some more length as he builds up.
  • Deivi García is waiting in the wings and even though Domingo Germán had two terrible starts, I think he’s perfectly capable of being a better-than-your-typical fifth starter.

The April Rotation

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One thing that we here at Views have harped on, especially Randy, is maximization of the talent on the 26-man roster. While we mean that on a more macro level, it can also be applied to micro level things, like the lineup or the rotation. 

A near constant quirk in the regular season schedule gives the Yankees four days off in April this year. If they so choose, they can rejigger their rotation to maximize the rotation’s talent by getting the most starts out of their top two pitchers while lessening the usage of their fifth starter, whether Deivi García or Domingo German

First let’s take a look at what it would look like if the Yankees just used a straight up rotation, everyone starts in order regardless of days off or days of rest. For argument’s sake, let’s say the rotation, 1-5, is: Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon, Jordan Montgomery, Fifth Starter. 

Straight up rotation
PitcherStartsAvg rest after first startOpponents
Cole64.8TOR, BAL, TOR, ATL, BAL, DET
Kluber54.75TOR, TB, TOR, ATL, BAL
Taillon54.75TOR, TB, TB, CLE, BAL
Montgomery54.75BAL, TB, TB, CLE, BAL
Fifth54.5BAL, TOR, TB, CLE, DET

Yankees Spring Training News & Notes: March 15, 2021

@HoodieGleyber

John Sterling and Michael Kay reunited for this afternoon’s broadcast on YES for the first time in two decades. A little bit of nostalgia was heartwarming on this freezing day in New York, no?

If you missed the duo’s reunion, you’ll have another chance to catch them together on March 22nd. That one’s a 6:30pm ballgame, so work may not interfere for some of you like it may have this afternoon.

Sterling and Kay got to call a 4-2 win over the Phillies. Domingo Germán was sharp again, which I’ll expand upon in a moment. Giancarlo Stanton had another nice game too. He tallied two hits, both absolutely crushed (110 and 120 MPH exit velos), and drove in two runs. Gary Sánchez and Rob Brantly pitched in a couple of RBI singles as well. Not that Grapefruit League records mean anything, but this win was the team’s sixth straight, moving the Yanks to 10-4. Now, onto the big story.

Room for Improvement: Deivi García

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Deivi García burst onto the major league scene last year as a 21 year old, making his long-awaited debut for prospect nerds like me. In 6 starts and 34.1 innings, he pitched to a 4.98 ERA and 4.15 FIP striking out 22.6 percent of batters faced while walking 4.1 percent.

For such a young player, García’s debut was impressive. And he’s still a top prospect, so there is much to be excited about. Deivi is known for his deadly fastball-curveball combination which confuses batters because it looks like this:

That’s the effect of a rising fastball combined with a curveball averaging nearly 2,700 RPM of spin. Although Deivi’s fastball spin rate and velocity are unremarkable – both rank in the 30th percentile of all major leaguers, the pitch plays up because of an elite active spin rate. 94.2% of García’s fastball spin is considered “active” which means it directly contributes to counteracting gravity and appearing to rise. That is how although Deivi typically throws in the low 90s, he gets swings and misses like this:

So, how can Deivi García improve this year to catapult himself from the back-end of the rotation into a rotation mainstay?

The “Battle” for the 5th Spot

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Entering spring training, the most prominent role to be defined in the Yankees’ 26-man Roster was the fifth Starter in the rotation. This “competition” allows us to analyze and write a few words about the candidates. So, lets do just that!

The Candidates

What seemed to be a four horse race at the beginning of the spring has sadly lost an interesting competitor. Clarke Schmidt, one of the most prominent pitching prospects in the Yankees system, has gone down with a common extensor strain in his elbow that will shut him down 3-4 weeks.

Also, I’m not considering Mike King or Nick Nelson in this exercise for different reasons. King because of the lack of a reliable secondary offering, and Nelson because of his lack of control (Career MiLB 4.8 BB/9). Also I think Nelson’s stuff plays up a lot in the bullpen and he could be a weapon there.

That leaves us with (ordered alphabetically by their last name): Jhoulys Chacín, Deivi García and Domingo Germán. Let’s see what the projection system’s tell us about those three players regarding their WAR:

SystemChacínGarcíaGermán
PECOTA-0.11.41.3
FGDC0.21.21.0
Steamer0.11.11.1
ZiPS1.12.12.1
Projections via FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus

The projections tell a clear story of two similarly productive pitchers (García and Germán), and an underdog (Chacín). With that in mind, let’s go under the hood for any further evidence on who should win the job.

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