It’s no secret that Gerrit Cole is off to an incredible start in 2021. Through 10 starts, he is doing exactly what the Yankees acquired him to do and more – he’s currently 6-2 with a 1.81 ERA, 92 strikeouts in only 64.2 innings, and an incredible 226 ERA+. Even his bad starts are merely average. Although the true Gerrit Cole experience in New York may have been delayed, fans are finally hoping to see what a full season of ace pitching will look like from the team’s marquee 2019 signing, and so far we have not been disappointed.
If we were to project Cole’s early-season stats to an entire year, assuming he pitches approximately 200 innings, the results would be pretty mind-blowing; you would see something in the range of an 18-win season with over 270 strikeouts and 8+ WAR. Although the year is young, I couldn’t help but wonder – that would be the Yankees’ best starting pitching season in a really long time, right? Where could Gerrit Cole rank in the pantheon of recent Yankees’ aces when the book is closed on 2021?
Throughout their vaunted history, the Yankees have employed many great pitchers who have done many great things. However, most lists of the “greatest Yankees starting pitchers of all time” and “greatest single-season Yankees starting pitching performances” feature predominantly, if not exclusively, performances from before 1980. 1980 was a long time ago – Gerrit Cole, in fact, was not born until September 8, 1990. Cole is clearly poised to become the standard-bearer for a new era of Yankees pitching, but he may also be on his way to the best season the Yankees have seen since before his own birth. To contextualize, I bring you a few excellent seasons by Yankees starting pitching, post-1990 edition.
Fresh off a tense walk-off win last night and tough first few innings, the Yankees jumped on Dylan Cease the 2nd time through to ultimately make this one a 7-0 laugher.
The Bombers have now won 5 in a row, are 8-0-2 in their last 10 series, and have gone 22-9 since April 20, which is the best record in the bigs. Let’s get to the takeaways:
Gerrit Cole battled through 7 scoreless with some help from the defense. Folks, this was far from Gerrit Cole’s best start, yet he still got through 7 scoreless. From the first inning, you could tell he didn’t have his usual stuff or command as seen by the pitch plot.
Everything was pretty much all over the place. With Cole, you usually want to see fastballs up and everything else down. Yet this here is a mess. After only walking 5 batters in his first 9 starts combined, Cole walked 3 on the afternoon. At one point, he even had more walks than strikeouts.
So, how did Cole manage to get through 7 scoreless? With some timely defense of all things. The Yankees reversed the script and instead of hitting into an unconscionable amount of double plays managed to turn four of their own to support their ace on a tough day for him. Here’s how they happened:
Cole did not have his typical swing-and-miss stuff today. He averages over a 30% whiff on all of his pitches, yet today his whiff% was only 27% and he did not get a single whiff on any of his sliders. Instead, he generated a ton of groundballs. He got 10 groundouts compared to only 1 flyout which unusual for him, yet needed on a day like today.
After being staked to a lead in the 4th, Cole shut the White Sox down over his last 3 frames. Take a look at his velocity chart to see how he got stronger as the game went on:
Those last few fastballs hummed in at 100mph or higher and led to striking out the side in the 7th. Great to end his day with a few FU fastballs.
Everyday is Gleyber day. After being the hero last night, Gleyber picked up right where he left off. Dylan Cease DOMINATED the Yankees the first time through, but things unraveled for him in the 4th. After a single by Aaron Judge (who is also on fire) and a great walk from Gio Urshela, up came Gleyber and here’s what he did:
Look at how he stays back on that curve and drives it into the gap. That gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead, and with the way Cole was “struggling” that hit was much needed. Up again with runners on in the 5th, Gleyber came through again:
Per Jack Curry, Gleyber only saw 1 fastball in those 2 at-bats. After a rough start to the season, it’s great to see Gleyber coming around. In his last 16 games, he’s batting over .300, and since coming off the COVID IL this week, he’s hitting over .500 with 6 RBI just this weekend.
Tack on runs are nice. In that majestic 4th inning, right after Gleyber’s 2-run double, Rougned Odor kept the Yanks foot on the Sox neck with a double of his own to extend the lead to 3-0.
Clutch hitting is nice.
Mike Ford got in on the action as well with a 447 blast:
The Yankees starting pitching is unreal right now. That’s 30 straight scoreless from the starters, and 4 straight games of 7+ IP without allowing a run.
Justin Wilson and Luis Cessa threw scoreless innings in relief to close this one out.
The only damper on this game is Kyle Higashioka. After a hot start, he’s 3 for his last 33. Might be time to rethink the catcher platoon.
The Yankees go for the sweep tomorrow afternoon. It’ll be Jameson Taillon against former Yankee killer Dallas Keuchel. The Yankees are 1-6 when going for the sweep this year, so let’s see them change that tomorrow. Catch the game at 1:05pm Eastern.
That was a joy to watch. Gerrit Cole basically won this one all by himself, throwing eight shutout innings en route to a 1-0 win. Tampa Bay might as well have stayed in the dugout for the entirety of this one, because there was no touching Cole.
Some insurance runs would have been nice, but again, they weren’t needed. The offense broke through for its lone run on an Aaron Hicks sacrifice fly in the seventh inning. More on Cole, the offense, and some leftovers after the jump.
Let’s keep it short as it was a 1 pm start on a work day. The great Yankees bullpen couldn’t do the job today to get the sweep against the Astros. It happens and they will blow some games here and there. They are still awesome and will be awesome more times than bad. So it ends the winning streak, but let’s get another one going.
Today seems like a good day to stop the slide. The Yankees have been pretty putrid for the last two games, two ugly losses against the Rays. As many fans–including many of you loyal readers–would tell it, this young season has been at least mildly frustrating to many and down right infuriating to others. For some, that boiled over on Friday night with fans throwing things onto the field.
As I wrote on Twitter Saturday morning, I’m much more frustrated with people who do that than with a struggling baseball team. The latter is to be expected, even with a team as talented as the Yankees. The former is unacceptable and dangerous. Please be better, Yankee fans.
While that’s not a good way to hit a release valve, we all need to at some point. That includes me despite the patience I’ve been preaching online and in real life. So here’s my release valve, my early airing of the grievances, so to speak.
On the micro level, I’m annoyed with Aaron Boone pulling his patented ‘get one more inning out of the starter’ act, which almost never works. He did it yesterday and it helped put the game out of reach. Of course, Jordan Montgomery shouldn’t be throwing five balls in a row, but there was no need for him to be in after the sixth inning.
I’m also frustrated with the team’s handling of Clint Frazier, which Derek detailed already, even before Frazier sat out on Saturday. The entire lineup seems to be slumping, save one or two guys, but only Frazier is the one who’s not allowed to work through his slump in game action. His replacement, veteran Brett Gardner, isn’t exactly lighting things on fire. He’s got two hits and three walks in his last 18 PA. Is this really an improvement?
The offense in general has been frustrating to watch, and Randy summed up why pretty easily yesterday:
When an offense isn’t getting breaks, it’s not too hard to watch. But when an offense is in between, as Randy noted, it’s awful. They seem to miss everything hittable and hit everything missable. That’s no good for anyone. But I still trust this team will hit and hit well.
The non-Gerrit Cole rotation has been disappointing to watch as a whole. Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon haven’t lived up to their upside yet, but I’m willing to give them more time. Montgomery has been fine, but it would be nice to see him find a groove over the next few starts. Maybe not playing Tampa so much will help him and everyone.
Speaking of Cole, he’s the release valve today, right? He’s the guy the Yankees can turn to now after a losing streak and feel confident that he will stop it. With a win today, with a typical Cole outing, he can help us all head into the Yankees’ off day with confidence that things will turn around.