Tag: Shane Bieber

The Yankees’ offense has thrown opponents a curve

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Breaking balls aren’t easy to hit. The entire league knows this. The Yankees know this. So, why bother swinging at them? That’s apparently the approach the Yankees are taking this postseason. And so far, so good. The Bronx Bombers have tallied 31 runs in 3 playoff games against some of the league’s top pitchers. Against pitchers with great breaking balls, mind you.

The Yankees have already defeated Shane Bieber and Blake Snell, two pitchers with elite breaking balls. Tonight, the offense faces another hurler with a terrific curve in Tyler Glasnow. Why not make it three-for-three? It’s going to be a very similar challenge to what they’ve already faced, after all. Bieber, Snell, and Glasnow all garner elite whiff rates on their breaking pitches. In fact, they had the top three whiff rates against their breaking balls (min. 100 pitches) this season:

PitcherWhiff Rate (%)
Blake Snell54.9
Shane Bieber54.3
Tyler Glasnow52.8

All three of these guys have some of the best curves/sliders in the game, but the Yankees’ approach has been impeccable to date.

Let’s take last night, for example. Snell threw 13 of his 20 breaking balls out of the zone, per Statcast, and the Yankees offered just twice. Both swings were by DJ LeMahieu. I don’t know if Snell had a tell or if the Yankees are simply locked in, but that’s damn impressive. Especially since Snell had a 37.9 percent chase rate against his curveball during the regular season. Further, the Bombers only went after three breaking balls in the zone. The memorable ones: Aaron Judge’s dinger and Aaron Hicks’s sacrifice fly. The other was a 6-3 groundout off LeMahieu’s bat.

Wild Card Round Game 1: All you could ask for

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That was ideal, was it not? The Yankees clobbered Cleveland in Game 1 of this best-of-three series, 12-3. The offense was all over Shane Bieber and Gerrit Cole mowed down his opponent. It’s not like the Yankees needed to blow out Cleveland to feel comfortable, either. In fact, this one felt over after Aaron Judge’s two-run blast on the fourth pitch of the game. An early lead with Cole on the hill against a scuffling Cleveland offense? Just what the doctor ordered. Let’s break it down.

The bats took Bieber off his gameplan immediately. The Yankees’ offense may have been frustrating and inconsistent during the regular season, but that was far from the case tonight. Intimidated by the presumptive American League Cy Young winner? Not a chance. The Bombers took a 2-0 lead four pitches into this one. It completely took Shane Bieber off his game. DJ LeMahieu led off with a single and Aaron Judge followed with this:

That was quick. Bieber had come out firing all fastballs and the Yankees made him pay immediately. The right immediately shied away from his heater thereafter.

Bieber threw 27 fastballs the rest of the game, or 26.7 percent of his final 101 pitches. He’s not necessarily a fastball dominant pitcher as he used the pitch just over 37 percent in the regular season, but still. The Yankees scared him off the pitch.

Cleveland’s ace had a chance to settle down after a scoreless second and two relatively quick outs in the third inning. But instead, the Yankees’ relentless offense made him pay. Bieber fell behind Aaron Hicks 3-0, got it to 3-2, but then walked him. Up came Luke Voit:

Not a fastball, but rather, a cutter right down the pipe. Voit made him pay to give the Yanks a 3-1 lead.

The Yanks tallied a couple of more runs against Bieber in the fourth. Brett Gardner jumped a first pitch fastball for an RBI double and DJ LeMahieu delivered an RBI single up the middle against a heater too. The Yankees may not have seen Bieber’s fastball much, but when they did, they pounced. And they weren’t done jumping on Bieber’s fastball there. Gleyber Torres delivered the knockout blow in the fifth.

That was the end of Bieber’s night. 4 2/3 innings and 7 runs for the starter with a 1.77 ERA this season. Welp!

The offense didn’t let Bieber capitalize on his curveball, either. As impressive as it was to see the Yankees punish Bieber’s sporadically thrown fastball, it was also great to watch them not flail at too many of Bieber’s curveballs. Opponents had a .095 batting average, .143 slugging percentage, and 51.5 percent whiff rate against his yakker this season. Tonight, it’s not what they did when they put the ball in play (1-for-6), but rather, what they did against it otherwise.

Sure, Bieber racked up four Ks on his breaking ball, but that doesn’t tell the story. They whiffed on 7 of 18 swings (39 percent) against the curve, well below his regular season rate. They also fouled it off 5 times. Plus, Bieber was only able to nab 3 called strikes on it. It simply just wasn’t his typical putaway pitch this evening.

Overall, Bieber went to his curveball on 36 percent of his pitches this evening, 10 percent higher than in the regular season. That would have been a decent plan tonight had his curveball been fooling Yankees’ hitters. Instead, the offense was locked in. They hunted fastballs while spoiling Bieber’s curveball.

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