Good morning everyone. And it is indeed a good morning — the Yankees have won the first two of this week’s series against the Rays at Tropicana Field and go for the sweep tonight. It’s really nice to finally see the team win a couple of games at that awful excuse of a ballpark. With that out of the way, let’s get to some of my Yankees-related thoughts.
On the catcher situation. I understand why the Yankees turned to Kyle Higashioka more than Gary Sánchez toward the end of last month, but at this point, we’re starting to see Higgy’s limitations as a near-everyday player. Keep in mind that this is someone who hasn’t caught a significant workload since 2016, when he caught 102 games split between Double-A and Triple-A.
Happy Wednesday, everyone. The Yankees have won 4 of their last 6 games and they look like they’re starting to right the ship a bit. There are still a few too many mistakes – the base running errors make me want to tear my hair out – but I’m encouraged. Let’s hope the Yankees take it to Baltimore tonight and build on Corey Kluber’s great start last night. That would be a good way to keep the momentum going.
Before then though, here are some thoughts about the way the Yankees are performing so far. Let’s get right to ’em.
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:
NYY excl. Cole
SP in two strike counts.
NYY excl. Cole
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.
Friends, Opening Day is tomorrow. Tomorrow! You love to see that. The Yankees will take on the Blue Jays at 1:05 pm in the Bronx. Gerrit Cole will be on the hill. I am excited, and there’s a lot to say. Today should be quiet, though we’ll likely hear some rumblings about the 26th man on the roster and perhaps get some news. We’ll keep you posted on all of that as it develops.
Here are some thoughts to hold you over as we all get ready to cheer on the Yankees in the first real season since 2019.
Happy Wednesday, friends. We are rapidly approaching Opening Day, but there are still Spring Training games before then. Here is the broadcast schedule through the rest of the Grapefruit League to hold us over for the rest of the week.
Here’s hoping that the Yanks can stay healthy in that time, too. Anyway, on to today’s thoughts.
1. Opening Day Next Week: Opening Day is one week from tomorrow, which is wild. It really snuck up on me this year. Still, I am excited for the season – and you should be, too. The games are really going to matter right away. The Yankees are the hands-on favorite to win the American League East, and they’ll have a chance to emphatically make that case nearly right away: 19 of the team’s first 25 games (76%) are inter-divisional matchups.
Now, those aren’t exactly spread out evenly, either. Here is how it breaks down:
Baltimore Orioles: 7 games (3 at home)
Tampa Bay Rays:6 games (3 at home)
Toronto Blue Jays: 6 games (3 at home)
Notably missing is the Red Sox, so the Yanks are getting a big chunk of their non-Boston divisional rival games out of the way early. That is significant. Tampa got worse since we last saw them, but I won’t count them out. (Baseball Prospectus tags them for 86 wins; FanGraphs says 84.) Toronto, on the other hand, got better, but is dealing with a Yankee-like deluge of injuries right now. (BP has them at 84 wins; FanGraphs 88.) Both will be looking to challenge the Goliath Yankees and will have a chance to make their mark early on.
While it is a long season – and it feels nice to be able to say that again after last year’s weirdness – this still feels important. As Matt noted, there are four off-days, not counting an inevitable rainout. The good news for the Yankees is that this means they can turn to team ace Gerrit Cole more often than not.
The bottom line is that these early games are going to matter. The Yankees, barring a major surprise, will be the best team in the American League East, if not the entire league. It would be awfully nice for the team to get out to a hot start and put some distance between themselves and their closest competition right way. The schedule means they’ll have a great opportunity to do so. Let’s hope they don’t miss it.