The New York Yankees in July – Part Two – The Pitchers (2021)

The Yankees 14-9 record in July was due in no small part to their pitching. Their record improved after the All-Star break. They were 9-5 afterwards, 5-4 before.

The Yankees brought in two new pitchers at the trading deadline – Andrew Heaney (SP) from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Joely Rodriguez (RP) from the Texas Rangers but neither of them made their debut for their new club before the end of July.

Heaney was traded for minor leaguers, Janson Junk and Elvis Peguero (both right-handers). Joely Rodriguez may be more of a make-weight, as there is no question that the Yankees main target in the trade was outfielder, Joey Gallo. The players who went in the opposite direction were right-hander pitcher, Glenn Otto and infielders Josh H.Smith, Ezequiel Duran and Trevor Hauver.

In addition, they had added Clay Holmes (RP) from the Pittsburgh Pirates on the 26th of the month in exchange for Hoy Park and Diego Castillo. A curious move saw relievers Luis Cessa and Justin Wilson join the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for a player to be named later. It was no surprise that the Yankees wanted to offload Wilson because the veteran has struggled all season long but giving up Cessa who has had a solid year and been with the Yankees for a number of years when they weren’t particularly targeting anybody in return is strange.

Let’s look at the pitchers who play in July, beginning with the starters…

Our table surveys all the key statistics:

NameWLERAGGSGFCGSvIPHRERBBKWHIP
Michael King (SP/RP)000.00101004.0300191.00
Clay Holmes (RP)000.00200002.0000010.00
Sal Romano (RP)000.00200002.1300031.29
Luis Cessa (RP)200.00301005.1200220.53
Jameson Taillon (SP)401.165500031.0206410250.97
Lucas Luetge (RP)*202.00801009.012421121.44
Jordan Montgomery (SP)132.935500027.2219911301.16
Nestor Cortes (SP/RP)003.004300015.010552140.80
Aroldis Chapman (RP)*014.001008059.04448161.33
Jonathan Loaisiga (RP)014.15802018.210441121.27
Domingo German (SP/RP)004.296300021.01310106270.90
Asher Wojciechowski (SP)004.50110004.0322341.50
Wandy Peralta (RP)*004.50201002.0111111.00
Gerrit Cole (SP)224.715502028.226161511471.29
Brooks Kriske (RP)115.40202001.2021120.60
Chad Green (RP)215.5411030113.09884191.00
Nick Nelson (SP/RP)006.75210001.1111524.50
Zack Britton (RP)*009.00701006.0776652.17
Darren O’Day (RP)0013.50100000.2111214.50
Justin Wilson (RP)*0014.73501003.2566322.18
Albert Abreu (RP)0032.40200001.2466414.80
Name/PosWLERAGGSGFCGSvIPHRERBBKWHIP
The New York Yankees – their pitchers in July 2021 in order of ERA

Starters

The Yankees used a combination of 7 starters and openers in July.

Some of the temporary stand-ins were made necessary by the injury to Corey Kluber amd the ongoing absence of Luis Severino.

The four main starters were Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, Jameson Taillon and (surprisingly!) Nestor Cortes. The fifth starter, Domingo German had a complicated month which began on the day he was expected to start against Seattle but developed a need to attend the dentist. He required some root canal surgery. This meant that the Yankees had to press Nick Nelson into action has a makeshift opener. After that they brought on Luis Cessa and then rather surprisingly giving the events of the day, Cessa was replaced by German who did enough to keep the Yankees ahead but gave up 3 runs in 3 innings. The Yankees then chose to use German as a reliever in his next two appearances. Given all of the chopping and changing, German’s month wasn’t great but it could have been worse. His WHIP of 0.90 was more than solid.

Another surprise was that Jameson Taillon was by some considerable distance the best of the Yankees’ starting pitchers – and indeed the best July pitcher in the whole of the American League. Across his five starts, he took 4 wins and a no-decision and averaged more than 6 innings per start. His ERA of 1.16 was the best of anyone who appeared in 4 or more games for the Yankees during that month and his 0.97 WHIP emphasised just how huge his improvement had been since his struggles in April and May.

Jordan Montgomery struggled and his only win of the month came in his last start of the month on the 27th of the month against Tampa Bay. His first three starts were losses and his fourth was a no-decision. Given all that, his 21 hits conceded in July across more than 27 innings doesn’t seem too bad but keep a close eye on that walks column.

We discussed the beginning of Gerrit Cole’s struggles last month and that trend continued into the first start of July in the first game of a doubleheader against the Mets on the Independence Day holiday. He conceded 6 hits and 4 earned runs in 3 1/3 innings – a deficit which the Yankees never recovered from and Cole took the loss. However, Cole bounced back in his next three starts. Indeed, in his very next start against Houston, he pitched the complete game, giving up only 3 hits and without conceding any runs. His fourth start of the month (third in this sequence) was a game where the Yankees went behind early and never closed the gap with Boston putting ten runs on the scoreboard. Consequently, Cole who gave up 3 runs in 5 innings took the loss. His final game of the month saw his struggles really return. In a 14-zip loss to Tampa Bay, Cole gave up 8 runs in 5.1 innings from 6 hits and 2 walks. There are real questions about where Cole goes from here to become the consistent pitcher he was in the first two months of the season.

Nestor Cortes isn’t really a starter but he’s perhaps more than a reliever. He doesn’t have an over-powering pitch but in the short-term this might just be to his advantage because batters can’t seem to figure out what’s coming next. Perhaps they think he must have something in his arsenal which he hasn’t released yet – so they’re too cautious. In the long term, this advantage is going to disappear but for now it is just fine and dandy. In his four games in July (3 starts, 1 in relief), he didn’t take any decisions. On the 23rd against the Red Sox, he came on in relief of Gerrit Cole. This was his worst outing of the month. The following appearance when the Yankees were in Tampa Bay, he was back in a starting role. This was the only time in the month when he reached the five complete innings point and it was his best outing of July. His 3.00 ERA and 0.80 WHIP show that he is clearly a good asset for the Yankees to have around but how they will use him in the long term and whether he can maintain this form is a mystery to me. Hey, he doesn’t even look like a major league ballplayer.

By the 21st of the month, the Yankees were really struggling for starting options and Philadelphia were in town for an inter-league game. They reached out to Triple-A Scranton and called up journey man, Asher Wojciechowski. Now this guy has the distinction of being the only major leaguer in history with the forename, Asher. More surprisingly there has been another player who made the majors who was called Wojciechowski. In case you haven’t been following Asher’s career in great detail, I’ll let you know that he debuted for Houston in 2015 (5 games, 7.16 ERA). He returned to the majors in 2017 and was now with Cincinnati (25 games, 6.50 ERA). He was back in 2019 but now on the Orioles staff, where across two years he pitched in 27 games and was really not a great deal more sucessful. On his call up to the Yankees, he pitched 4 innings, giving up three hits and two runs. The following day he was designated for assignment back to Scranton but declined the assignment and is currently pitching in the Seattle organisation.

Relievers

From the Yankees’ bullpen, a number of players spent time unavailable during July. Veteran Darren O’Day went first to the 10 day injured list and then to the 60 day. It’s hard to see him bouncing back and gaining a contract with any club in the future. Michael King who had made a good start to the month suffered a right finger contusion. Zack Britton, Jonathan Loaisiga and Wandy Peralta (twice) all spent periods unavailable. Sal Romano was signed to fill one of the gaps and then designated for assignment. And as previously mentioned Luis Cessa and Justin Wilson headed for fresh fields.

Bearing all this in mind, it is surprising that the bullpen held its own in July. Michael King who won’t play again in 2021, had a fine outing against the Mets on July 3rd when he closed out the game. It was, however a game that Jordan Montgomery and Justin Wilson had combined to give the Yankees a large deficit from which there was no coming back.

Clay Holmes came in during the last week of the month and contributed a couple of fine outings. He has struggled with inconsistency in the past and it remains to be seen how the future will unfold – many Yankees fans would have preferred to see them keep Hoy Park around.

Sal Romano and Luis Cessa pitched well before they moved to their new clubs. Romano is now with the Milwaukee organisation having been claimed off waivers.

Lefthander, Lucas Luetge‘s 2.00 ERA looks good but the fact that he allowed 13 batters to get on-base in 9 innings should be weighed in the scales as his 1.44 WHIP shows. This was his weakest month of the season so far.

Aroldis Chapman had spent most of June falling apart. He spent most of July bouncing back. However, he had a wretched outing on July 4 against the New Yorks Mets, when he couldn’t get anybody out for love or money. He blew the save and took the loss. Nobody was expecting much when he took the field two days later in Seattle and consequently nobody was disappointed. He gave up a hit and two walks but somehow the Mariners didn’t score and the Yankees’ margin of victory was already huge if they had. Of his remaining eight appearances in July, five resulted in saves and he only conceded one earned run.

Jonathan Loaisiga wasn’t as consistent as he has been previously but whether he is simply mopping up innings in a losing game or keeping the game tight, he is always useful to have around.

Wandy Peralta’s fitness difficulties limited his appearances to two on the month. At least when he was fit, it meant that they didn’t have to depend on Nick Nelson and Brooks Kriske who were no better than on their previous visits to the Bronx.

Chad Green didn’t handle pressure situations at all well in July. With Aroldis Chapman struggling and Zack Britton either inconsistent or unavailable, Green was pressed into action in the 9th inning on a couple of occasions. It is fair to say that those days didn’t go as well for him as those when he was in his usual role. On July 11, he came on in the ninth to defend a three run lead against the Astros. 4 runs later, he walked back to the dugout with a bowed head. Again on the 22nd against Boston, he came on with a 3-1 lead. This time his lapse meant that the game went into extra innings where Aaron Boone chose to call on Brooks Kriske. Sufficient to say this meant another loss. If we subtract these games, we find that in the remainder of the month he pitched eleven and two-third innings for 2 earned runs which sounds more like our usual Chad Green. There is an obvious lesson here…

As previously mentioned, Zack Britton wasn’t himself either. From June 26th to July 15th, he was on the injured list with a hamstring injury. Of the 7 games he played in after his return, five saw him concede run(s) and only two saw him keep a clean sheet. This all resulted in an ERA of 9.00 and a WHIP over 2.

Last on our list, Albert Abreu has been pretty consistent at the major league level during his bounces between New York and Scranton. This wasn’t the case in July. He did well on the 21st against the Phillies – he pitched 1.2 inning and only conceded two walks. 8 days later, as he faced Tampa Bay, he conceded 4 hits and two walks which led to 6 runs without being able to get anyone out.

Somewhere through this the Yankees did respectably. Partly it was due to the massive improvement in Jameson Taillon’s form, partly it was fed by the enthusiasm of the Yankees’ call-ups and their deals that were made prior to the deadline. Largely, it was just part of the mystery which is the wonder of the marvellous game of baseball. Let’s see what August brings…

The New York Yankees – The Best Pitchers in July 2021 1-5 (from LtoR): Jameson Taillon,
Nestor Cortes, Clay Holmes, Luis Cessa, Jonathan Loaisiga

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