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

It was October and the Yankees’ starting rotation was struggling.

While Gerrit Cole was on the active roster, the Yankees elected to not use him in the series with Tampa Bay in order that he might be ready for the Wild Card game.

Jameson Taillon was back from injury and a rehab assignment and ready to go but, as already noted in last month’s report, the Yankees had sent Andrew Heaney to the bullpen and now assigned him outright to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders (Triple-A) – an assignment he would decline and so elect to become a free agent.

Let’s see who rose above the challenges of the end of the year:

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

The New York Yankees starting rotation rather fell apart in September.

Towards the end of August, they had given up on using Andrew Heaney as a starter – in September he didn’t do any better as a reliever.

Luis Gil, who had an astonishing start to his career in the majors in August, didn’t even come close to repeating that form in the following month.

Jameson Taillon spent time on the injury list. Clarke Schmidt became available but struggled. Luis Severino was available for the first time in the longest but the Yankees weren’t willing to risk him as a starter given all of his injury difficulties. Domingo German was added to the roster but wasn’t chosen to play until October. Thankfully, the bullpen regulars performed extremely well…

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The New York Yankees in September – Part One – The Batters (2021)

The New York Yankees of September were not the New York Yankees of August. From the 4th to the 10th of the month, they had a 7 game losing streak. However, later in the month (20th to 28th) they were to match this with a 7 game winning streak.

Inconsistency was their watchword.

This all meant that they only closed the gap on Tampa Bay by one game across the whole month and as the month came to an end, they were locked in a blockbuster situation with only three games to play. They still needed to head off Boston, Toronto and Seattle to earn one of the Wildcard places and this was going right down to the wire.

Most of the batters struggled. Some were pretty good…

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

The Yankees’ pitchers were a major part of why they managed to transform their season by the upturn in their form in August.

Both starters and relievers hit a rich vein of form which made it much easier to turn runs into wins.

However, not everybody rediscovered their form. Let’s see who were those pitchers who led the way in August:

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The New York Yankees in August – Part One – The Batters (2021)

The New York Yankees had a 21-8 record on the month in August. It seems odd therefore, given that this was far and away their strongest month of the season, that I remain unconvinced about their potential to reach the post-season

On one hand, the vast majority of those wins came in consecutive games, when the momentum and positivity was spinning out of control. On the other hand, once that winning sequence was broken, they lost the four remaining games of the month – against the Oakland Athletics (a potential challenger for the New York team for a wild card spot) and against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim who went into their series with the Yankees below .500 on the season.

It is an interesting conundrum and it will be very interesting to see what September brings. Boston have remained in contention. Toronto are fast improving. Oakland will need to sort out some of their issues but could still challenge for a wild card spot and Seattle have also come into the reckoning.

The Yankees would need to maintain something like their August record to challenge the Tampa Bay Rays for the AL East division lead, which, frankly, I can’t see happening. This means that any two of five could capture the wild card route to the playoffs. The Yankees of August could do it. The Yankees of July will not.

Let’s see what happened in August-

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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…

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

The world of baseball pitching began to be shaken up in late-May and early-June as MLB announced that it would be checking the hats, gloves and belts of pitching staff during games.

Rumours had begun to spread about the use of a substance called Spider Tack which was allowing pitchers to get a better grip on the ball and consequently increases spin speeds. Players like Josh Donaldson of Minnesota became very vocal in their criticisms of pitchers including, for example, the New York Yankees’ Gerrit Cole.

Now, there have been allegations like that. There also been suggestions that spin speeds for certain pitchers have dropped since the announcement of the rule-enforcement may have caused some pitchers to relearn their craft but so far that’s all we know.

So as we examine these statistics for the month of May, let’s consider those pitchers whose performance seems to have varied most dramatically – but I’ll go no further – the jury is still out – and we may never really know.

Here’s the stats for the whole team and then we’ll begin with a closer analysis of the starting rotation:

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The New York Yankees in June – Part One – The Batters (2021)

The New York Yankees were a mess in June. You don’t have to take my word – no less luminaries than Brian Cashman and Giancarlo Stanton agree with me and the language they used was far less kind than mine.

Their record for the month was 12 wins and 14 losses. They lost 5 of the last 6 games in the month. At one point, they lost 7 of 9.

Their roster is full of batters who hover around the Mendoza line (.200). There are others who appear way beyond their sell-by date. Let’s survey the team’s performance on the month:

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

As previously noted, the New York Yankees have not had the start to the season that they expected in 2021. However, it is the start of the season that they deserved. With the season a third complete, they finished May at 29-25 and in third position.

Instead of hoping to win the American League East, they are more likely to be targeting the second wildcard spot and only then if their bats begin to do their work.

In May, their pitching was less culpable than the batting line-up in adding to their woes.

Let’s survey the strengths and weaknesses of the players who took the mound:

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The New York Yankees in May – Part One – The Batters (2021)

The New York Yankees finished April at 12 wins – 14 losses and in 4th place in the 5 team American League East. For a team who were expected to dominate the division, things clearly were not going to plan. Noises were made about Kyle Higashioka becoming the first choice catcher and Gary Sanchez being seen much more often warming the bench. Tyler Wade and Wandy Peralta were added to the active roster. One or two things seemed to be falling into place.

By the middle of May, the team sat in second place with a record of 22-17. That’s 10-3 over that period.

And then things began to turn again. Gleyber Torres, Giancarlo Stanton and Rougned Odor had headed to the injured list. As a partial balance, 1b Luke Voit (last season’s leading home run hitter) was back.

But things were still not going the way the guys from the Bronx wanted. The second half of the month went 7-8 and the Yankees closed out the month with a run of 4 losses

Let’s see who was struggling and who was holding their own:

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