After slogging through a miserable stretch of games in which they went 5-15, the New York Yankees are finally back to their winning ways. They have won five straight to put themselves .5 games back of the second-place Toronto Blue Jays to improve their playoff standing.
With several offensive players still to return from injury, they have done it with pitching, namely starting pitching. In those five wins, the starters have pitched to the following line: 5 G, 3 W, 29.2 IP, 1.21 ERA, 2.53 FIP, 30.9 K%, 1.8 BB%, 0.91 HR/9, 1.3 WAR. Those numbers are better than Cy Young leader Shane Bieber if extrapolated over the full season. The Yankees are striking out a ton of batters, not walking anyone, and also keeping the ball in the ballpark. Their average exit velocity allowed during this stretch is just 85 mph which is incredible. Obviously this is too good to continue, as seen by slightly worse predictive metrics, but the point is the rotation has been incredible. Let’s take a look at each start during this stretch.
Wednesday 9/9 – Deivi Garcia
Is it too soon to say this was the start that turned the season around? 21-year-old Deivi had the best start of his young career going seven innings, allowing two runs with six K’s and zero BB. The key for him in this start was actually his slider command. Look how well he dots it to the lower right quadrant:
Batters swung and missed on 75% of those sliders which is unreal. On a day when he didn’t have his best curveball, he found a way to use his changeup and slider to get through the lineup. That’s what they call pitching.
Friday 9/11 – Gerrit Cole
Is this the game Gerrit Cole became the Yankees ace? He threw a complete-game seven innings allowing just two hits, zero runs, one BB, and nine K’s. There have been a few themes for Cole this season: giving up home runs and hard contact, struggling to throw his off-speed pitches for strikes, and not getting as many whiffs. In this start, he achieved all three of those. He gave up no home runs, and the average exit velocity for all his pitches was below 90 mph. His command was clearly better, and holy cow the whiffs. He got 27 total on 60 swings for an incredible 45% whiff rate. This was the most whiffs in his Yankees tenure and the fourth-best of his career. When the Yankees needed him to continue the momentum, boy did he deliver and save the bullpen in the process.
Friday 9/11 – Masahiro Tanaka
Tanaka kept it going in the nightcap of Friday’s doubleheader, going five innings with one run allowed on a solo homer and racking up five K’s in the process. For the first time all season he had his good splitter and slider, throwing each of them 25-30% of the time and getting 31% and 50% whiffs on them. He kept the Baltimore Orioles hitters off-balance, and they only managed a 78 mph exit velocity off him. That’s the good stuff and right where Tanaka needs to be. That doubleheader was key to put the Orioles in their place and out of the playoff race, and the Yankees two best starting pitchers stepped up and delivered.
Saturday 9/12 – Jordan Montgomery
This was quite the rebound start for Montgomery. In 5.2 innings, he gave up three hits, one run, and racked up a career-high nine strikeouts, all on 72 pitches thrown. As always, he mixed his pitches well throwing each one between 17-31% of the time. His curveball and sinker were especially impressive, garnering 46% and 40% whiff rate which is incredible for Monty. Hopefully, he continues to build on this start.
Sunday 9/13 – J.A. Happ
After a terrible start to the season, it shocks me to say that Happ has turned it around and is a serviceable back-end starter. In his last 23.2 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA and only allowed a .275 wOBA. That’ll get it done. On Sunday, he threw five innings of one-run ball. His location was impressive:
Fastballs up, changeups down. That’ll get it done. Happ is a kitchen sink guy at this point in his career who needs all his pitches working to be effective, and that’s what he had on Sunday.
Noted stats guru Katie Sharp is an essential Twitter follow, and she’s been crushing it with how impressive the last few days have been for the Yankees:
The biggest thing here for me has been the lack of walks. No pitcher allowed more than one walk in his start which is incredible. That shows confidence and swing and miss ability. Starting tonight the Yankees have another huge series against the Blue Jays. If they can win the series, they’ll be in second place in the division which will make the first round of the playoffs much, much easier. Let’s hope the rotation can keep it going.