Saturday, June 4, 2022

Twin Near-Perfecto's...


Gerrit Cole / Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Taillon and Cole take perfection to late innings…

David Wells and David Cone once threw perfect games in back-to-back seasons. Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole nearly did it in back-to-back games although both fell in the later innings of their respective runs for perfection.

Thursday, Jameson Taillon was perfect until Los Angeles Angels first baseman Jared Walsh lined a hard shot that bounced off shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s glove for a double in the eighth inning. The game had been scoreless up to that point. Angels’ catcher Kurt Suzuki followed with a single that gave the Angels a 1-0 lead. Fortunately, Taillon held the damage there. Potentially facing the loss despite giving up only two hits and a run, Taillon was bailed when Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run single which put the Yankees ahead by a run in the bottom of the eighth. Clay Holmes made it interesting in the ninth, in Aroldis Chapman fashion, by walking Shohei Ohtani, one out away from victory, and then hitting two consecutive batters, Mike Trout and Jared Walsh, to load the bases. Fortunately, Luis Rengifo grounded out to Isiah Kiner-Falefa to end the game, giving Taillon the win and Holmes the save.

Jameson Taillon / Photo Credit: Robert Sabo, NY Post

Taillon, much like the entire Yankees rotation, has been brilliant this year. Through ten games started, he is 6-1 with a 2.30 ERA. In 58 2/3 innings, he has only given up fifteen runs on forty-eight hits and has struck out forty-four batters while walking only five. His fWAR is currently 1.6. Taillon, 30, will be a free agent at the end of the year. I have not heard any extension talks, but I hope the Yankees bring him back. He has always had excellent potential. It was only the injuries that held him back. I am glad he is a Yankee and I hope he stays beyond this season.

Friday night, Gerrit Cole took his run at perfection. Unlike Taillon, Cole had no problem receiving run support. With two outs in the seventh inning, Detroit’s Jonathan Schoop hit a grounder up the middle which made it past a diving DJ LeMahieu, spoiling Cole’s gem. At that point, the Yankees were ahead of the Tigers, 12-0, so Cole did not have to sweat it out like Taillon did the day before. Manuel Banuelos made his long-awaited appearance for the Yankees in relief, preserving the shutout by holding the Tigers to only one more hit over the final two innings.

Obviously, Cole is expected to be the staff ace. Expectations are high for a man carrying a $324 million contract. After his freezing weather struggles earlier in the season, I would say he is warming up as the weather does. Cole has started eleven games and is 5-1 with 2.78 ERA. He has given up twenty runs on forty-seven hits and fifteen walks over 64 2/3 innings. He has struck out 81 batters and currently carries a 1.9 fWAR.

It was reported that Taillon and Cole are the first teammates to have perfect games through six innings in back-to-back games since the Expansion Era began in 1961. I kept thinking that David Wells probably got drunk the night before his perfect game in 1998. Maybe Taillon and Cole should have gone on a bender this week.

I honestly cannot remember the last time the Yankees were this strong from one to five in the starting rotation. The success of Nasty Nestor Cortes, Jr has eliminated the fanbase’s pleas for starting pitchers like the Reds’ Luis Castillo or A’s Frankie Montas. The guy who entered the season as a fifth starter, with a shaky hold, to highly probable selection for next month’s All-Star team. It has been an incredible success story.

Nasty Nestor Cortes Jr / Photo Credit:

I know it is still early. The Yankees have only played fifty-two games which means there are still 110 games to go, but at 37-15, this has felt like a magical season thus far. Please keep it going. I literally have not enjoyed a Yankees season as much as this since 1998. No pressure, guys.

Aaron Judge’s campaign for excessively massive contract extension is going well. He hit his 20th home run of the young season last night and has driven in forty-two runs. His batting line is .316/.384/.679, with .446 wOBA and 201 wRC+. His fWAR is currently 3.2. Pay the man and name him the new Yankees Captain.

Aaron "Future Billionaire" Judge / Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Hopefully the two sides can come together on a new contract. I know the public stance is contract extension talks are on hold until after the season, but I would really like to see the Yankees sign him before he gets the opportunity to visit other organizations, particularly those in his home state of California like the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Angels, or San Diego Padres. I would never count out the Los Angeles Dodgers from entering the chase even if they have an exceptionally good right fielder in Mookie Betts. It would be fantastic to hear news over the All-Star break that the two sides have agreed on a new deal. That would be truly special in an incredibly special year.

Joey Gallo or Aaron Hicks must go. As much as I want to, I will not say that the Yankees must get rid of both Gallo and Hicks, but they do need to eliminate at least one. Both have been dreadful, and I cringe every time I see both in the same lineup and especially when they are consecutive at-bats. Hicks finally got a big hit last night, scoring Isiah Kiner-Falefa, but he soured the moment by getting thrown out at second. Sure, Judge got thrown out similarly later in the game, but with Hicks, it is always something negative. It was hard to get excited about his RBI because it came with a 4-0 lead, and he has failed so miserably in situations when the games are on the line.

I think the Yankees can afford to keep one of the guys around but not both. The writing is on the wall for Hicks. Aaron Judge has played center field for 146 innings so far this season. He is only twelve innings behind his CF total for last year. As much as I would prefer to see Judge in right, I am always relieved when I see Judge’s name in center over Hicks.

I like Joey Gallo and I hate that his transition to New York has not been successful. You can say it should have been evident given his reputation as a high strikeout, low average guy (as they keep saying over and over, a true three-outcome hitter). I was hoping the on-base percentage and his defensive skills would shine through, but it has been too painful to watch. Before Anthony Rizzo came through with the huge bases loaded two-run single to rescue Taillon’s near-perfecto, Gallo struck out immediately preceding Rizzo. It could have been a brilliant moment for him, but instead, it was just another strikeout. So far, this season, he has struck out in 37.6% of his at-bats. His OBP (.282) is the lowest it has been since he was a 22-year-old kid trying to make the Texas Rangers roster in 2016. Gallo is a guy who would thrive in a less pressurized environment (like Kansas City, while thinking about what Andrew Benintendi, and his .399 OBP and 14.4% K ratio, would look like in pinstripes).

Andrew Benintendi

We are probably a month away from any potential deals, but hopefully the clock is ticking for Hicks and Gallo. While the Yankees seek perfection, the sources of imperfection must be purged.

Yankees acquire former AL East outfielder. Okay, it was a low-level trade for a guy headed to Triple A, but I remember when Jake Bauers was a promising, up-and-coming outfielder for the rival Tampa Bay Rays. Originally drafted by the San Diego Padres, he made his Major League debut for the Rays in 2018 and had a walk-off home run off Chasen Shreve to beat the Yankees that year. It felt like he was going to be one of those annoying Rays thorns in our sides, but his career has never managed to take off. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians after the 2018 season in a deal that brought Yandy Diaz to the Rays. The Indians (sorry, the Guardians) traded Bauers to Seattle last summer and he signed a minor league free agent deal with the Cincinnati Reds last December during the lockout. The Reds dealt him to the Yankees yesterday for cash, ala the Gio Urshela trade a few years ago.

Jakes Bauers / Photo Credit: Sam Wasson, Getty Images

Bauers, who was once a highly regarded prospect, makes Joey Gallo and Aaron Hicks look like hit machines. Who knows if the Yankees can find anything in him? More than likely, he will be a failed project that will move on to his next organization if not out of baseball. But if the Yankees’ advanced hitting instruction in the organization can turn Bauers around to be something useful, it will be an incredible accomplishment for them. A left-handed bat is always nice, and Bauers is only twenty-six. I have extremely low expectations for him but do hope he can miraculously find success.

Joe must go. Joe Girardi’s time as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies has ended. The former Yankees manager was fired yesterday by GM Dave Dombrowski, the man most responsible for the team’s struggles in 2022. I feel bad for Joe, but certainly not enough to pine for his return to the Yankees. Been there, done that. I would not mind seeing Girardi get a gig with the YES Network, but it seems more probable that he would go back to the MLB Network to await his next managerial opportunity if he gets one.

"Binder Joe" Girardi

It must be hard for Girardi to see the Yankees having success after the dramatic overhaul of their hitting and pitching instruction and philosophy, while the Phillies threw millions at flawed free agent defensively challenged hitters last off-season and failed to provide legitimate support for Bryce Harper. While you can argue that Girardi is a better manager than Aaron Boone, Boone has been the beneficiary of new and improved vision from the Yankees front office. I have no wish to see Boone ousted unless he woefully underperforms and is out managed in October. Even then, Girardi would not be my first choice for a possible replacement. Yet, I hope Girardi finds a team that looks for his leadership. In the right spot, he can find the October gold again.

As always, Go Yankees!

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