Saturday, April 16, 2022

The Baltimore Beatdown...


Photo Credit: Barbara Haddock/Baltimore Sun

AL Worst continues tormenting the Yankees…

The inability to beat the Baltimore Orioles in 2021 cost the Yankees dearly as it sent them to the ill-fated Wild Card Game in Boston instead of hosting the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. Yankees flew to Boston and, as we all know, their season was over. After holding their own against the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays this week, the Yankees arrived in Baltimore on Friday ready to make a statement. Thud! Here we go again.

Aroldis Chapman -- Photo Credit: Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Aroldis Chapman, looking like the latest incarnation of Tyler Clippard in pinstripes, walked home the winning run for the Orioles in last night’s game as Baltimore took the first game of nineteen against the Yankees. It wasted a good performance by Jordan Montgomery. Unfortunately, a journeyman Orioles pitcher who has played for six teams and was once released by the Colorado Rockies, Jordan Lyles, held the Yankees offense at bay, yielding only a single run in his 5 1/3 innings of work. In his last start, Lyles had given up five runs in five innings against the Tampa Bay Rays and entered last night’s game with a 9.00 ERA. Pitching against the Yankees’ offense, at least this year and last, is always a prescription for improvement of one’s earned run average. 

My only take about Chapman. I am not interested in re-signing him after the season. Even if he is willing to take a steep discount to stay, it is time to move on. It was great when the Cuban Missile was throwing flames across the plate but suffice it to say he is not and will not age as gracefully as the legendary Mariano Rivera. I am hoping Chapman can solve his control problems this year to give the Yankees (and we, the fans) some confidence in his ability late in games, but beyond that, ¡Hasta la vista, baby!

Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake continues to earn his paycheck, despite the challenges of Aroldis Chapman or Gerrit Cole’s attempts to rediscover his superiority following last year’s crackdown on the “sticky stuff”. There is no way that I would have predicted the two best starters for the Yankees two weeks into the new season would be Nestor Cortes, Jr and Luis Severino. Nestor continues to amaze me. Everyone wanted another starter during the off-season. If the Yankees had acquired, say Frankie Montas or Luis Castillo or some other pitcher, Nestor would have been the odd man out. The sixth starter on a staff of five, yet here he is carrying the team along with Sevy. Jordan Montgomery and Jameson Taillon are fine, but they were expected to be. I have purposely tried to keep my expectations for Severino low for no other reason than he has not pitched much in the last three years.  I credit the Yankees pitching coaches for the tremendous work they have done with Nestor, Sevy, and the bullpen outside of Chappy. Michael King certainly deserves a call-out for his performance the other night to clean up Chapman’s mess in the Blue Jays finale, earning his first career save. 

Michael King -- Photo Credit: Getty Images

Now if only Yankees hitting coach Dillon Lawson and his assistant hitting coaches could have the same impact on the hitters. I realize Isiash Kiner-Falefa is off to a slow start but it is too early to pull the plug. Most fans wanted the Yankees to sign Carlos Correa prior to the season (well, me included). A quick check of his stats show a batting line of .182/.280/.409 with .306 wOBA. He has one home run which represents his only RBI of the season. In other words, IKF is not alone in slow starts. It can happen to anyone. It just gets magnified when you move from the low pressurized environment of Arlington, Texas to the humongous New York stage.

I have seen many fans calling for Oswald Peraza but cool your jets. He is not ready yet. He only played 8 games in Triple A last year, and through 8 games this season, he is only batting .194/.242/.323, .253 wOBA, and 52 wRC+. We will see Peraza at some point this year but we need to give him time despite any frustrations with IKF.  Peraza, who will turn 22 on June 15th, needs to let his bat do his talking. It will tell the Yankees when he is ready. Until then, we need to give IKF our support. I do feel he will be closer to the hitter he was last season for the Texas Rangers (or better). Playing 158 games for the Rangers in 2021, IKF hit 8 homers and drive in 53 runs. His line was .271/.312/357 and .293 wOBA. Give him a chance. New York is not an easy place to play. We may have wanted an elite shortstop but this is the hand we were dealt and we need to make the most of it. IKF may surprise us if we give him the time to adjust.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa -- Photo Credit: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

If Aaron Judge wants to be a $36 million per year player, he needs to play like one. 

I am confident the Yankees will play better. Today would be a great day to start. I know championships are not won in April but I do feel getting off to a strong start is important for the season’s momentum. To borrow one of Aaron Boone’s favorite words (“obviously”), it is easier to build off a good start than it is a bad one.  Gerrit Cole will get stronger as the season progresses and the offense will start to click. I continue to have more confidence in this team than the 2021 version. The current record is nothing that a ten-game winning streak could not cure.  So, let’s go Yankees. You got this.

Clayton Kershaw nearly throws a perfect game. Say what you will, I think Dave Roberts’ decision to pull Kershaw after seven perfect innings this week was the right thing to do. I felt it in the heat of the moment and have not wavered in my opinion. With the shortened Spring, starting pitchers have yet to be fully stretched out. It is why rosters were expanded to 28 players until May 1st with a temporary unlimited cap on the number of pitchers a team can carry.

Clayton Kershaw -- Photo Credit: Craig Lassig/Associated Press

Kershaw is 34 years old and has missed time the last few years with a variety of injuries. He has a date with Cooperstown one day but pushing him to nine innings would not have been prudent and it could have heightened the possibility for his unavailability later in the season as a result. Although he struck out thirteen batters and had only thrown 80 pitches, Kershaw said it was the right decision since he had not been built up. He has not pitched a complete game since 2017.

I know Gary Sanchez was quoted this week saying that if it had been a pitcher like Gerrit Cole or Masahiro Tanaka, they would have fought to stay in the game. I do not agree with the former Yankees catcher. Baseball is a team sport, and the goal is a championship. Individual stats are nice, but not the ‘be all, end all’. Cole and Tanaka are both professionals who would have placed team priority over self-interest. I saw one Dodgers fan say he would have preferred to see Kershaw pitch a perfect game over a World Series championship. I loved the perfect games thrown by Davids Wells and Cone but they were not more valuable than the World Series championships. If given the choice for one or the other, the World Series championship is the only acceptable answer. 

The Dodgers bullpen may have blown the perfect game and no-hitter, but Clayton Kershaw is headed for the Hall of Fame regardless of the outcome.  

As always, Go Yankees!

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