Outside of Gerrit Cole, no one in the Yankees rotation can guarantee you a solid start every time they take the mound. We recognize that pitchers will not always be on their “A” game, but the Yankees need more than one pitcher to make 30 starts per season and give them consistent outings. Cole can’t be the only pitcher that can win in this rotation.
Last year, it was Cole and then everybody else. Masahiro Tanaka had some shaky outings especially in the postseason, James Paxton was injured for most of the season, and while Devi Garcia was a nice surprise, he was not an established pitcher.
The Yankees gambled on a couple of right-handed pitchers this offseason – Jameson Taillon and Corey Kluber. Taillon came off his second Tommy John Surgery and Kluber is off a right shoulder tear.
In taking a look at their statistics, both pitchers are off to rocky starts in pinstripes. In four starts, Kluber is 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA. He has thrown 15 innings allowing 18 hits, nine earned runs, 11 walks and 14 strikeouts. In his last outing versus the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday, he went 4.2 innings allowing just two hits and two runs but walked four. It was, however, his best start of the season.
When taking a deeper look into his numbers, they are promising. Kluber does not have the same velocity that he did when he won a pair of Cy Young awards in 2014 and 2017 but has learned to do things differently. His hard hit percentage still sits at around 37%, which is where it was in his last full season with Cleveland in 2018. His line drive rate is down considerably as well. In his peak years from 2014-2018, it sat at 27.2% three years in a row but now it is down to 17.4%.
Like Kluber, Taillon is also off to a shaky start. In three starts he’s 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA. In 13.1 innings of work he’s allowed 15 hits, eight runs but has struck out 15 batters. He’s walked only two batters so far this season.
With just the pair of walks on the campaign means that his walk percentage is down 1.5 points from 2019 and down 2.4 points from his last full season in 2018. Even though he is around the zone more, his line drive percentage is down nearly five points from 2018 down to 20.5%.
In a constant theme with former Pirate pitchers, the use of his fastball is the biggest increase on his ledger. In his three plus seasons in Pittsburgh, he threw his fastball more than 20% of the time just once, which was 2018 at 20.9%. In 2021 it’s up to 28.2% and expect it to go even higher as his arm strength continues to rebuild.
There’s no doubt these two pitchers have immense talent and potential but both have to overcome steep hurdles to get back to their prior form. If they do so, the Yankees will certainly have gotten their money’s worth.
PHOTO: Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post