Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: The Yankees lost in ugly fashion yesterday.
They managed to score only one run off of Mitch White, one of Toronto’s back-end pitchers and then were held to only one more run by five Jays’ relievers. Jose Trevino was the only Yankee other than Aaron Judge to hit a ball over 100 mph, and the Yankees’ defense didn’t have their best day, to put it mildly.
Yet, when Gerrit Cole walked off the mound, he was loudly booed by Yankees fans, and the team’s ace took the brunt of the vitriol from the various Yankees’ social media circles after the game. To be clear, Cole was not good yesterday – but he was far from bad. Six innings with four earned runs allowed (which is deceiving, because he received no help from his defense) and a game score of 49 should get you a win against Mitch White.
I’m here to tell you, folks, Gerrit Cole was not the Yankees problem yesterday, and if you think – after watching this team play for the last seven weeks – that he’s a problem of any kind for the Yankees, you may want to submit yourself for a tox screen at your local clinic.
Let’s start on the micro level, and look at the fifth inning yesterday when things fell apart for the Yanks.
After four shutout innings, Cole struck out Matt Chapman to start the fifth, then Santiago Espinal laced a double off the left field wall. An ill-advised free pass to number eight hitter Danny Jansen then gave Toronto first and second with one out.
Jackie Bradley Jr. was next and hit a Cole offering 93 mph (not that hard) with a 31-degree launch angle (it had some hang time) that statistically speaking is an out 89 percent of the time. This time, it landed outside the reach of left fielder Andrew Benintendi for a double.
Raimel Tapia followed with an 81.3 mph ground ball to shortstop which is an out 62 percent of the time. The problem is the Yankees didn’t have a major league shortstop* there, so the ground ball wasn’t corralled quickly, then after it was grabbed, it was double tapped into the shortstop’s glove prior to a throw, then was flipped over to first base predictably late. (*Isiah Kiner-Falefa is 23rd among shortstops in Defensive Runs Above Average and 28th in Outs Above Average – if you think that’s Major League quality, our definitions of such are different.)
Vlad Guerrero Jr. followed with a dribbler back to the mound that Cole himself turned into a gift single for the Jays by slipping on the grass, allowing Vlad to reach safely. . Alejandro Kirk followed with a fly ball into left-center field with an exit velocity and launch angle that ends up in a fielder’s glove 82 percent of the time – except this time it fell in between Benintendi and center fielder Estevan Florial. Fortunately for the Yanks, Vlad Jr. gifted his single back with an irredeemably dumb base running decision and was thrown out at home plate. (And no, despite what the Yes Network broadcasters told you, it was not a good throw from IKF. It was eight feet up the line with a hang time longer than a Ray Guy punt.)
Cole then fanned Teoscar Hernández to end the inning, but the damage had been done to the tune of four Toronto runs and a deficit the Yankees would not overcome.
Again, Cole didn’t pitch well. Espinal’s double was ripped and walking Jansen was a bad mistake. But the rest of the inning was made up of bad luck with balls finding spaces and plays that should have been made not getting made, despite zero errors being committed. (Which, for the last time people, stop using errors as your barometer for defensive skill – batted balls that should be turned into outs that aren’t turned into outs are just as bad as errors, but they don’t show up in the box score.)
On a macro level (and I can’t believe I need to say this, but apparently I do) since June 21st of last season, here are Cole’s ranks among AL pitchers:
1st in K-BB%
2nd in both xFIP and SIERA
3rd in WAR
If you’re curious as to why I selected June 21st of 2021 as my starting point it’s because that’s when MLB banned “sticky stuff”, so we can put that lazy narrative to bed as well.
There’s no way a team can go 57-21 and then follow that with a 16-27 stretch without numerous factors coming into play that have dragged the team down – certainly too many to list here.
But Gerrit Cole isn’t one of them.
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