Yesterday’s Opening Day for the Yanks was a good mix of new and old: On the new side, Oswaldo Cabrera and Anthony Volpe were on the field, essentially in place of where Aaron Hicks and Isiah Kiner-Falefa had been, to the complaint of zero Yankees fans. From the department of the status quo, Aaron Judge went deep for the lead, Gerrit Cole struck out 11 to only two walks and oh by the way Giancarlo Stanton hit a ball harder than anyone else on the field did…because of course he did.
Yet two items may have flown under the radar – items which we may want to keep an eye on as we head into April baseball.
First, Gerrit Cole’s changeup was ridiculous yesterday. It reached 91 mph on the radar gun, broke on average 25 inches vertically and 17 inches horizontally, which were both slightly better than last season’s averages with the changeup as was its spin rate.
And for those of you who prefer results to process, consider this: Cole threw 14 changes yesterday and the Giants batters put exactly zero of them into play. They fouled off two, whiffed on six and watched another six.
I’m certainly not going to become overly excited by one game but in what was an overall great performance from the ace, the change was particularly nasty – something we can monitor ongoing.
(On another note, consider what a 91-mph changeup with 25″ of vertical break and 17″ of horizontal break at the knees after a 99-mph fastball at the letters looks like the next time you’re wondering why modern batters struggle so much. That combination – to say nothing of sliders in the 90’s – never existed until recently and Cole is not a unicorn.)
Secondly, from the department of positive signs from both the process and results department: Let’s remember Volpe’s first big league plate appearance.
Facing Logan Webb, who in 2022 according to Statcast had elite vertical movement on both his changeup and sinker, with both being among the best in MLB in run value, Volpe fouled off a first pitch slider that was middle/middle.
I know that fouling off a hanging slider would tick me off (one of a bazillion reasons I never made the bigs) but if it ticked off Volpe, he didn’t let it affect him. The next two pitches were a tough sinker and a tough changeup just off the plate and Volpe looked at both of them for balls one and two. After watching two more sinkers outside, Volpe drew a free pass.
Again, I don’t want to overreact to one plate appearance, but I can guaran-effing-tee you had that been IKF in the box, either the oh one change or the 1-1 slider would have been chased and tapped to an infielder for a routine groundout. Instead, Volpe didn’t get frustrated, waited for another hittable pitch to do damage with, and when he didn’t get it, he drew a walk – and stole second base to boot.
That is why “just make contact and put it in play” is a bad philosophy and is why we’re all (perhaps overly) excited to see Volpe on the field instead of IKF.
Because, of course, day two of the season is an off day (ugh), let’s look forward to a good baseball weekend.
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