Breaking down the Yankees most underrated starting pitcher

New York Yankees, Jameson Taillon

The New York Yankees’ starting pitching rotation has been one of the best in baseball in 2022. There’s an argument to be made at all five starters should be in the All-Star conversation. Jordan Montgomery has the highest ERA at 3.02.

The headlines are normally plastered with names like Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes lately, but one of the team’s more underrated starters is Jameson Taillon, who hasn’t gotten the necessary attention after starting the year on fire.

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How has Taillon performed this year?

Over 58.2 innings, Taillon hosts a 2.30 ERA with 6.75 strikeouts per nine. The former Pittsburgh Pirate isn’t known for his ability to strike batters out but rather curate weak contact from opposing batters. He’s walking just 0.77 batters per nine, the best number of his career. He’s also giving up just 0.61 home runs per nine, another personal best.

Taillon also features an 81% left on base rate and 44.3% ground ball rate. The 30-year-old starter is coming off an injury-plagued 2021 season, pitching 144 innings. He suffered from shoulder information and torn ligaments in his ankle toward the end of the season, which hurt his ability to help down the stretch.

This year, he has been fully healthy, thanks to Eric Cressey’s training regimen. However, pitching coach Matt Blake has been a catalyst for the starters, adding several new pitches to the repertoire.

Across the board, Blake has implemented the usage of a cutter. Taillon had never thrown this pitch before, but he’s tossing it 13.8% of the time at 90.3 mph this season. His four-seam fastball usage has dropped 17% to 33.3%, allocating that difference toward his cutter and sinker. He’s also seen a decrease in curveball usage by 5% and an increase in change up.

Taillon now has six pitches to utilize on a daily basis for the Yankees: A fastball, slider, cutter, sinker, curveball, and change-up. He’s seen a 7% increase in the percentage of times a batter makes contact with the ball when swinging at pitches thrown outside the strike zone. This means that batters are chasing breaking balls, which is exactly what he wants.

Taillon’s sequence and locations tell a story:

The different pitch locations also tell a story of how Taillon is utilizing the entire strike zone to his advantage. He’s throwing his four-seam fastball high and tight to keep batters on edge but then tossing a sinker that dips to the left side of the strike zone. He then mixes in a change-up which looks like a sinker coming out of his hand to disrupt the batter’s depth perception. His cutter is attacking the inside portion of the plate while his curveball is dipping all over the place, ranging from the middle to the bottom of the strike zone.

Via Baseball Savant

Oftentimes, the most difficult challenge for a pitcher is getting through the lineup a third time. That is when opposing hitters have seen the majority of your pitches and have a better understanding of what you like to throw and at what moments. With six different pitches to utilize at his disposal, Taillon has been keeping offenses at bay, making him a prime candidate for an All-Star bid.

When looking at Taillon’s hits by zone, he’s dominant when throwing the ball low and outside of the strike zone. The majority of his hits have come in the middle to the upper portion with his fastball and hanging change-up. When he’s throwing his sinker to the outside and getting great break on his slider, he’s almost unhittable.

Posting a 3.73 SIERA and 3.62 xFIP, he would be an ace on any other team with the way he’s performing. If he can maintain his health, his services will be essential come the postseason.