Yankees: Good news and bad news following 3-1 win over Red Sox

gleyber torres, yankees
Apr 3, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres (25) follows through on a solo home run against the Philadelphia Phillies during the third inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees got another incredible start from Domingo German and their MLB-best bullpen held the lead and was able to even up the series and set up a rubber match on Sunday Night Baseball.

Improving to 38-28 on the season, the Yankees are now on pace to win 93 games in spite of two IL stints from Harrison Bader and Aaron Judge.

While they’re still in 3rd place in the AL East with the Tampa Bay Rays holding an 8.5 game lead in the division, the Yankees are still in a playoff spot with plenty of time to make up ground in the division and try to climb ahead of the Baltimore Orioles.

With continued brilliance from German giving the Yankees more stability in their rotation and Clay Holmes beginning to look like his 2022 self, there were plenty of positives from yesterday’s huge win.

Good News: Pitching Staff Remains Elite

domingo german, yankees
Jun 4, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Domingo German (0) throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the second inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Domingo German continues to turn in strong performances for the Yankees, posting an ERA of 3.49 in his first 12 starts. He twirled in six innings of one-run baseball, giving the Yankees exactly what they needed, with his only blemish coming at the hands of Rafael Devers.

Using his curveball primarily (40%), it’s been his most used pitch on the season and clearly his best one as well. With a -5 Run-Value and 36.9% Whiff% on the season, it’s one of the best curveballs in the entire sport. What makes his curveball so good is that it has more gyro spin, which makes it a unique pitch.

With 8% Active Spin, it means that he isn’t deriving much movement from spin, rather it’s because of seam-shifted wake, as this pitch acts more like a slider than a curveball. Its spin-based movement is at an 11:15 axis, yet its observed movement is at a 7:45 axis, meaning batters read the spin from the ball incorrectly, and are incapable of predicting the movement of his breaking ball correctly.

No one has a greater deviation from their spin-based and observed movement than German on their curveball, and it’s proving to be a difference-maker for him in the season thus far.

German’s quickly become the Yankees’ 2nd best starter, and while his FIP suggests he’s due for regression, it’s fair to say that if he’s able to overperform his peripherals for now, he’ll help the Yankees stay afloat for now.

Realistically, the Yankees just need production from their rotation, even if it’s not entirely sustainable. They’ve struggled to get deep outings from starters, and it’s burned their bullpen, and German’s consistently given them deep starts with a chance to win. He’s pitched to a 3.55 ERA in 139.1 IP since 2022, and if he can keep this up, they’ll have a stable middle-of-the-rotation starter for the year.

yankees, Clay Holmes
Sep 11, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Clay Holmes (35) delivers a pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays during the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

With three scoreless innings from their bullpen, the Yankees lowered their bullpen ERA to an MLB-best 2.78, giving them by far the best ERA in terms of run prevention. They’re the only team in baseball with a groundball rate above 50% at 52.3%, and they have the second-lowest HR/9 rate at 0.76. This is one of the premier bullpens in baseball, and the return of Clay Holmes has certainly helped.

Equipped with a slider that prioritizes vertical drop to pair with his sweeper, Holmes now has a weapon to handle left-handed batters. For the early parts of the season, Holmes had only thrown sinkers to left-handed hitters, who picked up on the trend and began to sit on that pitch.

For as devastating as his sinker is, sinkers from right-handed pitchers perform poorly against left-handed hitters, and when hitters know you can only throw one pitch to them, they’ll sit on it and perform better because of it. Holmes’ slider is nasty, with a Whiff% nearing 50% and sub-.200 AVG and SLG% against the pitch. It’s the perfect weapon to deal with left-handed batters, and Holmes was able to shut down Boston and collect two strikeouts, with both coming against left-handed batters.

On the season, Holmes now has a 2.63 ERA and 2.44 FIP, as he’s been utterly dominant over his last 17 outings, allowing just one run and striking out over 30% of batters faced in that sample size.

It’s all finally coming together for Holmes, who last year was an All-Star and looked like one of the best relievers in the entire sport. If he can limit the walks more, he’ll serve as one of the American League’s best closers, and with the Yankees struggling to generate offense in the absense of Aaron Judge and Harrison Bader, getting big outs late in games is even more pivotal.

Bad News: The Yankees Really Miss Aaron Judge

aaron judge, yankees
May 15, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) runs the bases after hitting a home run against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees scored just three runs in today’s contest, marking their fourth game in their six played without the 2022 AL MVP with three runs or fewer.

They are 3-3 in those games, but it feels like with Judge in the lineup, they could be 4-2 or 5-1, maybe even winning all six games.

In a division as tough as the AL East, those wins go a long way, and with Judge back in the fold, perhaps they would have been able to keep the division race manageable instead of being 8.5 games out. They’ve also fallen to four games out against the Orioles in the loss column, and those games felt like prime opportunities to gain ground against Baltimore.

In a stretch where you allow just two runs per game, you expect to do better than .500, and while depth pieces like Willie Calhoun, Jake Bauers, and Billy McKinney are stepping up, it doesn’t help that Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo, and Anthony Volpe have floundered in that same period of time. The most concerning struggles thus far are of Volpe’s, as he’s making horrendous swing decisions and should have the Yankees reconsidering whether Oswald Peraza should be the shortstop right now or not. It’s been bad for the Yankees’ top prospect, and his climbing chase rates and whiff rates aren’t promising in the slightest.

This doesn’t make Volpe a bust, but it does mean that he’s currently hurting the team. If the Yankees want to win games consistently, Volpe needs to wake up. Swing less, focus more on bat-to-ball skills, and work your walks. Stanton and Rizzo seem to be “when not if” situations for their hot streaks, but it’s been hard to watch nonetheless. The bats need to come alive sooner rather than later, or else the Yankees will struggle to create a stronghold on their playoff position as teams like the Blue Jays, Mariners, Angels, and Red Sox battle to get back into the AL Wild Card hunt.

anthony volpe, yankees
Apr 23, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe (11) reacts after striking out against the Toronto Blue Jays during the third inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Overall, while the offense failed to show up consistently during the game, Willie Calhoun and Gleyber Torres both provided monumental solo shots for the Yankees, and they did enough to win this game. Right now, it’s about compiling wins while Judge is out, as we can figure out the finer details as the trade deadline draws closer and as Judge and Bader return to the lineup. We eagerly anticipate the return of reinforcements for an offense that’s stayed afloat all season in-spite of brutal injury luck, and the Yankees are in a good spot for a team that’s been battered.

Clarke Schmidt will take the mound on Sunday Night Baseball with a chance to add to a nice stretch of starts where he’s posted a 3.80 ERA and 3.83 FIP over his last nine starts. He’ll have Brayan Bello oppose him, and with left-handed batters hitting .297 with a .792 OPS against Bello in his short career, expect to see the likes of Willie Calhoun, Jake Bauers, and Billy McKinney in there with Anthony Rizzo returning to the lineup after a much-needed day off. It’s a rubber matchup for the Yankees, as they look to climb to 39-28, and the Red Sox look to climb back to .500 on the season.