New York Yankees: Interview with pitcher coach Matt Blake on the Yankee pitchers

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez, Gerrit Cole, Aaron Boone

Last night the New York Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake sounded off on the status of all the Yankee pitchers. Meredeth Marakovitz was most interested in the status of Yankee starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.  She asked if he pitched a bullpen session, and if so how did it go?  Blake responded that he did, and it went better than we expected with 30 pitches with a higher intensity than we expected.

Pitching coach Matt Blake added that he was around 88, 91mph, and he saw he saw all his pitches, so it was really encouraging. It was a very crisp first bullpen so that we feel very good for where he is at. We hope that he will go full bullpen then face full hitting players early next week.

When asked where he thought Masahiro Tanaka was, he stated that he was processing the hit that hit him, he’s doing really well both physically and mentally. He feels okay with what happened and will not face any hesitation with going on the mound. He has progressed really well with the concussion protocol and getting ready to go.

When asked about the next start for New York Yankees Gerrit Cole, Blake said that after a hot start in his last outing, we would go slow and probably allow him five innings and 90 pitches stating that they will error on the side of caution.

When asked about the exhibition games with the New York Mets and Phillies, he said that he knows that Micheal King will start one of them, you’re going to see Hale and Dievi, and in the middle games I will have to get back to you, but it’s going to be a mixed bag of everybody for three or four innings.

When asked about what he saw from Schmidt and Garcia, he said that what he saw was really good. They’ve faced some of our best hitters and have done a really good job; without much ramp-up, they’ve done a really nice job. During the interview, he indicated the Luis Cessa was back( from coronavirus quarantine) with the team and that it would take a couple of weeks to get him up to speed.

When asked if Masahiro Tanaka would follow Gerrit Cole on opening day, Blake responded we would have to see how he responds on these first bullpens and go from there. When asked about the rest of the rotation, he said it too early to tell the starting rotation and will be firmed up in the next day or two.

He was asked, compared to a couple of weeks ago, how has the schedule going.  Blake responded that it had gone smoothly so far. He mentioned how smoothy it has gone using three locker rooms. He felt that he had gotten a really good look at each player. He said that the focus and intensity of the work the guys had put in have been really good. Knowing that we are coming in as a championship team has really helped us.

He said, getting guys up to speed and intensity has been better than expected. When asked about how many pitchers the New York Yankee would carry for the first week or so he said: We haven’t really decided yet, Boonie, me and others have talked about it, it depends on where Tanaka and Cessa are at, we went around what that roster would look like, and he said there are still moving parts involved, but we are getting closer.

In other news today, RHP Domingo Acevedo, RHP Daniel Álvarez, RHP Luis Gil, C Max McDowell, RHP Luis Medina, RHP Adonis Rosa, and     RHP Alexander Vizcaíno have been cut from the roster and assigned to the spring alternate site at Scranton Wilke/Barre.


New York Yankees pitching coach impressed with Gerrit Cole: “He’s close to game speed”

New York Yankees, Gerrit Cole

The New York Yankees made the splash of the offseason when they secured the services of ace pitcher Gerrit Cole on a record-breaking nine-year, $324 contract. The right-hander was utterly dominant in 2019 with the Houston Astros and will now lead the Bombers’ rotation for years to come.

He made a great impression on Thursday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, sitting in the mid-to-high 90s and touching 99 miles per hour on the radar gun against live hitters such as Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks and Luke Voit. Needless to say, pitching coach Matt Blake was impressed.

Blake said that Cole was already in midseason form, filling the strike zone with fastballs for three innings. The righty had remained active in the stoppage by throwing occasional bullpen sessions, but Thursday was the first time he faced live hitters since the action was halted in mid-March.

“He looked good,” Blake said. “He’s moving right along in his progression. We kind of set the bar for kind of what we’re going to build on, targeting three weeks out and getting ready for the regular season. He’s in a really good spot, and the nice thing is it doesn’t take fans in the stands to get him amped. We’re good there.”

The Yankees’ ace stole the show

Reliever Adam Ottavino also took the mound and threw a couple of innings. Radley Haddad was the catcher, and manager Aaron Boone and assistant hitting coach P.J. Pilittere were among those looking at the action.

Yet, the New York Yankees’ frontline starter was the one who stole the show, evidently.

“He’s pretty close to game speed,” Blake said of Cole. “I think we’re game-ready with velocity. Now it’s kind of just fine-tuning it and sustaining over longer pitch counts. I think he feels good about where he is. He’s always a critic of himself, tightening things up [like] a certain pitch to a certain location. I think we’re building a nice baseline for him.”

Yankees News/Rumors: Boone on the cheating Red Sox, Injury updates and much more

New York Yankees, Aaron Boone

Boone on the cheating Red Sox

New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone weighed in on the Red Sox sign-stealing scheme that was released on Wednesday by Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred.  The commissioner’s report said that Boston’s video-replay operator in 2018, J.T. Watkins, at times during that season, used the game feeds in the replay room “in violation of MLB regulations, to revise sign sequence information that he had permissibly provided to players before the game.’’

MLB found that the Boston cheating scheme was not as egregious as the sign-stealing that was committed by the Houston Astros that may have cost the New York Yankees a berth in the 2017 World Series.  Many feel that the punishments issued by MLB against the Astros was too light and did not strip them of their Championship.  Likewise, the punishments given to the Boston team were also too light. 

MLB suspended Watkins from operating the video replay machine through the 2021 season.  The MLB did not fine the team or any of the players or front office with the exception of manager Alex Cora who had already been fired by the Red Sox.  He was suspended for one season but not for what he did as a Red Sox.  The only real punishment given was the loss of a second-round draft pick. The cheating may have cost the Yankees wins in 2018 that saw the Yankees lose to the Red Sox in the ALDS.

Boone was asked yesterday on the YES Network if he thought the MLB punishments fit the crime?  Boone responded:

“I don’t know. Who knows exactly what went down? I do trust that Major League Baseball thoroughly investigated and got to the bottom of things as best they can. I feel like if that’s what they come up with, so be it. It’s time to move on.’’

New York Yankees injury updates:

New York Yankee pitcher James Paxton who underwent back surgery late in the offseason, was expected to miss at least three to four months of the season.  With his rehab going well, that was reduced to two to three months.  New York Yankees’ new pitching coach Matt Blake from his home in Cleveland said the Paxton had been playing catch for some time now, and his rehab is going well.  Paxton will benefit from the coronavirus shutdown and may now not miss any playing time at all, depending on when the regular season starts.

Aaron Judge suffered a fractured rib and a partially collapsed lung while diving for a catch near the end of last season.  After a series of MRIs were performed during spring training that saw Judge not take part in any games, it was determined that the shoulder issues he was having were really caused by the cracked rib.  The collapsed lung resolved itself nicely, and when spring training was halted, his rib was already healing.   Judge as well has benefited from the time off.  Boone said when speaking with the YES Network’s Meredith Marakovitz said:

“He’s in Tampa, we’re using this time, he’s using this time to continue to heal. I don’t really have much more for you other than, obviously, it’s been very productive having the chance to have this time to allow that rib to heal. That is happening. But as for where he’s at exactly, we don’t have anything for you on that yet.”

In other injury news, Aaron Hicks that was supposed to miss a large chunk of the season due to rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, is now expected to miss only a small portion of the shortened season if he misses any of it.  He is throwing and progressing nicely.  Outfielder and DH Giancarlo Stanton has completely recovered from his grade one calf strain and is ready to go, according to Boone.   Unfortunately, ace Luis Severino will miss the entire season due to Tommy John surgery that was performed during spring training.

What are Yankee pitchers doing during the shutdown

New York Yankee pitchers are trying to stay in form during the coronavirus shutdown.  Newly acquired ace Gerrit Cole is at his new home in Greenwich, CT.  He is working out and pitching to his athletic wife Amy and to Yankee Manager Aaron Boone, who lives nearby.  James Paxton is rehabbing at his home in Wisconsin.  Matt Blake is keeping close tabs on him and his recovery and is directing his pitching rehab. Blake has said he is closer to a return each day.

Masahiro Tanaka is staying in form and doing some pitching at local fields in his native Japan.  J.A. Happ is also at home trying to stay in form.  Pitching coach Matt Blake has said he is letting his veteran pitchers pretty much handle there own ways to stay in shape so that they can start where they left off during a mini-spring training.  He is more closely supervising the programs of Jordan Montgomery, Johnathan Loaisiga, Luis Cessa, and others.

Giancarlo Stanton on his performance

Giancarlo Stanton came to the New York Yankees after being traded by the Miami Marlins at the end of the 2017 season in which he was named the National League MVP.  Since coming to the Yankees, he has underwhelmed and has suffered several injuries.

No one wants Stanton to get back to his 2017 form more than Stanton himself.  He has said that he thinks he is one of the keys to advancing the Yankees back to the World Series.  “The newness of my surroundings was the most challenging thing for me,” Stanton said this past February from his locker inside the Yankees clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida. “Even things as simple as getting to the ballpark and getting around the city took time to get comfortable with. You try to minimize the time you spend concentrating on all of the things away from baseball, to be your best on the field. But everything was brand new.”

Stanton is now healthy and ready for the season to begin whenever that happens.  He wants to contribute in a big way.  He knows it’s a team effort and that it doesn’t come from just home runs.  He, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Gleyber Torres have the ability to hit 160 home runs if they hit to their potential.  Stanton indicated that that is the icing on the cake.  It’s a team effort of getting on base and having excellent defense.  Stanton wants this to be a breakout season with the Yankees.



New York Yankees: What pitching coach Matt Blake is doing to keep pitchers sharp

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez, Gerrit Cole, Aaron Boone

The coronavirus has shut down all of baseball. The New York Yankees‘ pitching coach is trying to ease the situation by keeping his pitchers sharp for the eventual start of a baseball season if there is one.  Matt Blake, from his home in Cleveland, Ohio, is working with Yankee pitchers who are now scattered all over the United States.

Blake was hired during the offseason from the Indians organization to replace longtime pitching coach Larry Rothschild. He is trying to keep pitchers stretched out and tossing the ball, so they don’t lose what they gained from the shortened spring training season in Tampa.

“You are kind of guessing more than anything,” new pitching coach Mike Blake said Wednesday in a media conference call. “I think you’re kind of idling them as much as possible and trying to find out a good rhythm for all of them, given their circumstances.”

He stated that with a starting date for baseball completely unknown, he is leaving alone the veteran pitches like Tanaka, Happ, and Cole, as they know how to stay pitching ready.  He is in constant contact with New York Yankees James Paxton as he rehabs from his back surgery.  Paxton is doing well and will be ready sooner than it was anticipated.  He made it known he is spending most of his time on newer pitchers like Jordan Montgomery, Jonathan Loaisiga, and others, guiding them on ways to stay ready.

“I don’t think you need to be on a mound right now. Just given that we don’t really know a timeline, there’s a lot of other ways that we can keep them moving and putting healthy stress on (the pitching arm).“I do think there are some guys who benefit from being on a slope and keeping their delivery in rhythm, even if it’s on a lower volume of throws and just kind of ramping the intensity up a little bit on the slope to kind of keep the sequence and the delivery together. We talked about kind of keeping guys in some up-downs around 45-50 pitches from crowdsourcing with other pitching coaches around the league and some other guys that have a good feel for just what their body needs.

Veteran ace Gerrit Cole isn’t pitching from the mound, but he is getting his pitches in on the flat ground.  Cole is at his home in Greenwich, CT, where he recently bought a home on a large tract of land.  He has ample pitching room marked off to the usual 60′ distance between the pitcher’s mound and home plate.  He is lucky being able to pitch to neighbor New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone.  But his ace in the hole is his wife Amy.  They regularly play catch on the property.  Amy is an athlete in her own right and has a rocket of an arm.

Some pitchers benefit from pitching off a slope:

“We’re trying to get guys to get on the slope for one high-intensity session a week or one long-toss session at high intensity just to kind of make sure they’re pushing their motor up a little bit. And then the rest of the week, just kind of moving the ball around a little bit, whether it’s some moderate long toss or some flat ground (throwing), things of that nature.”

Blake has said previously that he feels the New York Yankees pitching staff will be ready no matter how the baseball season takes shape.  He was impressed with how the shortened spring training went for his pitchers.  Yankee pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is keeping sharp near his home in Japan until a mini-spring training date is announced.  He feels that the bullpen pitchers can keep themselves in shape and will be ready as well.

“We obviously know that our depth will be tested as with most teams,” Blake said. “But I think with the way that spring training was run and having a good look at the bulk of our pitchers both major and minor and some of the non-roster guys, we know we’ve got a nice roster of pitchers that will contribute here.”

New York Yankees: Matt Blake feels “really good” about James Paxton’s progress

New York Yankees, James Paxton

Coronavirus has pushed back the start of the MLB season. The worst thing about it is that we don’t know when will that be. The New York Yankees, like every other team, are patiently waiting. However, while they wait, they are getting excellent news on the injury front.

Because of the delayed season, chances are that they will have every injured player back, except for Luis Severino, of course, who is out until 2021 with Tommy John surgery.

Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and James Paxton are all progressing nicely and are expected to be ready when the season starts, or shortly after.

According to what Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake said Wednesday to Lindsey Adler of The Athletic, he feels “really good” about Paxton’s progress.

Paxton started playing catch in early March, a little over a month after undergoing surgery to remove a cyst from his spine on February 5. Initially, his timetable was about three or four months, which would have meant losing nearly all of the first half.

But as things stand right now, a hypothetical season would start in June at the earliest, and July seems like a more appropriate target given that the virus isn’t yet under control in the United States.

The delayed start of the season will benefit Paxton

While it is a sad development, it represents an advantageous position for the New York Yankees’ southpaw to be, as he has a chance (and a very good one, at that) to be ready when things get rolling again.

The southpaw was solid in 2019, his first season in pinstripes. He had a 3.82 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 186/55 K/BB ratio over 150 2/3 innings (29 starts.)

He is slated to become a free agent in 2021, and he will surely want to have a great season to leave on a high note or to increase the chances of a reunion later down the road.

New York Yankees: Will the Yankee pitchers be plagued by the long ball again this season?

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez, Gerrit Cole, Aaron Boone

The New York Yankees, like all of MLB, eagerly await the beginning of the shortened baseball season.  The Yankees are also following all the CDC recommendations to protect players, most of who have returned home, although some do remain at the training camp at George M. Steinbrenner Field.   Whenever the season starts, the Yankees will follow gathering guidelines, which could mean the season starts without fans in the stands.

The morning we look at the New York Yankee pitching rotation and their propensity to give up the long ball.  With the delay in the start of the season, the Yankees seem primed to have a full rotation with James Paxton that was supposed to miss the first two months of the season, now ready to start when baseball resumes.

The rotation will be headed by Gerrit Cole, who the New York Yankees went after during the offseason and acquired him with a nine-year $324 million contract.  He will be followed hopefully with James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, and most likey Jordan Montgomery rounding out the rotation.  Missing is Luis Severino that will be out the entire season after having Tommy John surgery.  That impact is lessened by the fact that the Yankees won 103 games without him last year when he also suffered injuries.

In the past few years, the Yankee pitchers have suffered from giving up too many home runs.  Masahiro Tanaka last year gave up 28  long balls, and in the past three years, he surrendered  88.  His 2019 season wasn’t stellar, he had an unflattering 4.45 ERA while allowing a career-high 40 base on balls.  James Paxton, who did have a good season pitched to a 3.80 ERA and a 15-6 record.  But with those good stats, he also gave up 23 home runs.

J.AHapp heading the list of Yankees that gave up home runs allowed 34 while having a 12-8 record and 4.19 ERA.  Jordan Montgomery, who has started just seven games in the past two years due to his own injuries, surrendered 21 home runs in his last full season of pitching in 2017.  The odd man out is Domingo German, who was to miss the first 60 games of the season due to his suspension.  Now with the delayed season, those 60 missed games will not start until the season finally starts.  With a baseball season that may now be only 80 or 90 games, his presence will not make much of a difference.  However, it should be noted that with an excellent 18-4 record in his shortened 2019, the long ball was an issue for him as well with 30.

That leaves us with ace Gerrit Cole who led the league with the lowest ERA 2.50 for pitchers pitching at least 150 innings.  In 2019 while with the Houston Astros, Cole allowed 29 home runs, so he isn’t making the Yankee long ball situation any better.  In fact, he could be making it worse.  He may be one of the best pitchers in the game, but over the past 3 years, while becoming a pitching star, he has surrendered 79 long balls while giving up only 36 in the previous four years while with the Pirates.  That shows a constant increase in allowed home runs.  If that continues he could top the Yankee staff on the home run front.

Hitters seem to like his fastball, as the highest percentage of long balls allowed have come off that pitch.  Looking at the projections for Cole says that this may be his worst year issuing home runs.  This spring, he gave up four home runs through two innings against the Tigers in his third start of camp.  That is four home runs across only nine innings total of spring training.  His spring training ERA for four games sits at a scary 7.00.

With all these home runs allowed across the entire New York Yankee pitching rotation, new pitching coach Matt Blake will have his hands full trying to solve this problem that in total causes the Yankee team ERA to be over 25% higher than it should be.  Last year the Yankee home run total put them right in the middle of all MLB teams with a team ERA of 4.41.  If Blake, with all of his analytics, can improve on the home run situation, the Yankees can get closer to the ERA leader Los Angeles Dodgers, who own a team ERA of 3.37.

Many in baseball feel that the 2019 season when the Yankees won 103 games, the tremendous offensive lineup carried the pitching staff.  Strangely the Yankees lineup was mostly silent during the postseason while the pitching was better than in the regular season.  The New York Yankees have to find the formula to lower the home runs allowed by the pitching staff and while making the offense more constant so that they can achieve their 28 World Championship.


New York Yankees: Have the Yankees hired a second pitching coach?

New York Yankees, Larry Rothschild

During the offseason, the New York Yankees made significant moves to improve the entire team. On October 28, 2019, they fired longtime pitching coach Larry Rothschild.  Rothschild had been the Yankees pitching coach since 2011. In the firing of Rothschild, the Yankees were signaling a move more toward a more analytic/technological model in developing their pitchers and preparing them for games.  Following through on that, they hired Matt Blake as their new pitching coach.   They also hired Sam Briend midseason to be their director of player development and run their minor league pitching operations.

Matt Blake’s hiring was surprising as many Yankee fans said: “Matt, who”.  But Yankee fans quickly learned who he was and why the Yankees hired him.  Blake is part of a new breed of pitching coach that is focused on analytics but also uses video from all angles to find the best delivery performance based on positioning that prevents injuries.  He has been called a “pitching guru” by his old college coach at Holy Cross in New England. Matt Blake was hired by the Yankees just two days after he was promoted as head pitching coach for the Cleveland Indians.

During the winter meetings in San Diego, the Yankees sent an entourage of Yankees, including General Manager Brian Cashman, team manager Aaron Boone, new pitching coach Matt Blake, and Andy Pettitte, who was a childhood idol of pitcher Gerrit Cole.  Cole was the free-agent prize this postseason up for grabs.  With the blessing of Yankee’s General Partner Hal Steinbrenner, Cashman offered Cole the large pitching contract ever, $324MM over nine years with a five-year opt-out.  Money and the persuasion of Andy Pettitte sealed the deal.

This week pitchers and catchers prepared for the new season with two workouts at the spring training complex at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida.  All eyes were on the Yankees new ace Gerrit Cole.  Over the past few days, a phenomenon that might not have been expected has quickly shown manager Boone and the coaches more of who the real Gerrit Cole is.  He is a world-class talker, Boone said.  Cole, who threw his second official bullpen session on Friday morning, was quite talkative afterward. “He probably goes into the most detail [about pitching] that I’ve seen,” the Yankees manager said of Gerrit Cole.

“[It] seems like there’s no stone left unturned with him,” Boone said. “And he really has a specific understanding or intention with everything he’s doing. Which I think is really valuable not only for him, obviously, because his intelligence is part of what makes him great, along with having elite characteristics to his pitches, but his ability to communicate with myself, the pitching coach, catchers, teammates.”

“I think it really benefits him, and it’s hopefully something that speeds up that learning curve for all of us that are trying to learn and support him. As well as speeding up the building of those relationships.”

Cole seems more than willing to share his love of pitching and the techniques he uses; the Yankees just may have added another pitching coach.  As the season progresses it will be extremely interesting to see how both coach Matt Blake and Gerrit Cole develop together with the total focus being bringing a World Championship back to New York City.


Should the New York Yankees be Concerned About Matt Blake Already?

New York Yankees, Gerrit Cole

Spring Training doesn’t begin till next week, but questions already surround the New York Yankees pitching staff. And when James Paxton and Domingo German each return to the Yankees around the All-Star game (realistically), how do you get them to bring their A-game right out the gate, after not pitching most of the season? This is where Matt Blake’s inexperience could bite him, and the Yankees, in the butt.

Don’t Think Analytics Makes Him Better Than Rothschild

I felt Larry Rothschild wasn’t as good of a pitching coach as everyone wanted you to believe. When the bullpen was right, the starters were off, and vice versa. Look at last season. There were painfully long stretches where our starting rotation was garbage, and our bullpen was what kept us in the game. Then, when the bullpen was able to rest because the starting rotation got itself right, the key players in the pen before Otta, Britton, and Chapman floundered.

Part of what sold Gerrit Cole on coming to the  New York Yankees was Matt Blake’s sales pitch about his analytical approach to helping pitchers pitch better. If you don’t think Larry Rothschild didn’t have that same information, you’re in denial. Spin rate on a breaking pitch isn’t going to help Tanaka get through 5 on a day he just doesn’t have it. And he’s been losing it more and more as his career in pinstripes progresses.

How Much Will the Other Pitchers Accept Blake’s Approach?

Part of Blake’s success is going to be how much the other pitchers respond to Blake’s coaching. Cole is open to it, and Montgomery is probably going to take what Blake is teaching and run with it. But what about Severino, Tanaka, Happ, and Paxton? Just because he’s their coach doesn’t mean what he teaches them is going to work for them. Mariano Rivera isn’t shy about admitting then pitching coach, Mel Stottlemyer, tried to get him to abandon the cutter. Happ is about 5 years older than Blake, and seen success. Who’s to say Happ doesn’t lead a revolt against neglecting Blake’s coaching the first sign things look bad for our fragile rotation? Who’s to say Blake’s teaching doesn’t result in Cole needing Tommy John? As I said, we’re already down 2 in the rotation. And when they get back, how fast can Blake get them up to speed?

All of the questions that STILL surround the Yankees rotation may be too much for this 34-year-old. I hope it doesn’t, but, let’s just see.

What the New York Yankees are doing to reduce injuries in 2020

New York Yankees, Luke Voit

During the 2019 season, the New York Yankees fell ill to the injury bug, suffering 39 different stints on the injured list. Subsequently, their now former strength and conditioning coach, Matt Kraus, who had been with the team for years, was fired and replaced.

New health coach, Eric Cressey, will take over for Kraus, installing a new system that should minimalize soft tissue injuries and reduce the overall frequency of damages.

Aside from the behemoth signing of Gerrit Cole, the overall of the backend health staff marks the second-largest change for the Yankees this offseason. Notably, Cressey becomes the Director of Player Health and Performance, while Steve Donohue will be moved to Head Athletic Trains and Director of Medical Services.

“Steve brings a wealth of information in terms of the flow of baseball, the travel schedule that dynamic. He knows all the players incredible well, but he is also very, very networked within the game,” Creesey said. “We can lean on Steve’s network really heavily so there’s a wealth of information we absolutely plan to to tap into that a ton and I’m really excited to work with him.”

The Yankees’ pitching coach position was also turned over, as Matt Blake, formerly of the Cleveland Indians, will feature in the role, previously held by Larry Rothschild. Reportedly, Blake’s influence was a significant reason the Yanks were able to lure Cole to the Bronx, as his modernized approach towards spin-rate and overall pitching represented the team’s progressive mentality.

Moving forward, we should hope to see fewer injuries, especially during the preseason. In 2019, Dellin Betances and Giancarlo Stanton, two significant players, missed the entire season virtually with individual injuries. This hurt the Yankees’ chances of reaching the World Series, and while a lack of run support ended up being the primary reason for their demise, Betances’ skill-set might have been a difference-maker in game six (bullpen game).


How the New York Yankees will maximize Gerrit Cole’s abilities in 2020

New York Yankees, Aaron Boone, Gerrit Cole

Aside from the two bottles of wine that sold Gerrit Cole on the New York Yankees and their illustrious franchise, new pitching coach Matt Blake played an integral part in luring arguably the game’s best pitcher to the Big Apple. Cole, who earned a nine-year, $324 million deal, will slide in as the Yankees’ top pitcher in front of Luis Severino and James Paxton.

Cole’s numbers are earth-shattering, as he ranked in the top five among MLB starters in total innings, K/0, LOB%, ERA, xFIP, and WAR (2019). Part of the reason he chose the Bronx was because of Blake, who received fantastic reviews from other players, including Trevor Bauer, who stated via Twitter:

For all the @Yankees fans coming to my page to ask me about @Blake_Matt, he’s awesome. One of the smarter guys I know. Knows a lot about pitching. A lot about development. Good communicator. Etc. Really excited for him getting this opportunity and pumped to see the results.

The principal negative Cole has is a 17% fly-ball rate, which could be problematic in Yankee stadium. Domingo German faced a similar challenge last season but managed to overcome it, for the most part, seeing a decrease of .62 HR per inning in 2018 to .44 HR per inning in 2019.

Firing Larry Rothschild, who spent years as the Yankees’ pitching coach, was an unfortunate reality of modern-day analytics and progression, something that Blake factors into his game-plan.

Matt Blake on joining the New York Yankees:

“Watching it from across the field in Cleveland, there’s a bevy of really talented pitchers — I think it’ll be interesting to get to know where they are in terms of the things they’re thinking about and the things they’re wanting to work on and improve upon.”

As per Nick Nielsen of Empire Sports Media:

Nothing more reassuring than hearing a new pitching coach praise the talents and look toward the future and improvements down the road. Blake prides himself on his relationships with his players, as well as using analytics and different techniques to get the most out of them, seeing as to how talented the New York Yankees farm system is flooded with young, prosperous arms — Garcia, Gil, Medina, Abreu, Schmidt, Acevedo, etc. — and how the starting rotation has all the pieces and talent to be elite, Blake should be able to make an immediate impact.

The Yankees have numerous pitchers returning from significant injuries last season, which bodes well for Blake, who will have a fresh start with guys like Severino and Jordan Montgomery. However, helping Cole continue to develop and add new tools to his arsenal will be the priority in 2020.