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  • Writer's pictureAndy Singer

About Yesterday: Yanks Fall 7-5 To The Giants

By Andy Singer

April 2nd, 2023

The Big Story


In a back-and-forth game on April Fool's Day, the Yanks just didn't have enough firepower to to fight both the Giants and the umps. Pitchers the Yankees are counting on for a big season, Clarke Schmidt, Mike King, and Clay Holmes all struggled to varying degrees, and while the Yanks' offense put up a good fight, scoring 5 runs with a mixture of luck, power, and timely hitting, they just couldn't do enough despite a late 9th inning charge as rain began to fall in the Bronx. Despite their best efforts, the Yanks fell to 1-1 on the season.


A Deeper Dive


New Pitches Giveth and Taketh...


Clarke Schmidt has fallen in love with the cutter he spent all off-season perfecting. What began as a pursuit to find a pitch that could help make him more effective against left-handed hitting has finished with Schmidt replacing his hard four-seam fastball with the cutter. In fact, the cutter was Schmidt's primary offering on Saturday, throwing the pitch on 35.5% of pitches, according to Statcast. Results were decidedly mixed.


On the one hand, Schmidt induced a 33% whiff rate with the pitch, got 3 called strikes, and batters averaged an Exit Velocity of just 78 MPH against his cutter. If that's all I told you, you'd assume that Schmidt's cutter is pretty excellent. Moving beyond those bottom-line statistics, it's easy to see why Schmidt and the Yankees are so infatuated with the pitch: its movement profile is elite, which was on full display in Saturday's game: 92.5 MPH average velocity, gobs of vertical break, and just enough horizontal break to help keep it off of the sweet spots of bats more generally. Again, these are all very good things.


Pitching, sadly, is not just about producing good movement and velocity metrics, nor can the story of a single game be told by the averages. Moving beyond the good, tell me what's wrong with the pitch chart for Schmidt's cutter in the image below:


For those of you playing the home game, that's a lot of cutters right in the heart of the plate. I don't care how good you throw the baseball, Major League hitters will eventually figure out pitches in the happy zone, which is exactly what happened in the 4th inning: Brandon Crawford hit one of those middle-middle cutters way out to RF for a 2-run homer.


Don't get me wrong, I think the cutter is a good pitch for Schmidt, but I think he needs to find a better pitch mix in order for it to be effective deep into outings as a starter.


Command is Key


One of the reasons that I have largely remained skeptical of Schmidt as a starting pitcher is his command. I don't blame Schmidt for the homer to Joc Pederson, which was on a breaking ball that Pederson golfed out below the strike zone. By that point, his command had already fallen apart, but you just have to tip your cap to Pederson for going down and getting a good pitch. The bigger issue is that Schmidt couldn't hit spots at all for the majority of his outing; he just got by on pure stuff.


Schmidt continues to display a delivery that has multiple moving parts, including a bounce into his motion out of the wind-up that necessarily leads to inconsistency in his delivery. Saturday was case-and-point for everything that concerns me about Schmidt as a starter. His stuff is definitely good enough to start, but I just don't think he'll be able to consistently maintain stuff, command, and delivery beyond 3-4 innings to make it as a starter long-term. The Yankees need him there for now, but games like this one continue to provide evidence that Schmidt's best role is as a wicked multi-inning reliever.


A Tale of Two Strike Zones


I hate complaining about umpires - really, I do, but the home plate umps in the first two games of this season have been laughably bad. I am not a proponent of the electronic strike zone, but games like Saturday's are pushing me in that direction. Take a look at the called strikes, as called by Statcast:


Yankees' pitchers were awarded two egregious strikes, and one low ball that is somewhere between bad and egregious. Giants' pitchers were able to basically toss balls into the left-handed batters' box all game and get the call for a strike. Frankly, it was embarrassing and MLB should be ashamed watching umpiring like this in a nationally televised game. I hope MLB is reading this blog. There's little doubt but that the umpiring behind the plate impacted the game on Saturday, as Yankee hitters fell behind and struck out on egregious strike calls.


Would the outcome of the game have been different if the strike zone were called fairly? I really don't know, and that very uncertainty is a serious indictment of the quality of the umpiring in this series. MLB has had a strike-calling issue with Laz Diaz's crew for years, but yet they continue to call games. I thought Angel Hernandez's crew was the worst out there, but this one is giving them a run for their money.


The First of Many


This game wasn't all bad. Anthony Volpe had another solid game, but most importantly he picked up his first two hits in MLB action. The first hit was a soft-hit ball to the left side that squeaked into the outfield early in the game, while the second hit was a laser back up the middle in the bottom of the 9th inning as the Yanks tried to rally. In both cases, Volpe didn't try to do too much with the pitches he was thrown, taking beautifully balanced swings with up-the-middle approaches. Every time I watch Volpe, I like him more.


Here are the two hits, for reference:


Shaky Bullpen Stalwarts


If the Yankees are going to have a good bullpen in 2023, they need Clay Holmes and Mike King to be very good, if not elite. Saturday was not a good start.


King didn't look like he was pitching with his best stuff, and he just left a bit too much meat over the plate over his two innings. Nothing I saw with King particularly worries me, but I'd like to see an outing with good stuff next time out.


Holmes is another story. I thought his sinker and slider both looked sharp, and at times, unhittable. I hate to say it, I think the gap was more mental than physical. Holmes started off the 9th inning just fine, forcing a weak fly out. In the next at-bat, Holmes' actually looked even better, but Pederson went down below the strike zone to somehow golf a nasty 99 MPH sinker into the outfield for a single. Pederson is a notorious low ball hitter, and it was the second time in this game that Pederson managed to do damage on a pitch below the strike zone.


Rather than shake it off as a fluke, Holmes tried to get too fine with the sinker, and got wild immediately following the Pederson at-bat, falling behind 3-0 to the next batter. Since the All-Star break last year, Holmes has not pitched with the conviction he pitched with to begin 2022. He has all of the stuff to be a shutdown relief pitcher, but he's missing the pitbull style that made him appealing following his trade to the Yankees. I am worried about him in the closer role until he regains that confident style, particularly with his sinker.


Plenty of Pop


The Yanks showed pop throughout the lineup on Saturday. Stanton and Donaldson, two hitters the Yanks need to be successful, homered in key spots; Anthony Rizzo swatted a game-tying double in the 5th; and Judge, LeMahieu, and Volpe all contributed to a rally in the 9th inning. This didn't feel like the no-offense Yankees we saw in the 2022 ALCS and for large parts of the 2nd half of last season. I think the offense will be fine, even if it wasn't quite enough on Saturday.


Player of the Game


It's got to be Anthony Volpe on the day he gets his first of what will hopefully be thousands of hits in the big leagues. Volpe went 2-4 with a run scored and a stolen base, his second of the year.


Notable Performances


Aaron Judge: 3-5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2-2 RISP, 1 diving catch in the gap

Giancarlo Stanton: 1-5, solo homer, GIDP to end the game

Anthony Rizzo: 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 2B, 2 BB

Josh Donaldson: 1-4, 1 HR, 1 K

Albert Abreu: 2 IP, 0 H, 1 BB, 3 K


Better To Forget


The bullpen performance and the umpiring.


My Take


Sometimes, it rains. I do see some cracks in the once dominant Yankee bullpen, but nothing that I think is critical...yet. Sometimes, it's better to shake it off and come back tomorrow ready to play. Let's hope the Yankees do that as they look to win the series.


Looking To Tomorrow


The Yankees look to win the series against the Giants and move above .500. Jhony Brito gets his first big league start against Ross Stripling at 1:35 at Yankee Stadium. Taking 2 out of 3 in every series this season would be nice...let's start on Sunday.

19 Comments


jjw49
Apr 02, 2023

Look the reality is Cabrera is playing out of position in LF…. is he perfect out there ..NO but be more concerned with the BP. Out of necessity Schmidt is starting but his role is a middle reliever. HP umpire was bad and I’m sure many traditionalist will hate electronic strike zone but over the course of a season the bad calls are still bad calls so the sooner the better imo!

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etbkarate
Apr 02, 2023

Also, while I'm at it, if you saw cabrera play outfield last year, especially in ALCS, it was clear he had problems coming in on balls. The Sabol base hit in 3rd was a perfect example. An MLB left fielder makes that play. If he is viewed as the NYY future left fielder, he should have have been sent to Scranton for 50 or so games, and learned how to read balls off the bat. Or, they should have kept the all star, world champion left fielder they had.

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etbkarate
Apr 02, 2023
Replying to

In and back. Side to side is excellent. Just needs reps.

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etbkarate
Apr 02, 2023

Top of 9th was a clinic on why judge should be in right field. You put best arm in right, or run risk of extra bases. It took less than 2 games to manifest and cost them. Today i see $6mm man IKF is penciled in to play CF. They keep trying to reinvent the wheel.

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Andy Singer
Andy Singer
Apr 02, 2023
Replying to

I think Stanton is a passable fielder...not much more and possibly less on a bad day, which is sad given that he used to be an asset in the field. I can't help but think that the lack of reps the last few years hurt him, hence the bad route in the 9th yesterday.

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yankeesblog
Apr 02, 2023

I think Judge was clearly the player of the game. Schmidt's fail and the inability of the bullpen to hold the fort are worrying since we don't know how long the Yankees will be without Rodon and Severino.

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Alan B.
Alan B.
Apr 02, 2023

Where do i start? The HP ball/strike thing isn't limited to a Yankees game. But when the umps can't lose their jobs for bad performance, how will it get any better?


Why did another Yankees SP's mound visit from a coach only be to pull him from the game? I don't know who is in charge of determining mound visits for the starters, but it is clear to me they have no idea what they are doing.

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