Baseball fans cherish opening weekend, but the Yankees did their best to disappoint their audience against the Blue Jays, dropping two out of three in uninspiring fashion. The games were long, devoid of action, and elicited panic from some of the fanbase. Yankees baseball is back, indeed.
However, a couple of things remain true when evaluating opening weekend. First, a three-game sample size is not enough to glean any meaningful insight on how the Yankees will look in 2021. Had this series happened in the middle of July, it likely would have just been viewed as an “off” series where the club just didn’t bring it. The Yankees’ performance in their first three games has no connection to how they’ll perform down the stretch, and certainly not how they’ll look in October, when the games really matter.
Much of the focus from the opening series has been on the team’s hitting, or lack thereof. But, one positive shined through for the Yankees in their first series – their pitching. While it’s much too early to take anything definitive from it, it’s at least something that fans can be happy about despite a disappointing debut.
I’ll defer to YES Network researcher Seth Rothman for the numbers, but the Yankees’ pitching vs. the Blue Jays was darn good:
Bright spot:— Seth Rothman (@SethDRothman) April 4, 2021
Yankees have allowed 3 ER or fewer in each of the first 3 games of the season for the first time since 2005.
Yankees pitching - this series
*6th best ERA in MLB this season
The last time the Yankees pitched so well in their first series, it was thanks to Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano and Mike Mussina, as well as a bullpen that featured Mariano Rivera, Tom Gordon, Scott Proctor and Tanyon Sturtze. Strange times, indeed. That stat serves as proof of two things – one, never put too much stock into Opening Day (as the 2005 team was largely undone by its pitching), and two, our first impression of the Yankees’ 2021 pitching staff was better than any of the last 16 years. Whether it lasts or not, it’s still impressive.
The Yankees got contributions from a number of different pitchers against the Blue Jays. Gerrit Cole wasn’t his sharpest, but was still hard to hit to the tune of two earned runs and eight strikeouts in 5.1 innings. The same could be said for Corey Kluber, who struck out five and walked a tightrope out of danger in four innings during the second game. Finally, although Domingo Germán’s return to New York didn’t go smoothly, the amazing performance of Michael King kept the Yankees in the game:
Michael King today:— Yankees Videos (@snyyankees) April 4, 2021
6 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 3 K, 0 ER, 16 straight batters retired pic.twitter.com/TaO1iVvCLU
The rest of the Yankees’ new-look bullpen also looked good. Chad Green and Jonathan Loaisiga were their typical high-velocity selves, Darren O’Day excelled at generating soft contact, and the team can once again use Aroldis Chapman now that his two-game suspension has been served. The only relievers who looked truly poor were Lucas Luetge and Nick Nelson, who are the last two guys in the bullpen anyway.
The Yankees could see even more quality pitching with an upcoming series against the Orioles. Although the Baltimore bats just destroyed Boston’s pitching, they still present a favorable matchup on paper for Jordan Montgomery, Jameson Taillon, and a second dose of Cole. I have no doubt that the Yankees’ offense will get going soon, but until it does, it’s good to know that the team’s pitching is capable of holding down the fort, even if they have to use a variety of arms to do the job.
After the Yankees completely revamped their pitching staff by investing in a mix of diverse relievers and high-risk, high-reward starters, it’s good to see some positive early returns. Again, three games, or even the whole month of April, is probably not a long enough sample size to truly get a feel for how well this Yankees team is going to pitch, but the Yankees’ pitchers have come out firing so far in 2021.