Last year, in a relatively unexpected move, the Yankees acquired Jameson Taillon from the Pirates. Coming off his second Tommy John surgery, it wasn’t the move Yankee fans had hoped for. Adding a chronic player with elbow issues to the Yankees roster was not ideal, but the Yankees saw a lot of potential in Taillon despite the history.
People may debate this, but to me, Taillon’s 2021 season was a huge success. His previous career high in innings pitched was 191 in 2018. An optimistic view of Taillon’s 2021 projection would have been roughly 100 innings, but he far surpassed that with 144.1 innings. For a stretch in the summer, he was the best starting pitcher on the team. In July, he threw 31 dominant innings with a 1.16 ERA. There were flashes of the peak version of Taillon, and it was exciting. Even if his ERA ended up at 4.30 and he only accumulated 2.0 fWAR, it was still an incredible year for Taillon given the context around the season.
Unfortunately, the season didn’t end in perfect health. Taillon needed ankle surgery that would require a five-month rehab period. After Taillon overhauled his mechanics following his second TJ surgery, his arm swing/elbow spiral were much improved. He shortened his catapult throwing motion and instead was throwing more like a quarterback.
He also significantly changed his lower half mechanics. His previous movements were all over the place and likely adding even more stress onto his arm. Here is a quote from Taillon about it:
It’s obvious that Taillon became invested in biomechanics and the importance of a fluid kinetic chain after dealing with his arm troubles. The arm swing speed and motion should indeed be a product of the movements which precede it. Taillon’s pitching IQ significantly increased and it’s a big reason why he improved his mechanics and had a great performance despite decreased velocity, but things don’t always go the way you expect it.
Even after drastically improving his lower half mechanics, Taillon still put added pressure onto his ankle and legs. At times, it felt as if Taillon would get stuck on his back side and lose control of his fastballs. Here is an example:
Why is this not ideal though? Well, a pitcher’s goal is to rotate with their spine. When you get stuck on your back leg, your stride length is short, your arm needs to catch up with your body, and your center of rotation is not at your mid-point. You then start to be a bit pushy off the rubber instead of rotating from your center of mass. Do this over and over again and the stress adds up. Stagnation is usually not a good thing at any point for pitchers, and Taillon is actively trying to combat this. There are probably a few things on his mind, but one very visible adjustment is his new hybrid windup.
“I’m good on that.”— Max Goodman (@MaxTGoodman) March 19, 2022
I think Jameson Taillon liked the last pitch of his bullpen. pic.twitter.com/OmUY6GiX9D
After only being out of the stretch last year, the windup is a bit surprising. It’s not a typical hybrid windup either. He is clearly trying to establish some rhythm in his legs almost as if he is dancing, and a bouncy rhythm like this can help connect the lower and upper body. For some pitchers, that rhythm comes in the form of the overhead movement with the glove and ball — Walker Buehler and Max Scherzer are perfect examples of this. Taillon is instead employing this dancing windup as a reminder to himself to keep his legs engaged. It’s a physical cue which should help him not get stuck in his tree trunk legs.
It’s great to see Taillon making small improvements at a time. Just a few years ago, he said he had no clue how to use his lower half. Even so, he would still pump upper 90s. Today, he is an extremely high IQ pitcher looking to do whatever little thing that might help his health and pitching mechanics. Here is another look at the hybrid windup:
Jameson Taillon coming to a mound near you pic.twitter.com/XH13vsNgWt— YES Network (@YESNetwork) March 21, 2022
It’s great to see him staying relatively square after releasing the ball. This indicates his rotation and progression down the mound are moving in the right direction. He is staying athletic and not sapping much energy at any point.
Another promising note for Taillon is that he is on the mound at all during spring training — his ankle rehab must have gone extremely well. He is right on schedule with the rest of the rotation despite receiving a five-month timeline in the end of the fall. It may be easy to write off Taillon in the Yankees’ rotation, but I would be weary of doing so. When you consider the peak he hit in 2021 and his improved mechanics, it would not be all that surprising to see a performance jump in 2022. Steamer has him pegged for a 4.63 ERA in 152 innings pitched this season — do what you want with this information, but I sure am expecting more from Taillon in his second year in pinstripes.