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Jameson Taillon has a home run problem

Jameson Taillon’s shaky second half has been fueled by a surge in home runs against him.

MLB: New York Yankees at Oakland Athletics Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

This season has been a tale of two very different halves for Jameson Taillon. In the first three months of the season, the right hander was pitching to a very good 3.24 FIP as part of a Yankees rotation that was on an impressive run as a unit. Taillon was particularly effective when it came to the outcomes he had the most control over; walks and home runs. Through those first three months, Taillon had the lowest walk rate, and notably, was giving up the least amount of long balls relative to his Yankee rotation-mates. However, things have changed since then.

In the months since, Taillon is sporting an ERA approaching five, and a FIP that has surpassed it. Noteworthy within that, is the 15 home runs he has given up since the beginning of July — the most in all of baseball. Giving up homers is the single worst thing a pitcher can do on the mound, and doing it more than anyone is quite the issue. Obviously, home runs often come from mistake pitches, but Taillon is also putting himself in positions where he has to throw pitches over the plate.

Of the league-leading 15 home runs Taillon has given up since the beginning of July, only two were hit when he got himself ahead in the count. Nine of them came on off-speed or breaking pitches. And of those 15, four of them came off his changeup, despite it being his least frequently thrown pitch.

As mentioned, the majority of these homers have come when Taillon is even or has fallen behind in the count, which is no coincidence. In those spots of course, a pitcher is generally forced to go at opposing hitters, often resulting in hittable pitches, and in Taillon’s case of late, home runs. This is the most obvious part of this issue, as nearly all of the home runs he’s surrendered have come in these spots. Generally, the righty has been going to his primary pitches, his four-seamer and slider, in these situations. Regardless of his success with them, when he’s falling behind in the count and forced to get a pitch over the plate, it makes the job of the hitter that much easier.

Between these two differing halves for Taillon on the mound, not a lot has changed as far as his pitch selection goes. He’s throwing his four-seamer and slider a bit more often, his cutter and sinker slightly less often, and his curve and changeup about the same. The results for most have his pitches have been similar too. As far as wOBA goes, there are slight negative trends with some pitches (as expected with a 5.35 FIP since July 1st), but nothing totally eye-popping. There are some massive and concerning shifts however, in the results his changeup is yielding.

Back in June, I wrote about how well Taillon was mixing and locating his pitch repertoire, noting how effective his change up had been. He has never relied on it, being his least-thrown weapon, but he was picking his spots effectively and finding great success. That of course has not been the case lately, as hitters have posted a .463 wOBA against the pitch since July 1st, up all the way from .255 prior to that. He’s been using the pitch at about the same rate, but lately has been leaving it up in the zone, and it’s getting hammered.

Jameson Taillon has not been the pitcher he was in the first half. As the season has progressed, he’s been bitten by the home run bug far too often. The righty has been falling behind in counts, forcing him to go at hitters with his go-to pitches, setting himself up for bad results. And the slight but effective weapon he had in his changeup early in the season has been giving him fits, as he’s been leaving the pitch up in the zone for hitters to pounce on. As the Yankees now find themselves in a more competitive September than anyone would’ve hoped for, getting some semblance the Taillon of the first half back would be a major boost.