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Sequence of the Week: First Half Hits and Misses

Some of the better — and worse — calls from the Sequence of the Week series.

MLB: New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

I wrote a lot about Yankees pitching this year, which was, at the very least, a lot less frustrating than writing about their hitting. For most of the season, at least. I tried to cover a wide spread of pitchers and arsenals with Sequence of the Week, and with the season now blissfully in the books, I thought it might be fun to look back at some of those breakdowns and see what was fun, what wasn’t fun, what stood the test of time, and what didn’t. We’ll start with some of the familiar faces we covered before the All-Star break this past year.

Hit: Clay Holmes takes care of business against Cleveland (4/15)

I liked revisiting this one because it’s still, in my opinion, the quintessential Clay Holmes appearance. He walked and hit batsman’d his way into a bases-loaded jam of the one-out variety. He had no idea where his sinker was going, but located his slider just well enough that Amed Rosario couldn’t do anything to him. The initial timing on this was admittedly quite poor, as it ran a day after Holmes blew a save in his subsequent appearance, but the message here held up. He’ll still scare you plenty with poor command, but the nastiness of his stuff and breadth of his arsenal was still enough to carry him to an excellent 2.86 ERA, with a matching 2.65 FIP to boot.

Miss: Nestor Cortes couldn’t keep it up (4/7)

I was so optimistic about Nestor heading into the season, and taking a look back at this reminded me what might have been, health willing. He was gassing up Nick Castellanos with 94 mph fastballs! Unfortunately, as we know, it didn’t last, and we didn’t foresee the degree to which health issues and the pace of play rules would seemingly hamper his effectiveness later in starts. I still believe in Nestor, and I’ll be keeping a close eye on him next spring, because a clean bill of health and return to form would unironically be better than any non-Yamamoto pitcher the Yankees can go get on the free agent market this winter.

MLB: Houston Astros at New York Yankees Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Hit and Miss: Clarke Schmidt kinda figured it out?

I’m still not 100 percent sure what to make of Clarke Schmidt. I was quite disappointed at how different he looked early in 2023 compared to his solid 2022, and six weeks into the season, I was begging him to ditch his cutter, because his command of his other pitches had regressed and he couldn’t stop throwing hangers. Schmidt still struggled with spotting up; despite his low walk rate, there’s a reason he rarely got a chance to finish six innings. However, he did get the cutter figured out, and with aplomb. From the time that article was published through the end of the season, its wOBA and xwOBA both ran a solid 50 points below league average.

MLB: New York Yankees at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

BIG Miss: Luis Severino did not get it figured out.

Man, this one made me sad. This was so promising for Luis Severino when he first made his return to the mound this season. His velocity was still popping, he looked like he had his old changeup, and his slider was rounding into shape, if not perfect. I mentioned that his command was still spotty, though, and it only got worse from there. The changeup was still his best secondary, but Severino wasn’t able to bully hitters with his fastball anymore like he made it look like he could in Cincinnati, and the iffy slider wound up turning into a serious problem. I thought there was a very good chance he’d pitch his way into a long-term contract for the Yankees, but he might have already thrown his last pitch in pinstripes.

Hit: There was something to Nick Ramirez! (7/1)

The Yankees dumpster-diving for depth pieces last offseason backfired horribly on the offensive end, but as usual, the bullpen had its share of diamonds in the rough, of whom Ramirez might have been the quietest. Ramirez had hardly seen any big league playing time since 2019, but he showed up in the Bronx this summer with a bowling ball sinker and a new sweeper, which made him particularly interesting for a guy destined to spend the year swinging between Triple-A and the majors. He wasn’t just a first-half phenomenon, either, working to a 3.23 ERA (and 2.98 FIP) in 17 appearances following that SOTW, finishing with a 2.66 mark on the year. He won’t be getting high leverage innings any time soon, but it’s nice to know that Matt Blake can still pick ‘em.

Hit: Gerrit Cole points his way to victory (6/23)

It’s almost easy to take Gerrit Cole for granted at this point, but it was always a pleasure to take a moment to break down the presumptive Cy Young winner working his magic. This one included perhaps my favorite moment to watch live all season, in which Cole understood that he’s one of the only pitchers in the game who can get away with intentionally throwing the ball to the backstop in the seventh inning of a close game. When the Cole Train is chugging, there’s not many hitters that can stop it, and José Caballero sure ain’t one of them.