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Postseason Preview: The 2021 AL Wild Card Recreation

There was a second on Sunday when Randy Arozarena had simply stolen second base within the eighth inning of a scoreless sport. Wander Franco stood on the plate whereas Nelson Cruz waited within the on-deck circle; the Yankees hadn’t but recorded an out. In the meantime, 250 miles down I-95, the Nationals had simply wrapped up a three-run fifth, pushing their lead over Boston to 4 runs. Making his main league debut, successfully wild teenager Joan Adon struck out Rafael Devers on maybe his greatest breaking ball of the day. The Blue Jays have been cruising. This was the second when additional baseball felt probably. Maybe not All the Additional Baseball, due to the Mariners’ deficit towards the Angels, however some. As an alternative, to the annoyance of baseball hipsters all over the place, we’re left with a boring ol’ Yankees/Crimson Sox playoff sport at Fenway Park that includes two Cy Younger candidates.

That is solely the second time the 2 franchises have met within the postseason since their heated, knuckleball-crushing, curse-breaking epic tilts of the early 2000s, with the opposite coming when Boston dispatched the Yankees 3-to-1 within the 2018 ALDS, a sequence that featured most of the similar gamers we’ll see Tuesday, although not those straight concerned in that sequence’ extracurricular activity. It seems like we see these groups play each other on nationwide TV continually (it’s handy to haul gear from Bristol, Connecticut to both Boston or New York), however they’ve solely confronted off six occasions within the final two-and-a-half months. The Yankees received all of these video games, together with the final two in dramatic fashion (not that meaning something). Our introduced starters completed the season ranked one-two in American League pitcher WAR: Gerrit Cole is about to take the mound for New York, whereas Boston will begin 11-year veteran Nathan Eovaldi. Listed below are your beginning pitcher scouting reviews:

Gerrit Cole Scouting Report

Pitch Sort Form Utilization Charge Velocity
Fastball Tail+Rise 48% 97-100, t103
Slider Brief, Lateral 22% 86-91
Changeup Tailing 14% 87-92
Curveball Two-planed 16% 81-86

It was one other dominant yr for Cole, who completed fifth within the AL in innings pitched (181.1), was second in Okay/9 (12.06) and WAR (5.3), and had the fifth-lowest BB/9 amongst certified starters (2.03). At occasions homer-prone, the lone unfavorable byproduct of his stylistic shift to fashionable energy pitching whereas with Houston, Cole’s HR/FB% was according to the major-league common this yr at 13.5%.

Cole has used his changeup extra this season than ever earlier than, borrowing evenly from his different choices to almost triple its utilization (14%) in comparison with final yr (5%). When Cole was an beginner prospect, there have been scouts who thought that his changeup would develop into his greatest secondary weapon (he hadn’t but integrated a curveball). He started to learn a curveball from A.J. Burnett whereas with Pittsburgh; Houston leaned into his potential to spin the ball, de-emphasizing the changeup.

Talking of spin, the vertical motion on Cole’s fastball and curveball dipped simply earlier than MLB applied in-game checks for international substances in late June, however has slowly been returning to normal ever since.

Listed below are my notes on how Cole has approached Crimson Sox hitters in his 4 begins towards Boston this yr:

Gerrit Cole Utilization vs the Crimson Sox

Hitter Method
Enrique Hernández Heavy slider utilization away from Hernández, additionally a good variety of high-finishing changeups.
Kyle Schwarber Schwarber’s NL begin and harm imply only a 15-pitch historical past right here, largely fastballs.
Xander Bogaerts Fastballs and sliders away made up 28 of the 34 pitches Cole has thrown Bogaerts.
Rafael Devers Nearly no sliders, with every thing up or away vs. Devers. Numerous backdoor curveballs.
J.D. Martinez A close to even break up of fastballs & sliders; the sliders end in-zone greater than normal.
Alex Verdugo Cole’s combine vs. Verdugo is near his total pitch utilization.
Hunter Renfroe 40 pitches, 55% of them a mixture of Cole’s two breaking balls, often out of the zone.
Christian Vázquez 26 pitches, largely fastballs/sliders with the occasional get-me-over curveball
Christian Arroyo Solely 11 pitches, largely letter-high heaters
Bobby Dalbec A good fastball/slider combine throughout 17 pitches.

Opposing starter Nathan Eovaldi has been across the block. He debuted 10 years in the past for a 2011 Dodgers crew that was additionally experiencing Clayton Kershaw‘s and Kenley Jansen’s ascendance, then was a part of the gifted (however ill-fated) bait-and-switch Marlins groups of the brand new ballpark period earlier than becoming a member of the strain cooker of the AL East, the place he’s constantly improved. It’s all culminated in the most effective season of Eovaldi’s profession, as for the primary time he’s lacking bats whereas additionally staying wholesome.

Nathan Eovaldi Scouting Report

Pitch Sort Form Utilization Charge Velocity
Fastball Tail+Rise 42% 95-100, t102
Cutter Brief, Lateral 12% 91-95
Slider Brief 2-to-7 Sweep 14% 84-89
Curveball Lengthy 2-to-7 sweep 19% 76-81
Splitter Sink/fade, cuts a couple of of them 13% 85-89

Even throughout a decade-long profession spent fully as a starter, Eovaldi has simply two seasons (2014, ’21) during which he made greater than 30 begins, and he’s punched tickets at a a lot larger charge this season (9.63 Okay/9 in ’21 versus simply 6.40 in ’14). The outcome was a season tops within the AL by way of WAR (5.6), whereas Eovaldi additionally posted the AL’s lowest FIP amongst certified arms (2.79, third-best in all of baseball). All of this has come amid a slight downtick in velocity, although Eovaldi developed through a extra distinct cutter/slider mixture, throwing many more of the latter than he beforehand had since becoming a member of Boston:

Eovaldi pitched a 2.2 inning dud towards the Yankees on September 24. His curveball has been bleeding downward movement all yr, however he hasn’t had a sustained drop in total efficiency and has chugged alongside as a mostly-dominant starter all yr. Right here how he’s approached the Yankees within the six begins he’s made towards them:

Nathan Eovaldi Utilization vs the Yankees

Hitter Method
Gleyber Torres Eovaldi works the underside of the zone towards Torres and throws extra sliders than is typical.
Anthony Rizzo Simply 5 pitches towards Rizzo, all fastballs and curveballs.
Aaron Judge Eovaldi’s combine vs. Decide is according to his regular utilization, with fastball areas in on his palms.
Giancarlo Stanton Letter-high fastballs and breaking stuff away from Stanton.
Joey Gallo Eovaldi has barely seen Gallo (simply 17 pitches), largely working him down-and-in
Gio Urshela Principally fastballs and cutters up and away from Urshela.
Brett Gardner Eovaldi’s cutter utilization greater than doubles towards Gardner.
Gary Sánchez Emphasis on sliders off the plate away from Sánchez.
Rougned Odor Combine is according to regular utilization, with emphasis on onerous stuff (fastball, cutter) on the letters.

In The Bullpen
Aaron Boone has been extraordinarily cautious together with his reliever deployment over the last week, a luxurious maybe afforded by the Yankees’ place relative to the opposite Wild Card contenders. None of their relievers labored on back-to-back days over the last 5 video games of the season. There’s nonetheless some volatility right here, however not all of it’s unhealthy. Jonathan Loáisiga missed most of September with harm and simply returned, however his arm power has been intact. Luis Severino has made simply 4 appearances within the massive leagues since coming back from his TJ rehab, and his velocity has been climbing (although it stays properly under his pre-injury ranges). Michael King has additionally loved a velo spike since transferring to the bullpen full-time. If issues go sideways for Cole, the Yankees have the weapons to bridge the middle-inning hole.

Alex Cora didn’t have the identical luxurious of a lead within the standings and has been throwing relievers extra aggressively. Throughout the identical stretch throughout which no Yankees threw on back-to-back days, six Sox did, together with 4 straight video games from Ryan Brasier, and three from Matt Barnes and Adam Ottavino. Nick Pivetta threw 87 pitches on Thursday, then pitched in reduction on Sunday. Garrett Whitlock got here off the IL proper earlier than Recreation 162. The built-in off day helps cushion Boston’s bullpen.

Miscellaneous Observations
Watch Gary Sánchez’s receiving. Final season he was establishing so early that opposing runners might inform what pitch was coming primarily based on his footwork and relay that info to hitters from second base. Sánchez’s pitch tipping was so unhealthy final yr that it was part of why Kyle Higashioka acquired extra reps late within the season. On Sunday towards the Rays, with a runner on second, Sánchez was intentionally establishing in decoy areas early, then adjusting his footwork to obtain the precise pitch as soon as his hurler had begun their supply.

Yankees rookie Luis Gil had a rocky remaining outing at Triple-A, recording only one out, strolling two, and giving up a dinger. He made these three good spot begins in August however has posted a 5.14 ERA over the past month.

Crimson Sox leather-wizard José Iglesias, as soon as a Sox prospect, isn’t eligible for postseason play as a result of he didn’t be a part of the membership till after the calendar turned to September. Christian Arroyo will fill in, which suggests Alex Cora doesn’t have fairly the identical late-game infield protection improve in his toolkit.

This weekend proved pricey for each groups from an harm perspective. DJ LeMahieu went on the 10-day IL yesterday with a sports activities hernia; since this piece was initially printed, the Yankees have introduced that Andrew Velazquez will play short, with Gleyber Torres at second base and Gio Urshela at third. In the meantime, J.D. Martinez is not on the roster after he twisted his ankle tripping over a base on his method to the outfield on Sunday. The Crimson Sox have introduced that Kyle Schwarber will DH, with Bobby Dalbec playing first. Kevin Plawecki will catch.

This piece has been up to date to replicate the information that J.D. Martinez didn’t make the playoff roster and to replicate every crew’s introduced lineup.

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