Monday, August 16, 2021

The Yankee problem is not in starting games, but finishing them... and the unlikeliest pitcher of them all might just hold the key

Aside from Gerrit Cole - who's been everything touted - no Yank pitcher seems to pitch with as much grit and guile as Nasty Nestor Octavio-Cortez, the mustachioed maestro from Cuba. 

Ten years from now, he might look like a Bartolo or an Enrique - some rotund retread too ugly for MLB batters to solve. Right now - at 5'11" and 220 - he looks like a bus driver who made off with a uniform. The phrase "crafty veteran" comes to mind, but he's only 26. What's he doing out there? Is the radar gun not working? How is this guy getting people out? 

Well, that's the fun. And no matter how much the Yankee rotation might soon be refortified, Nasty Nestor has earned a spot in the final go-around.

The potential order for September: 

Cole, emphatically!
Jameson Taillon, obviously.
Jordan Montgometry, hopefully.
Corey Kluber, possibly.
Nasty Nestor, yeah, dammit!

Of course, there is a second tier.

Domingo German, maybe.
Luis Gil, perhaps.
Andrew Heaney, uh, nah.
Michael King, doubtful.
Deivi Garcia, humina-humina-humina...
Luis Severino, (remove hat, look down, moment of silence...)

As we head toward fall, every main Yankee starter is either returning from the Unknown (Cole/Montgomery = Covid) or facing workload limits (Taillon/ Kluber = lost year) - everyone, that is, except Nestor, who yesterday befuddled the Chicago Costners, as he has done now for nearly a month.

Nestor's 2.55 ERA leads all Yanks with more than five starts. (Gil has started two, without yielding a run, so there's that.) In his last four starts, Cortez has thrown nearly 22 innings and given up 8 earned runs. (In that bad outing against KC, he was victimized by a poor defense and a leaky pen.) 

Of course, the Yankee problem is not starting games, but finishing them. When the seventh inning arrives, it's best to watch from your fallout shelter. Zack Britton looks hopelessly fried. Aroldis Chapman was floundering badly before the injury. Mean Chad Green doesn't seem to work as a closer, and Jonathan Loaisiga might be year away. From there, it's a long hard drop to magically thinking about Stephen Ridings. 

Unless El Chapo returns in full, the Yankees may have no single person capable of finishing close games - nobody who offers the versatility and mentality to assume the role of Yankee stopper. 

Wait a minute. There is a guy. I'll give you a hint. He's Nasty.


JM said...

If Chapman comes back, he'll have the job until he implodes a time or two. Then it will be a rotating gamble. If Nestor isn't a starter, he won't be a closer, not full-time, anyway. It looks like Boone is finally realizing that situational pitching is important: if the 7th inning shapes up to be crucial, he'll bring out the best for it and hope lesser lights will be able to fill in during the 8th and 9th, and so on.

And don't forget Abreu. Yes, very small sample size, but the kid (who I was disparaging not long ago before being proved very wrong) has something. If he can hang onto his control, and better than Lugnut or Britton can, he might be seeing some late-game action pretty often.

It would be nice to have somebody--anybody--who can consistently nail down a win at the end. You knew that yesterday that Voit home run was an absolute necessity as soon as he hit it. The Sox were not going to go down without scoring in the 9th. It was just a matter of holding them to fewer runs than we had.

TheWinWarblist said...

Stop this. No! No Hope for you!!

ZacharyA said...

Cortes being good is one of my favorite things about this season. It's just so ridiculous. He came into this season with a career 6.72 ERA. The Yanks signed him to a minor-league deal in December surely just as AAA depth. But inexplicably, he's been fantastic. Cortes was a 36th round draft pick (1,094 overall!). What a fun guy to root for.

On the flip side, Giancarlo Stanton has a .392 SLG in his last 70 games. It's the first time in his career he's gone so long with a sub-.400 SLG. This is more than a slump at this point. The fact that the Yankees haven't been able to fix his mechanics is a fireable offense for everyone on that coaching staff.

ZacharyA said...

Another pitching nugget:

The Yankees have a 4.72 ERA in the 9th inning.

That is the franchise's worst 9th inning ERA since 1986.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Love it, Winny!

And fascinating stats, Zachary A. And it's funny, because in 1986, closer Dave Righetti had a pretty good year: 2.45 ERA, 1.153 WHIP, and a then-major-league record, 46 saves.

Looking over the other Yankees game finishers, they really got clobbered.

Which makes this year even worse. In 1986, the Yanks had a high, 9th-inning ERA—it seems—because when they were behind they would just throw in some rented donkey to get pounded.

This year, our top closers are getting regularly beat up with the game on the line.

Not good.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Oh, and as for Stanton's mechanics...I still think it was very interesting that the Mets' astute commentators thought his stance meant that he was trying to compensate for a core injury.

I bet they're right: our favorite gym rat has managed to hurt himself yet again, pumping iron or models.

They say that weight-lifting can be addictive, and dispel depression. I wouldn't know—but I'm sure that Mr. Stanton is a very happy individual. Us, not so much.

TheWinWarblist said...

30 million a year guaranteed could assuage a very large number of professional disappointments, I think.

Celerino Sanchez said...

Don't forget they just brought back Sal "The Pizza Man" Romano. Just like Chris Sale, he could be the guy the stabilizes everything!

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