Jameson Taillon is not giving up this season. The Yankees right-hander battled cancer, two Tommy John surgeries and an unusual (for baseball) ankle injury last season. After October 2021 surgery to fix that ankle, the Yankees didn’t know what to expect from his return this season.
The 30-year-old is simply a more complete pitcher, who added a cutter that’s now a weapon in his repertoire, and drastically reduced the number of free bases. Taillon has a career-low 1.9 walk percentage this season, the lowest since his rookie season in 2016 when he walked the batters at 4.9 percent. The 1.9% is the fourth best in the majors.
“The cutter is good. He has no crushing tricks, so the cutter really works with the fastball and the slider,” an American League scout said. “He uses it on the outside for right-handers to get them out of the fastball. He can block lefties with it.
“It was a good throw for him, it helps him attack and stay in the (attacking) zone.”
This helps him create weak or soft contact and stay away from walks.
Taillon threw the cutter late last season, mostly against southpaws, but this year he’s been more prominent in his pitch mix. In his last start, a win over the same Blue Jays he was scheduled to face Wednesday at the Stadium, Taillon hit a career-high 20 times over six innings, allowing one run on five hits and striking out four. . He didn’t walk a hitter.
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Taillon now throws his cutter 12% of the time, which has reduced some of his reliance on the fastball to 33% (9.5% less than in 2021) and the slider to 16.5% (2.9 %) less.
“There are a lot more weapons now,” Taillon said after beating the Blue Jays in Toronto on May 3. For lefties, I was like fastball, curveball, change. We’re throwing curveball right-handed now, cutters left-handed and right-handed now, so I’ve definitely broadened the package. I just backed up in a hole last year, sort of to show off the throwing ability I have.
The results were effective. He’s 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 21 strikeouts in 25.1 innings pitched over five starts. He only walked two batters during that span.
Heading into this season, the Yankees really didn’t know what they had back in their rotation. Gerrit Cole had struggled at the end of the year, although they thought and hoped it was due to a hamstring injury. Luis Severino was finally healthy after missing most of the last three years, but they didn’t know how he would come back. Nestor Cortes started showing how he could be effective without being overpowering.
And Taillon had to have a ligament repaired in his right ankle, which was unusual for a baseball player. The Yankees didn’t initially expect him to return until this month, but even though he was on his own for most of rehab due to the MLB lockout, Taillon was ready for more. sooner than expected.
Now he’s part of a rotation and pitching corps that’s part of the foundation of this team. Yankees starters combined for the best ERA in the American League and third-best in the big leagues (2.50) behind only the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. Their combined K/BB rate (4.11) is the best in the major leagues, in part because of Taillon’s ability to cut the steps.
“I mean, our job is to keep the offense in the game and give them a chance to win,” Taillon said. “So I’d still like to go further but we keep the team in the game and then with the bullpen that we have, if we can turn it around with a lead or a close game, I like our chances. “If it’s any other team, especially when it comes to the bullpen, it’s been a consistent effort. The starting staff are extremely prepared. Our catchers are extremely prepared. And that allows us to keep our team in the game.