Gerrit Cole and Gary Sanchez are “on the same page” early this season. So far, so good for these New York Yankees battery mates.
If the New York Yankees are going to win a World Series, Gerrit Cole needs to be the guy. For Cole to reach that potential, he needs to be on the same page with Gary Sanchez. So far, so good on that front.
Yes, Sanchez is off to a dreadful start at the plate, but he’s easily the most hot-and-cold hitter in the Yankee lineup. Let’s put that aside for now and focus on his blossoming chemistry with Cole.
The narrative around Sanchez is that he’s a terrible defensive catcher because of the passed balls and mental lapses he’s prone to from time to time. He’s had bad moments in big spots with his glove—see 2017 ALCS—but handling his pitching staff is one thing he seems to do pretty well.
Although we don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, Cole speaks highly of Sanchez’s defense through three regular-season starts.
“I think it’s going great,” Cole said after Monday night’s win via Brendan Kuty of NJ.com. “We’re (dividing) up the preparation and the workload and the work beforehand. We’re kind of splitting the duties a little bit and then getting together and then getting on the same page. He’s always finding me in between innings, communicating about what pitches he liked and what not. He picked up on a couple tips in the batter’s box today, which I thought was really helpful.
“He’s been on his game behind the dish, especially pitch calling and pitching up some tips here and there. It’s not easy to not take the offense out on the field. But as players, we all kind of understand that. It’s easy to rally around a guy that’s really taking pride in his defense even though may be frustrated with how it’s going in the batter’s box.”
This is a good sign for this battery. Through three starts, Cole is 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA, but he hasn’t looked quite as sharp as we’ve expected him to look in pinstripes. He has a pedestrian 4.29 FIP (fielding independent pitching) after leading the American League with a sterling 2.64 FIP last season.
Cole has his moments of brilliance where his stuff is simply overpowering but he’s still missing some spots here and there. He was on track for a strong, one-run performance against the Baltimore Orioles last week before missing badly on a fastball that Dwight Smith Jr. launched to the empty seats in right field. Sanchez set up low and away, but Cole missed middle-in.
Dwight Smith Jr – Baltimore Orioles (1) 2-run. pic.twitter.com/uNJssB1om9
— MLB HR Tracker (@hr_mlb) July 30, 2020
It happens. Even the best pitchers miss spots from time to time and this is nitpicking considering Cole retired 14 batters in a row at one point. However, Cole didn’t attribute that dominance to his own stuff. Rather, he credited Sanchez’s experience facing Baltimore with his strong start and says the two are “on the same page.”
“Gary was a huge help in this situation, knowing the Orioles really well,” Cole later added. “Now it’s the fifth time in a row working with him so our communication is flowing well and I thought that we were able to keep a steady mix to stay one step ahead of them sometimes. I leaned a lot on Gary’s familiarity.”
In this season where such a large percentage of games are against AL East opponents, Sanchez’s familiarity with opposing hitters could be huge for Cole. To be clear, he’s so good that he would likely be able to overcome that unfamiliarity, but Sanchez is definitely helping the ace make a seamless transition to his new ballclub.