Jameson Taillon New York Yankees
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees have had something of a resurgent second half thanks to Jameson Taillon regularly dominating on the mound.

Josh Benjamin

Today, we at ESNY would like to tell a compelling story: A Tale of Two Taillons. Maestro, music!

It was the best of seasons, it was the worst of seasons. It was the age of analytics, it was the age of Spider Tack. It was the epoch of success, it was the epoch of failures. It was a season of light, it was a season of dar– okay, no more playing Charles “PBS” Dickens (That is the nickname I have given him, so roll with it).

Jokes aside, Jameson Taillon has experienced an absolutely shocking turnaround in the second half of 2021. After being a lock to give up multiple runs in his starts, he’s become almost untouchable.

Since July 1, Taillon leads all American League pitchers who have thrown at least 30 innings with a 1.25 ERA. Following Monday’s strong start in Kansas City, his ERA dropped to 3.82, the lowest since his first start of the season.

Since Taillon’s hot streak began on July 6, the New York Yankees are 20-9. They’re still third in the AL East, but knocking on the door for a Wild Card berth. If we’re being honest, the division isn’t entirely out of the question either.

All this to say, has Jameson Taillon saved the New York Yankees’ season?

 

Jameson Taillon’s stuff works in a vacuum

It’s easy to forget that just a couple of months ago, Yankees fans were practically calling for Taillon’s head. He posted a 4.90 ERA in the first half and failed to get out of the first inning in a start versus the Philadelphia Phillies on June 12. Following that game, his ERA was 5.74.

In the second half, however, Taillon’s ERA is 0.89.

There are several explanations for this. First, Taillon didn’t pitch at all in 2020 because he was recovering from his second Tommy John surgery done in August 2019. That’s a lot of rust and cobwebs to shake off in any professional sport.

And why did the New York Yankees stick with Jameson Taillon? Well, because his stuff worked in a vacuum despite the struggles. More often than not, his fastball had life and his curveball bit. Fangraphs has Taillon’s fastball velocity this year at 94 mph, not far below his career average velocity of 94.8. Statcast has his fastball and curveball spins in the 82nd and 83rd percentiles, specifically.

Where Jameson Taillon struggles is hard hits allowed, standing in the 31st percentile. But with an above-average chase rate, in the 66th percentile, his stuff works. Furthermore, Fangraphs’ Michael Simione pointed to Taillon’s velocity increasing over the course of the season, and with that the effectiveness of his slider and curveball.

Throw in Taillon featuring his sinker a bit more often, and it’s crystal clear. This turnaround didn’t come out of nowhere.

 

But Jameson Taillon isn’t saving the season

Great as Jameson Taillon’s improvements have been, they aren’t singlehandedly saving the New York Yankees in 2021. Heading into tonight’s game with the Royals, New York’s pitchers rank eighth in MLB with a 3.67 staff ERA.

Granted, that isn’t to say that the pitching deserves no credit for the Yankees’ playing well recently. At the end of the day, the offense has to put the runs on the board to support the pitching. And it’s worth noting, the Bronx Bombers have had an uncharacteristically bad year at the plate, ranking 18th in batting average. The Yankees also rank 16th in home runs and 22nd in runs scored.

Consider this. The Yankees have played well recently not only because of pitching, but because their hitters are playing blue-collar baseball. Instead of waiting for that big home run to arrive with Godot-like flair, they’re grinding out tough at-bats and stringing plate appearances together. Wins are coming via both bloops and blasts, and sometimes both.

Try looking at it this way. Neither Jameson Taillon nor the rest of the New York Yankees’ pitchers are saving the team’s season. Rather, they’re pitching well and holding the line just enough so the lineup isn’t in a constant state of playing catch-up.

Simply put, when there is confidence in the pitching staff to get the job done, that trickles down to the hitters.

 

Final thoughts

None of this is meant to take away from Jameson Taillon and his key turnaround. The New York Yankees desperately needed him to perform, especially with so many pitchers currently on the IL.

Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery are both on the COVID list. Corey Kluber is finally going on a rehab assignment for his shoulder this week. Luis Severino is slowly but surely due back from Tommy John surgery.

Taillon has shown up, and so have his teammates at the plate. Let’s hope both keep it up for the rest of the season and in the playoffs, too.