The veteran righty was a reliable starter for New York all season, going 14-5 with a 3.91 ERA in 32 starts. Taillon also issued just 1.62 walks per nine innings (BB/9), yet will shift to the bullpen for the series with Cleveland. The schedule is such that Boone can roll with a trifecta of Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, and Luis Severino with Taillon and Domingo German on the relief team.
Yet, the Yankees skipper sees Jameson Taillon in several roles.
“I think he could be anything from a long reliever to closing a game,” Boone said. “I think he’s in play for anything.”
Jameson Taillon, New York Yankees closer? What a concept! The man hasn’t made a single relief appearance in his MLB career. Whatever work he gets in the ALDS will be his first out of the bullpen as a professional. And yet, Boone wants to use him as a closer?
Apparently so, and this writer thinks it’s a fantastic idea.
First, it isn’t an unprecedented idea. We’ve seen starters close games in the postseason for the last few years at this point. Chris Sale pitched the last inning of the 2018 World Series for the Red Sox. Charlie Morton fired four relief innings in Game 7 of the 2017 series and Lance McCullers Jr. was untouchable out of the bullpen in Game 7 of that same year’s ALCS.
Additionally, once in a blue moon, a successful starting pitcher makes an even more successful transition to closing games. Dennis Eckersley notched 149 wins in 361 starts before he made 390 saves over his last 710 career appearances. Some years later, John Smoltz joined Eckersley as the only other player to have 150 wins and 150 saves.
Granted, this isn’t to say Taillon should automatically be New York’s closer in the playoffs. Boone still has enough healthy high-leverage arms, namely Clay Holmes and Wandy Peralta, that he can mix and match a bit. Holmes himself was an All-Star closer this year before back and shoulder injuries slowed him down late in the season.
But it’s also clear that Holmes is fatigued and thus hasn’t been as sharp. His second-half ERA was an inflated 4.84 compared to 1.31 pre-All-Star Break. Peralta and Jonathan Loaisiga also have limited experience finishing games.
Why not Jameson Taillon who, unlike most relievers, throws multiple pitches and can keep hitters guessing?
Think about today’s modern MLB closer. In most circumstances, you’re looking at a pitcher who throws one or two pitches really well while (ideally) racking up the strikeouts. The downside is that of those two pitches, only one is usually working on a given night, which leads to high walks.
With Taillon, the Yankees wouldn’t have to worry about that at all. We’ve already discussed how efficient he is at limiting walks, but Baseball Savant also lists him as throwing six different pitches.
Here’s a breakdown:
- 4-seam fastball: 35.7%
- Slider: 18.9%
- Curveball: 14.8%
- Sinker: 11.1%
- Cutter: 11%
- Changeup: 8.5%
Taillon also knows how to utilize spin rate, with his fastball and curveball’s respective spins in the 85th and 83rd percentiles. His average fastball velocity is just a shade over 94 mph, but the spin makes it seem faster. He can also miss bats when he’s at his best and has a whiff rate in the 69th percentile.
Best of all is that at this point, Jameson Taillon has proven he can handle the pressures of New York. Yes, closing a game is arguably more difficult than starting one, but the Yankees might need to get creative this season. Under normal circumstances, Taillon would probably just be another support arm if Scott Effross didn’t suddenly need Tommy John surgery.
Is Jameson Taillon going to be the go-to closer for the Yankees in the playoffs? No, but Boone would be foolish not to at least consider it.