In the wake of Aaron Boone’s retainment as manager and the team’s parting of ways with hitting coaches Marcus Thames and P.J. Pilittere, one Yankee coach has no fear about their job security.
In pitching coach Matt Blake’s second season in the Bronx (and first full season), the Yankees were among the best in baseball when it comes to run prevention.
It was quite an impressive turnaround for a coach that many were having doubts about after the 2020 season.
While the stats as a team in 2021 are already impressive, the real success stories come in the form of the many previously unheralded arms the Yankees got a ton out of this season.
Many of the arms the Yankees were counting on going into the season did not perform, yet the overall results were still ahead of expectations.
Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake orchestrated run prevention from surprising areas.
Corey Kluber, the presumptive second starter in spring training, made only 16 starts totaling 80 innings all season. Zack Britton, a reliever with an elite track record and a lock for the eighth inning role going into the season, accounted for only 18.1 innings pitched in 2021 and was wholly ineffective during that time. Even while multiple arms the Yankees were counting on succeeding in order to have a strong staff in 2021 failed, the team still managed to consistently stifle opposing offenses.
Multiple success stories now adorn Blake’s resume after the 2021 season. Jonathan Loaisiga’s massive potential has finally been realized after being shifted to a multi-inning bullpen role in the late innings. Clay Holmes had a 5.57 career ERA in Pittsburgh. After coming to the Yankees and working with Blake, he became one of the best relievers in the second half, utilizing his power sinker and a newfound command of the strike zone to dominate hitters to the tune of a 1.61 ERA.
Of course Blake’s Yankee success stories can not be told without mentioning the one and only Nestor Cortes Jr.
To say Cortes was not viewed as having a spot with the big league club in 2021 is an understatement, yet the Yankees and Blake helped turn Cortes into a legitimate starting pitcher in the Major Leagues.
Not bad for a guy who was so ineffective in Baltimore after they selected him in the 2017 Rule 5 draft from the Yankees that he was returned later that season.
The combination of Nestor’s funky delivery and Blake’s blueprint on sequencing and location has suddenly birthed a pitcher who the Yankees now have to look at as an important piece of their 2022 pitching plan.
The Yankees were let down by their offense in 2021 and the hitting coaches paid the price. Suddenly, the Yankees are looking for a Matt Blake type to instruct their hitters when this time last year, Blake’s credentials were being questioned.
In a year that was incredibly frustrating for Yankee fans, the pitching was present day in and day out. Hopefully, Blake and the Yankee pitching staff builds off of this success and sustains their gains in 2022.