Roughly a year after general Brian Cashman sent four middle-of-the-pack prospects to Pittsburgh for Jameson Taillon, the Yankees are looking for the starter to build on a successful first season in pinstripes.
A rocky first half of 2021 saw Taillon bottom out with a disastrous start in Philadelphia on June 12, during which he gave up four earned runs while only managing to record a single out before being sent to the showers. After that outing, Taillon’s season ERA was a ghastly 5.74 and questions were certainly being asked about why the Yankees traded for a pitcher coming off his second Tommy John surgery.
But the second half of the season was a complete 180 from Taillon’s first three months as a Yankee. From the beginning of July through his last appearance on Oct. 3, Taillon pitched to a 3.25 ERA and the Yankees went 11-3 in games he started. Quite a statement.
In hindsight, Taillon’s midseason splits make quite a bit of sense in context. After his second surgery on his elbow, he committed to completely overhauling his mechanics in order to save his career.
It’s one thing to find success in bullpen sessions on a back field in Florida; it’s quite another to consistently repeat your delivery against the pros every five days.
But the Yankees stuck by Taillon through his rough start and were rewarded.
Seeing this through was surely a journey. Perhaps they weren’t as uneasy as their fanbase was since the organization just went through a similar scenario with another starter in the rotation.
Jordan Montgomery came out of nowhere to snag a rotation spot in 2017 and his rookie season was good enough to place him sixth in rookie of the year voting. His 2018 sophomore season was going similarly until he too had to go under the knife due to a torn UCL in his throwing elbow. After missing the rest of 2018 and throwing only four innings in 2019, Montgomery was finally set to return for a full season in 2020.
As we all know, COVID shortened the season and Monty only made 10 starts, logging a less than inspiring 5.11 ERA. In 2021, Montgomery looked just like he had pre surgery, finishing with a 3.88 ERA in 30 starts. Clearly, the extra time removed from the procedure was all it took for Montgomery to become effective again.
Comparing the first half of Taillon’s 2021 to Montgomery’s 2020 season shows striking similarities. Two pitchers who were struggling to round into form after major elbow surgery simply needed time to do so:
- Montgomery’s 2020: 5.11 ERA, 44 innings pitched, 10 starts
- Taillon’s first half of 2021: 5.74 ERA, 53.1 innings pitched, 12 starts
Part of the appeal of the Taillon trade was the extra year of control the Yankees got in 2022. With another full offseason removed from Tommy John, it is easy to be optimistic that Taillon can improve on this second half production and even possibly be a No. 2 to Gerrit Cole. What a brutal sight that would be for the beleaguered Pittsburgh Pirates fanbase — a dominant Gerrit Cole followed by a revitalized Jameson Taillon.
It’s worth mentioning that Taillon did get surgery on this right ankle shortly after the season. This will interrupt his offseason training but should not factor into his availability for Opening Day. The downside is obviously that a full healthy offseason would have been a huge benefit, but the positive spin is that he pitched competently at the end of the year despite the ankle ailment.
Health will always be closely monitored with Taillon. However, it’s worth being optimistic about his 2022 season. He is unbelievably resilient, having gone through two Tommy John surgeries and a battle with testicular cancer, and still came out the other side as an accomplished MLB pitcher. Hopefully, Taillon can have the opportunity to showcase the best of his abilities in 2022 with his arm injuries finally far enough behind in the rearview.