In his most recent two appearances on the mound at Yankee Stadium, Shohei Ohtani hasn’t kept the Yankees as off-balance as he typically prides himself on doing. What could be the root cause? An unspoken fear of the mound in the Bronx after Ohtani ruled out the Yankees, the reported “favorites” in his free agency chase, in about two seconds? Could the Yankees lineup be … talented?
No. No, it must be more than that. And Angels manager Joe Maddon, as well as Shohei Ohtani superfan/Justin Verlander’s brother/FOX Sports’ Ben Verlander are on it.
Maddon and Verlander don’t want you to read their comments after Monday’s 6-1 loss (featuring three bombs off Ohtani) suspiciously. Oh, no no. Verlander, specifically, actually wants to make sure you know his tweet is praising the Yankees, even though his other 100,000 tweets have all absolved the Astros/cast doubt on the supposedly hypocritical Yanks.
Basically, if your favorite part of the 2022 season was the Time Before the Unsealing of the Yankee Letter, you’re going to love how Maddon and Verlander handled Ohtani’s second straight bad start opposite the pinstripes.
Verlander started the party, by making what he called “not a ‘Yankees are cheating’ accusation”. He wrote out his evidence on Twitter, though, otherwise known as “The Land of Nuance,” so … he knew exactly what he was doing. Quickly, opposing fans decided to assume exactly what he “didn’t” want them to. Damn!
According to Verlander, it was fishy that Shohei Ohtani, the pitcher with the highest chase rate of any hurler, wasn’t piling up swings and misses on Thursday. Conveniently, he also included the non-scientific lack of “budging” as more evidence that the Yanks were one step ahead of Ohtani. Can’t prove they weren’t budging, can’t prove they were! Genius.
Yankees might have picked up on Shohei Ohtani pitch tipping
Might the Yankees be one step ahead of Ohtani? Could they have picked up on some pitch-tipping last summer (when he allowed seven earned runs in under one inning), with Ohtani staying completely ignorant of his missteps all the way until Thursday? It’s possible. It’s certainly possible the Yanks picked up on a twitch or quirk.
But it’s also possible Ohtani’s stuff just … wasn’t crisp in this one. The first batter of the game, Matt Carpenter, was not on the Yankees last season. He didn’t participate in the last blowout. He’s barely even a Yankee. And he still worked Ohtani for an 11-pitch at-bat before drilling a home run to the porch.
Was Ohtani tipping? Maybe. But it didn’t matter in that at-bat. Against Carpenter, everything was up in the zone. Splitter, slider, cutter, fastball … all of them were hung or hittable. Ultimately, Carpenter took a spinner at the top of the zone out of the yard after missing several other cookies. Gleyber Torres’ homer? He jumped on a first-pitch fastball. Aaron Judge’s? Another spinner way, way up. Perhaps Ohtani just struggled under the bright lights of the stadium he worked hard to avoid in free agency?
Add Angels manager Joe Maddon to the fleet of people who believe there was more to the Yankees’ dominance. He claimed the Yankees are “very good” at uncovering pitchers’ tells, and may have done it again.
Of course, Maddon also didn’t want you to think he was saying anything untoward. He just wanted to wink at you for a while until you decided it yourself.
We’ve seen this before. Fresh off his own illicit use of the video room, Alex Cora spent an entire London Series press conference basically screaming under his breath, “Carlos Beltran is helping the Yankees cheat!” Of course, that series was played in literally London, so it would’ve been tough to set up any illicit tech overseas in a matter of hours. Logic. Tough stuff.
Whether Ohtani struggled or whether the Yankees got the jump on him, Maddon and Verlander won’t rest until you’re right back to thinking that something’s funky under the surface here. And that was their endgame all along.