Jameson Taillon magnifies Yankees’ need to trade for starting pitching

Jul 10, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Jameson Taillon (50) reacts during the second inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 10, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Jameson Taillon (50) reacts during the second inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports /

The New York Yankees starting rotation regressing to the mean has been difficult to watch for a few weeks now, and Jameson Taillon has been the poster boy for such struggles.

Initially, Taillon was looking like the true No. 2 starter the team traded for back in 2021. Coming off his second Tommy John surgery as well as a battle with testicular cancer a couple years prior, Taillon’s 2021 debut campaign with New York felt like more of a trial run than the real thing.

His first 10 starts of the 2022 season offered hope that he was closer to the 2018 version of himself, which is what many believed general manager Brian Cashman envisioned when making the deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

But ever since June 7, the right-hander has largely been a trainwreck outside of a scoreless 5.2-inning performance against the Toronto Blue Jays on June 18. Over the last month of play, Taillon has registered a 6.81 ERA and 1.62 WHIP in seven starts, which is a complete reversal from his first 10 outings.

While one could argue Taillon is perhaps experiencing a bit of a normalization here, this might just be who he is. And it’s not the worst thing in the world. He’s still a solid pitcher. But he might be more of a relief option come October.

Truth be told, Taillon’s really only had one promising full season of work in 2018. His good rookie campaign only featured 18 starts (3.38 ERA and 1.12 WHIP). But every other year has featured an ERA over 4.00.

And that magnifies the Yankees’ need to trade for more starting pitching at the deadline. Whether it’s someone who can eat innings to preserve other arms or a true gamer who can pitch down the stretch and in the playoffs, Cashman needs to be on the phone doing preliminary work right now.

The Yankees need more starting pitching as Jameson Taillon continues to struggle

Taillon’s most recent outing on Sunday Night Baseball against the Boston Red Sox all but officially sealed this argument. And it’s a shame, too, because he’s largely been effective against the Bombers’ most hated division rival (2-0, 3.03 ERA, 1.21 WHIP in five starts).

But after being gifted a 4-0 lead, much like Gerrit Cole on Thursday night, Taillon gave it all back in a flash. First up 4-0, then up 6-2, Taillon allowed lesser hitters Franchy Cordero and Christian Vazquez to get the best of him before JD Martinez delivered the game-tying two-run homer (though many would say manager Aaron Boone should’ve never allowed that matchup to happen).

At the very least, Taillon’s postgame interview featured him accepting responsibility for the 11-6 loss and being extremely candid about his struggles, but there’s not a whole lot of time to re-instill confidence with the trade deadline coming on Aug. 2.

Even worse, despite Taillon’s promising start to the season, his Statcast metrics are largely bad. Though he’s the best in the league when it comes to minimizing walks and is up there for fastball and curveball spin, he’s among the worst in whiff percentage, strikeout percentage, expected batting average and expecting slugging percentage. Everything else is relatively average or slightly above average.

The problem with Taillon is that he doesn’t have an overpowering fastball (94.1 MPH average), so he needs to constantly be locating that efficiently while mixing in his other offerings and ensuring they possess ample movement. That’s usually the case in the early innings, but the wheels tend to quickly fall off. On Sunday, it happened as early as the second inning with the homer allowed to Cordero on an 88 MPH nothingball right below the zone that was crushed. Even worse, on a 2-2 pitch to Vazquez an inning later, he hung a slider over the heart of the plate that was absolutely demolished. He did the same in the fifth (though it was lower in the zone), which resulted in an RBI double off the bat of Vazquez. Then, the death knell was a 91 MPH right over the middle to Martinez on the first pitch of the at-bat, which was crushed for an opposite field home run.

It’s worth wondering if Taillon is dealing with some fatigue after coming off ankle surgery in the offseason coupled with the fact he’s had a fairly extensive workload in the first half of the year (94.1 innings). It could be the base. But it’s hard to bank on that stuff turning around, so the Yankees’ front office will have to deal accordingly, because this type of BP can’t be trotted out every five days during the second half of the year.