By Chris O’Connor
August 5, 2022
Last week I did hitters. Now, let’s do all pitchers with at least 30 innings.
Gerrit Cole: The spin rate on his 4-seam fastball is 2449 rpm, almost exactly equivalent to the 2452 rpm that he put up last year. Cole was the face of the sticky-stuff controversy in 2021, but his spin rate this season is not only essentially equivalent to last season’s, but also only a slight step down from his 2019-2020 peak of ~2500 rpm. A 3.56 ERA and 3.38 FIP are decent numbers, if not quite top-tier ace performance. I think that it is okay to acknowledge that Cole is, overall, having a good season while also being skeptical of watching him potentially blow up in the playoffs (again) in a way that, say, Astros fans are not with Justin Verlander.
Nestor Cortes: Nestor leads all qualified pitchers by leaving 86.2% of runners on base. League average is about 72.2%, so it is likely that this will regress. Still, Nestor has been unbelievable at starting runners on base and this is a major reason that his excellence in 2021 has translated over to a full season.
Luis Severino: Sevy is throwing his changeup 23.3% of the time and his slider 21.2% of the time. That is a stark contrast to the 36.0% slider usage and 13.1% changeup usage in his last full season in 2018. Sevy came up as really just a two pitch pitcher: four-seam fastball and slider. In using his changeup more, and adding a cutter, Sevy has diversified his pitch usage in a way that has surprised me so far. And while his changeup has been his least effective pitch by a large margin, I like the fact that he is taking chances to improve and become a more complete pitcher.
Jameson Taillon: He has nearly halved his walk rate of 7.3% in 2021 to 3.8% in 2022. After the Yankees tried to turn him into more of a modern, four-seam fastball/slider pitcher who chased strikeouts last season, Taillon is back to his old ways this year. He is throwing his cutter and sinker far more and, while he is striking out hitters far less, his control has clearly been impeccable and he has done a much better job of limiting the long ball.
Jordan Montgomery: Monty has obviously been traded away, but I thought that I would include him anyway. He has almost doubled his sinker usage from 21.9% in 2021 to 39.4% in 2022. It is interesting that, by the numbers from last year to this year, his sinker has gone from being his worst pitch to his best pitch. He has compensated by throwing his four-seamer and cutter much less and, like Taillon, has cut both his strikeout and walk rate by a pretty substantial margin. This could certainly be simply better command, or it could be an increase in his confidence in being more aggressive in throwing strikes.
Clay Holmes: The home run that he allowed last Sunday to Salvador Perez was the first of the year against Holmes. Despite a recent rough stretch, Holmes’ breakout 2022 has been much-needed for a team without a closer in the wake of Aroldis Chapman’s struggles. He has done so by allowing a league-high 82.6% ground-ball rate, which affords him a pretty large margin for error in the BABIP department. To score against Holmes, teams generally need 3-4 ground balls to squeak through the Yankees infield because of Holmes propensity for limiting balls in the air.
Michael King: He has broken out by tripling his slider usage from 10.2% in 2021 to 30.7% in 2022. King’s slider has been far more effective this year with a run value of -6 (more negative is better) compared to +1 last year. His sinker has always been his best pitch, but the addition of a wipeout slider has taken King to the top-tier of relief pitchers. His elbow injury was crushing for a Yankees team that had come to rely on him for multiple innings at a time.
Lucas Luetge: He ranks in the 98th percentile in average exit velocity and 100th percentile in hard-hit rate. Luetge thrived last season by limiting hard contact, but he has taken that up a level this year. His propensity for inducing soft contact is a huge reason that he has allowed only one home run in 36.2 innings. Despite a higher walk rate, Luetge is again having a really nice year with a 2.70 ERA and 2.52 FIP.
Wandy Peralta: Among all relief pitchers, Wandy’s clutch score of -0.91 is tied for 18th-worst. Most of his pitch mix usage and underlying statistics are very similar to last year and his 2.35 ERA and 2.81 FIP are terrific. However, his -0.32 Win Probability Added is ahead of only the struggling Domingo German, Chad Green, Jonathan Loaisiga, and Aroldis Chapman among all 23 Yankees to pitch so far in 2022. In low and medium leverage spots, he has allowed batters to slash .185/.264/.204; in high leverage spots, that line is .313/.333/.438. This seems to be more random than anything, and he has been really good when looking at his overall body of work independent of context, but it does speak to the fact that he has not helped the Yankees as much as his numbers indicate.
Clarke Schmidt: He ranks in the 93rd percentile in fastball spin and 94th percentile in curveball spin. The former top prospect clearly has very good stuff and seems like he is putting it together with a 2.40 ERA and 3.65 FIP in 30.0 innings. He needs to sharpen his command (12.2% walk rate), but Schmidt should have an opportunity for some extended innings with the trade of Montgomery and Severino injury. I am excited to see what he can do with this chance.