One Surprising Statistic For Yankees Pitchers
By Chris O’Connor
May 11, 2022
This week I am looking closely at the Yankees pitchers. I limited this to pitchers with 12 or more innings pitched.
Gerrit Cole: His strikeout rate is down to 27%, his lowest since his last season with Pittsburgh in 2017. While he has actually been better at getting batters to miss when they swing at his pitches outside the strike zone, he has not been getting much swing and miss otherwise: batters contact rate at pitches thrown by Cole inside the strike zone is 86.4%. Since being traded to Houston in 2018, that number has never been above 80%.
Luis Severino: I’ll keep it simple with Sevy: he still throws gas. After having thrown a total of 18 innings in the regular season from 2019-2021, it is natural to expect some rust. So while he is striking out less hitters and walking more guys than he did in 2017-2018, his average fastball velocity of 96.5 mph shows that the arm is still there. While he has not pitched a full season in four years, I can see him improving over the course of the season if the Yankees manage his workload and he can continue to find his groove. (For a more detailed number, he has limited hard contact thus far: his average exit velocity ranks in the 89th percentile among all pitchers after having ranked 49th and 47th percentile in 2017-2018).
Jameson Taillon: Taillon has really diversified his repertoire in his second season with the Yankees: he has thrown a sinker or a cutter 23.2% of the time in 2022 after having thrown those pitches just 9.2% of the time in 2021. While his curveball/slider usage is similar, his fastball usage is way down from 49.5% in 2021 to 33.3% thus far. It appears that, after trying to change him into a fastball/slider strikeout artist in 2021, a la Gerrit Cole, Taillon is back to the soft-contact, low-walk guy that he was with the Pirates.
Jordan Montgomery: Of his pitches thrown out of the strike zone, he is getting hitters to chase 37.6% of the time, easily a career high and a figure that ranks 95th percentile league wide. Against Monty, hitters' contact rate on these pitches out of the zone is mostly unchanged, so he is actually striking out less guys than ever. However, he has compensated by limiting hard contact and hardly walking anybody.
Nestor Cortes: Among all pitchers with at least 20 innings thrown, Nasty Nestor ranks 11th in strikeout rate at 32%. This is despite his average fastball velocity sitting in the fifth percentile league wide at 90.2 mph. Entering 2021, never in a million years would I have foreseen Cortes turning into a competent starter, let alone one with a 2.68 ERA in 117.2 innings across 2021-2022. And if I had been told that, I would have figured that he relied on inducing soft contact and relied heavily on his defense behind him. The fact that he is producing like an ace is surprising enough, but the fact that he has turned into a strikeout artist may be the most shocking part of his development.
Michael King: He ranks third in fWAR among all pitchers at 1.2, just behind Kevin Gasuman and Carlos Rodon. For King, there were too many career highs to note, and one look at his Baseball Savant page shows that this breakout is real and sustainable. Among my favorites: he has nearly doubled his career strikeout rate and nearly halved his walk rate, which should not be possible. He looks like the next breakout star out of the bullpen, yet another success story for the Yankees pitching development machine.
Clay Holmes: This is kind of cheating to go back to 2021, but it is astounding what the Yankees have done for Holmes’ control: after walking 6.3 batters per 9 innings across 4 seasons and 119.2 innings with the Pirates, Holmes is walking just 1.3 in 41.0 innings in his time in New York. He always had filthy stuff, but the Yankees have harnessed it and unleashed another dominant weapon out of the bullpen. I’ll add one more of my favorite stats from this season: among all pitchers with at least 5 innings, he leads all of baseball with an 82.4% ground ball rate.