New York Yankees Analysis: Adam Ottavino must pitch well for the Yankees

New York Yankees, Adam Ottavino
Oct 17, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone (17) takes the ball from relief pitcher Adam Ottavino (0) during the eighth inning of game four of the 2019 ALCS playoff baseball series against the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

New York Yankees relief pitcher Adam Ottavino is a veteran reliever that has spent most of his career with the Colorado Rockies. He started as a starter for the St. Luis Cardinals. But as a reliever, he pitched successfully for the Rockies for seven years before becoming a New York Yankee. He had a relatively pedestrian 2017. After that, he set up a full-size bullpen in downtown New York City. Ottavino is a New York boy attending the city’s public schools. Ottavino, in his new gym, applied technology and high-speed cameras to tweak his pitching style.

Adam Ottavino mostly fixed his control for his efforts and had a 6-4 season with the Rockies with a 2.43 ERA in 77 innings of relief. That kind of season got him a $27 million three year contract with the New York Yankees. The Yankees got their monies worth in 2019 he Ottavino had a 1.90 ERA and a record of 6-5. However, this collapse at the season ended was concerning. Ottavino is now in the last year of that contract.

Ottavino went into 2020 with much hope of being a combination stopper and setup man for the Yankees. Unfortunately, he ended the season 2-3 with a dismal 5.89 ERA while pitching only 18 innings. He didn’t lose velocity and didn’t lose control, but he collapsed even quicker this short season. In one game against the Toronto Blue Jays, he gave up two walks, four hits, and six earned runs without recording an out-in-the- eventual 12-7 Yankee loss. In the postseason, he only pitched 2/3’s of an inning and gave up a run.

Ottavino, in interviews, couldn’t really explain what was going on. If you can’t determine what’s wrong, it really difficult to make the adjustments necessary to correct the deficiency. By the time the playoffs came around, Ottavino was all but lost, pitching just two-thirds of an inning and allowing a run against the Tampa Bay Rays in Game Two of the American League Division Series. Even with Ottavino’s past regular season successes, he’s been a train wreck in every postseason; small sample sizes be damned. He currently owns a 7.04 ERA in 12 games.

Ottavino is now in the last year of his contract with the Yankees; if he doesn’t improve this year, he will be packing his bags. Although Ottavino doesn’t know what’s wrong, he seems to lose gas to the casual observer as the season progresses both in 2019 and 2020. For him, that means he loses his ability to pitch to the corners. In 2020 he threw meatballs right down the middle of the plate. Those meatballs counted for 12.4% of his pitches compared to a 7.7% rate during his career.

With Tommy Kahnle gone for the season after having Tommy John surgery and signing with the Lost Angeles Dodgers, Ottavino will certainly get plenty of opportunities to show his stuff. Ottavino is close to but not quite one of the best relievers in baseball. His performance in 2021 with the Yankees will have an enormous bearing on the state of the Yankees’ bullpen as well as his checking account.

At 35 years old, time is running out for Ottavino. The Yankees not likely to sign any big names to the bullpen this year must perform well for the Yankees. Going into free agency at the end of the season, his worth on the market will be based on how well he does this season.