The Yankees are continuing to see underrated reliever flourish

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees
John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Last week I wrote about how excellent Luke Weaver has been for this bullpen, and the Yankees are continuing to see him excel in his reliever role. With there being plenty of questions about their bullpen depth entering the season due to a high volume of injuries to key pieces, they’ve found a way to maintain their elite status as a unit. One could argue that Clay Holmes has been the biggest reason why (and they would be correct), but the emergence of Luke Weaver continues to bring up interesting talking points about the structure of this bullpen.

Once considered a long reliever who would mop up innings when a starter failed to get past the fourth or fifth inning, Weaver has now become one of Aaron Boone’s go-to options out of the bullpen, and his success continues to impress as he keeps finding ways to improve.

Luke Weaver Is Continuing to Shine With the Yankees

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Immediately what has stood out to me about Luke Weaver is the improvement to his stuff, as his fastball has gone from a below-average pitch to one of the best fastballs in the entire organization. He got off to a slow start, but perhaps that was a cold weather thing as the velocity randomly ticked up in an outing against the Cleveland Guardians where he actually allowed a home run to…Estevan Florial. We can forget that this happened for narrative purposes, but the uptick in velocity has created a true weapon for the Bronx Bombers.

Since this outing his four-seamer is averaging 95.5 MPH with 18 inches of Induced Vertical Break, and his 133 Stuff+ is the seventh-best mark in the league for any pitcher with at least 10 innings pitched. The best part about this is that his fastball isn’t his go-to pitch to get big outs, that would be his changeup, which he has vastyly improved by altering the grip of it to generate more vertical drop and create an even deadlier vertical movement profile. As a result, Luke Weaver is seeing a spike to his Chase Rate, going from the 11th Percentile last season (24.9%) to the 91st Percentile this season (34.1%).

MLB: Spring Training-Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees
Mar 7, 2024; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Luke Weaver (30) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

His cutter is also an important pitch here, and that’s because it’s a reliable offering that can go into the hands of lefties and away from righties to establish the outside part of the plate. It generates soft contact, can pick up called strikes, and occassionally gets a swing-and-miss if located and sequenced properly as well. Overall, he has a diverse and reliable profile that bodes well for a bullpen role where Weaver has been able to just air it out and pick up whiffs left and right.

There’s not enough good things to say about Luke Weaver right now, who saved the Yankees from blowing a 6-0 lead yesterday before their offense flexed its muscles to crush the lowly Rays. Very quickly, you’re looking at a pitcher who is probably the second-most reliable arm in this bullpen, and the team acquired him as a waiver pick up last season before signing him to a one-year $2 million deal with a club option for next season. He’s ultra-cheap, extremely effective, and a comical presence on the interview front as well.

Outside of Clay Holmes, it’s been a struggle to find the reliable second option who comes through time-after-time in the midst of injuries and a roster shuffle, but yesterday gave the Yankees a clear answer. When there’s trouble, you know who to call; Luke Weaver.

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