The New York Yankees can boast of several top-notch bullpen arms this season, yet none outshine the 27-year-old Michael King.
While acknowledging the contributions of Wandy Peralta, Ian Hamilton, and others is critical, King plays an even more significant role, bringing exceptional confidence to his game every time he takes the mound.
King, at just 27 years of age, has positioned himself to be an essential component of the Yankees’ squad during the next three years of team control. He’s only slated to hit free agency in 2026 and will become arbitration-eligible in 2024.
A special performance by Michael King is unfolding before the Yankees:
What makes King’s resurgence even more remarkable is his recovery from Tommy John surgery, returning to post arguably better numbers in 2023 than his stellar metrics from 2022.
Last season, he recorded a 2.29 ERA and 2.42 XFIP across 51 innings. His stats included 11.65 K/9, 2.82 BB/9, and a 76.9% left-on-base rate. Despite a significant elbow injury, his numbers this season have improved: he now boasts a 2.10 ERA, 3.17 xFIP, 9.47 K/9, 2.45 BB/9, and an impressive 83.9% left-on-base rate over 25.2 innings.
It’s worth noting his ground ball rate increased by 7.4% from 47% to 54.4%. Furthermore, King has allowed fewer homers, reducing his HR/FB ratio from 9.1% to 6.7%.
Interestingly, despite a 2 mph drop in King’s FB velocity, his precision has been remarkable, and his array of pitches remains elite. Employing a sinker, sweeper, four-seam fastball, and change-up, King keeps hitters guessing with exceptional pitch movement and unpredictability.
Usually, sinkers yield high batting averages, but King has managed to limit hitters to a .121 BA with a 34.4% put-away rate. His sinker features 12% more horizontal movement and 8% more vertical movement than the average pitcher.
The sinker has indeed been a lifeline for King, particularly considering his sweeper has allowed a .346 BA and his four-seam fastball a .300 BA.
Without the sinker’s movement and its ability to create deceptive tunnels, King’s numbers might have appeared drastically different.
Moreover, King has achieved a 99% active spin rate on his change-up, despite it being his least frequently used pitch at just 14.7%. Nonetheless, it proves highly effective against left-handed hitters, yielding a mere .125 batting average with a 33.3% whiff rate.
The change-up’s horizontal movement, 60% more than the average pitcher, fools hitters into believing it’s a fastball straight down the middle.
Beyond the specifics of King’s individual pitch metrics, he’s made significant strides in first-strike pitches, increasing this statistic by nearly 6% this season.
With heightened aggression and a robust sequence of pitches, King has evolved into one of the most reliable bullpen arms for the Yankees, earning their trust in high-pressure situations.