The Yankees have stumbled upon a valuable bullpen gem

MLB: Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees are still waiting on several arms to return from injury, but despite that, they still boast the second-best ERA in baseball at 2.86, trailing only the Cleveland Guardians.

With a lack of investment in the bullpen, pitching coach Matt Blake has once again shown that strategy can overcome high-profile salaries. Their latest gem is Michael Tonkin, a 34-year-old right-handed relief arm who has struggled considerably over the past few seasons.

The Resilience of the Yankees’ Pitching Staff

In fact, Tonkin started his 2024 campaign with the New York Mets before spending two innings with the Minnesota Twins and then finding his way to New York, where he’s pitched 17.2 innings and recorded a 1.02 ERA.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Tonkin actually recorded a 4.28 ERA over 80 innings last season with Atlanta, but Blake has changed his pitch sequence to support a more efficient version of the veteran, who has pitched 253 major league innings in his career. He started his career back in 2013 at the MLB level, spending five seasons with the Twins and then another five years without tossing a major league inning before last season.

Since joining the Yankees, Tonkin has become proficient at utilizing his sinker a bit more, actually seeing a reduction in spin rate, which may have led to more accuracy rather than relying on movement. His slider in June is producing a .091 average, and his sinker a .200 average.

Players like Tonkin make the Yankees work since their high salaries at other positions stop them from investing big in relief pitching. Having such a cost-efficient unit that ranks in the top 2 in ERA is simply a wonder and something that should be appreciated more.

On Friday night against the Dodgers, the Yankees asked Tonkin to step up in a big moment to stop Shohei Ohtani from changing the course of the game, which he did with ease. Tonkin tossed 1.2 innings and struck out two batters with one hit. He was solid, and the Yanks are gaining confidence in his abilities in high-leverage situations.

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