The New York Yankees learned a valuable lesson on Wednesday, despite a walk-off Grand Slam from Josh Donaldson to overcome the Tampa Bay Rays. They learned that Aroldis Chapman still can’t be trusted in high-leverage situations.
Manager Aaron Boone pulled Scott Effross from the game after a successful 9th inning, but Chapman immediately walked two batters at the top of the 10th, allowing a bases clearing double to Francisco Meija, giving Tampa a 7–4 lead.
Chapman has otherwise had a solid August after struggling considerably in July and missing all of June. He has a 2.57 ERA this month, but the Yankees have utilized him in low-leverage spots to set up Clay Holmes. This was his opportunity to give the Yanks a chance to win a big game, but he failed miserably.
Chapman has simply been bad for the Yankees this season:
On the season, Chapman hosts a 4.45 ERA with a 4.64 xFIP, 10.38 strikeouts per nine, a 74.2% left on base rate, 34.7% ground ball rate, and 11.1% HR/FB ratio over 30.1 innings. The 34-year-old veteran bullpen arm is having arguably his worst season as a professional, having dealt with Achilles tendinitis a few months ago in June.
Ever since returning from injury, Chapman has relied far less on his slider and fastball, seeing a massive increase in split-finger fastball usage. In the month of August, he utilized his split-finger at 23.2% and slider at 12.5%, down from 27% in July.
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Using his 4-seam fastball, opposing batters are hitting .500 against it with a 26.1% whiff rate this month. His SF it has been far more effective, not allowing a hit but striking out one batter over three at-bats.
Supplementing the loss of Clay Holmes:
Ultimately, if the Yankees can’t rely on Chapman and Clay Holmes is currently on the injured list with lower back spasms, their best alternative is Ron Marinaccio.
The 27-year-old rookie is having a fantastic season with the Yankees, earning a 1.91 ERA with an 83.3% left on base rate, 41.4% ground ball rate and, 10.80 strikeouts per 9 over 20 8.1 innings pitched.
Marinaccio has been up and down from Scranton Wilkes-Barre, but he’s a reliable relief pitcher that should be given a bigger role given his success this season.
In fact, Marinaccio has one of the most dangerous change-ups on the team, featuring a .051 batting average against with a 45.8% whiff rate and 31.5% put away rate. His 4-seam fastball is only averaging out at 94.6 mph but is generating a .114 batting average with a 24.7% whiff rate.
Interestingly, all three of his primary pitches: 4-seam fastball, slider, and change-up, produce significantly more horizontal movement than the average pitcher. His fastball is generating 45% more break than the average and his slider generates 25% more break. His change-up is equally as unique, producing 17% more break horizontally and 7% more inches of drop in vertical movement.
At this point in time, the Yankees need to make the decision to utilize him as a high-leverage relief pitcher. Considering he’s only given up one run over his last four months of pitching at the MLB level, he’s undoubtedly earned the opportunity to feature as the closer in the absence of Holmes.