The closer position may be up for grabs after Clay Holmes imploded on Friday against the Minnesota Twins in a high-leverage situation. The Yankees need a reliable arm to situate their closing spot, and Holmes has allowed two hits, three walks, and two runs over his last two appearances. Unfortunately, he’s not generating the same efficiency he did last year after an incredible start to the 2022 season.
This season, Holmes is generating a .263 average against when using his sinker, which he’s tossing 69.1% of the time at 96.5 mph. He’s seeing a sizable decrease in velocity, averaging 97 mph last season with a .200 batting average against, specifically with his sinker. In fact, his sinker represents his primary strikeout pitch as well, producing 44 in 2022.
Interestingly, his whiff rate is down from 26.3% to 20.7%, and he has a slightly lower spin rate, but opposing hitters are averaging 92.7 mph in exit velocity compared to 89.7 last year.
Essentially, Holmes isn’t getting the proper contact he would prefer on his sinker, which could suggest he’s not locating it well, which is hurting his numbers. The pitch, in general, is down across-the-board, but he is getting more action on his slider, which is producing a 55.6% whiff rate. He may want to consider increasing that percentage to try and supplement his best pitch until things start to correct themselves. However, the Bombers may want to consider changing their closer for the time being until Clay can find his quality once again.
The Yankees have a few great bullpen arms to use in the closer role:
There are two primary options to consider, Wendy Peralta and Ron Marinaccio. Peralta is one of their only lefty bullpen arms, so the Yankees may want to save him for situational moments where he can take advantage of lefty hitters. In contrast, Marinaccio is a dominant strikeout bullpen arm that has started his season on a good note.
Across 5.2 innings and six relief appearances, Peralta has a 0.00 ERA, averaging 14.29 strikeouts per nine but is walking 4.76 per nine. It is objectively true that Peralta is one of the team’s best relief pieces, so they can easily utilize him as their closer if need be.
However, Marinaccio hosts a 1.50 ERA, 2.53 xFIP, and 16.50 strikeouts per nine with an 80% left-on-base rate across 6.0 innings. Marinaccio has one of the best change-ups in baseball and is more than capable of dominating when called upon.
While Holmes continues to work out some of the kinks in his armor to start the season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Peralta and Marinaccio get more opportunities in the closer role moving forward.
At the very least, they are traditionally very competent and reliable, so manager Aaron Boone has to consider that variable when the team is trying to finish off tough opponents like the Minnesota Twins.