The Yankees struck gold with one underrated relief pitcher

yankees, Clay Holmes

The New York Yankees have one of the best bullpens in baseball, featuring youngsters like Michael King and Clarke Schmidt but also veterans who have contributed significantly to start the 2022 season.

In fact, every Yankee relief pitcher with more than 10 innings pitched, aside from Jonathan Loáisiga, hosts an ERA below 3.40.  Loáisiga has gotten off to a tough start this year, sitting with a 5.93 ERA over 13.2 innings. However, the team’s top gun this season has been Clay Holmes, who has already picked up four wins, hosting a 0.49 ERA over 18.1 innings. Only King has enjoyed more action than Holmes this year.

“We have so much confidence in all of our bullpen,’’ Aaron Boone said after Sunday’s 5-1 win.

The Yankees acquired Holmes from the Pittsburgh Pirates last season, spending 25 games wearing pinstripes. After logging a 4.93 ERA with the Pirates, he lowered that number to 1.61, watching his strikeouts per nine balloon to 10.93 and walks per nine plummet to 1.29 from 5.36.

Clay has completely turned his career around thanks to Matt Blake and the Yankees pitching staff. Looking at his metrics, he’s allowing a -8.7 launch angle, the best of his career. His 38.3% hard-hit rate is the best since 2018, and his barrel rate sits at 2.1%. Overall, hitters are having an extremely difficult time making contact with his pitches, featuring a lethal sinker which he throws at 96.2 mph.

Holmes is throwing his FB 79.2% of the time, mixing in a slider at 20.8%. He has completely removed his curveball, which he threw almost 20% last year with Pittsburgh, dropping to 1.8% with the Yankees. Clearly, the Bombers didn’t see enough quality from his curveball to present legitimate value, bringing him in against right-handed hitters this year and force-feeding them sinkers.

There are a few numbers that have taken significant jumps this year, including the percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone, landing at 37.8% from 25.2%. With tremendous movement on his sinker and slider, he’s beating batters efficiently. He’s seen a 13% increase in the percentage of pitches batters swing at inside the strike zone.

Batters are still making contact on 86.3% of thrown strikes, but it is extremely weak and produces ground balls for the most part. His ground ball percentage has skyrocketed to 83% this year, the best metric on the entire team and one of the best in baseball from the bullpen.

If Holmes continue to perform like this, not only will he earn himself an All-Star spot in the bullpen, but he may just be the Yankees’ best relief arm this year.

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