The Yankees stumbled upon a bullpen gem

yankees, ian hamilton
Apr 3, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Ian Hamilton (71) pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies during the sixth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees have dealt with a number of serious bullpen injuries, with Jonathan Loáisiga, Scott Effross, Lou Trivino, and Tommy Kahnle all on the injured list currently.

Loáisiga, Trivino, and Kahnle all expect to make a return at some point during the 2023 season, but Effross is still recovering from Tommy John surgery he underwent late in 2022.

In the meantime, the Yankees have had to fill the back end of their bullpen with supplementary pieces, but they are getting incredible value from Ian Hamilton, a 27-year-old relief pitcher formally of the Minnesota Twins.

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The Yankees are enjoying quality from Ian Hamilton:

Hamilton tossed just 2.2 innings in the MLB last year after pitching for the Chicago White Sox back in 2018 and 2020. His MLB experience ranges just 24.1 innings, with 9.2 already occurring this season with the Bombers. He currently hosts a 1.86 ERA, 1.78 xFIP, 13.97 strikeouts per nine, and an 81.8% left-on-base rate and 57.1% ground ball rate.

Hamilton has quietly turned into one of the Yankees’ more reliable relief pitchers early in the year. He utilizes a slider, four-seam fastball, and sinker sequence. Those three pitches have been dominant so far, with his slider specifically generating a .148 batting average against with a 51.1% whiff rate and 43.8% put-away rate. He’s struck out 14 batters across 27 at-bats, which is an incredible success clip.

The young relief pitcher may look like he’s 50 years old but produces tremendous vertical movement on his slider with tantalizing location at an average of 87.5 mph. In general, these pitches don’t produce a ton of movement, but his accuracy is one of his best qualities. After enjoying a dominant spring training performance, the Yankees offered him an opportunity to stick with the major league team, and when she’s taking full advantage of it.

Hamilton has a unique “slambio” pitch, as Aaron Boone calls it. Essentially, it creates a vertical tunnel that makes his slider, and four-seam fastballs look identical. Hitters have a tough time distinguishing between the two, so when the fastball continues to rise, they’re duped into thinking it’s a slider that will drop vertically 32 inches and vice versa. This is why we are seeing insane strikeout numbers with his slider because hitters think it’s a fastball coming in and get out in front of it.

As mentioned earlier, the Yankees are currently fending off a number of injuries to the bullpen, but Hamilton has impressed over a decent sample size to start the year. Against the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night, Hamilton was asked to pitch the final inning, in which he only needed seven pitches to get out unscathed.

It seems as though manager Aaron Boone is starting to utilize him in more prominent positions, specifically high-leverage situations. Clay Holmes has been the team’s traditional closer over the past season but calling upon Hamilton to get the job done without any resistance was certainly impressive. I wouldn’t be surprised if it started to utilize him more aggressively moving forward.