What do the Yankees see in recent left-handed free agent signing

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Chicago White Sox
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Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that the New York Yankees agreed to a deal with left-hander Tim Hill, who hasn’t done much in the last two seasons but does possess quite a unique profile. With the team needing left-handed relief help, Hill could be a help to their bullpen, however, this is definitely more of a project pitcher. Sporting a 5.61 ERA in 75 appearances dating back to 2023, the Yankees have their work cut out for them, but they might be able to leverage his unusual qualities to try and get serious value here.

It’s a heavy groundball profile that hasn’t picked up many whiffs in recent seasons, but what are the weird and funky characteristics that the Yankees could leverage into a quality bullpen piece?

Can the Yankees Get More Out of Tim Hill in 2024?

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Chicago White Sox
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Tim Hill is an interesting reliever for a variety of reasons, but the first area where I could see the Yankees tinkering with him comes with the four-seam fastball. While he throws the sinker a whopping 62.5% of the time, there aren’t a lot of whiffs that come from it, and his four-seamer might play even better because of his extremely weird delivery. On the surface, a 90.7 MPH four-seamer with poor vertical movement seems like a bad pitch, but this is where release height and approach angle come into play.

READ MORE: Yankees sign veteran lefty bullpen arm to one-year deal

Weird things are going on with Tim Hill’s four-seam fastball, which has a -6 Run Value but also picks up whiffs 24.1% of the time with a .229 xwOBA. His fastball has always been able to miss bats even without much velocity, and a huge part of that is his hilariously low release height that allows the ball to approach the plate at an extremely funky angle. With his Vertical Approach Angle being 2.6 degrees flatter than the MLB average on four-seamers, batters have an impossible time squaring up the ball (if they can make contact).

This isn’t to say he should completely ditch his sinker, as that pitch generates contact on the ground and can create double-play opportunities whenever he’s in a jam. What I am saying is that the four-seamer has had higher usage rates in years past, and bringing that pitch back to prominence could allow Hill to miss more bats. His 5.87 ERA comes with a 3.45 xERA that stems from a bevy of soft contact, but you can limit variance and bad luck from batted balls by generating more whiffs.

You can also improve on batted ball luck as a pitcher with a better defense around you, and the Chicago White Sox are one of the worst defensive teams in baseball while the Yankees are one of the best.

  • Yankees
    • +20 Fielding Run Value
    • +33 Defensive Runs Saved
    • +6.7 Framing Runs
  • White Sox
    • =28 Fielding Run Value
    • -49 Defensive Runs Saved
    • -4.1 Framing Runs

Perhaps a better defense behind Tim Hill could help close the gap between his underlying metrics and his ERA, as they have helped mask some of their whiff issues with great defense all season. The Yankees could also use the boost to their left-handed reliever room, as that group has an ugly 4.10 ERA and -0.4 fWAR on the season.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees Workouts
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Anytime the Yankees go out and acquire a reliever, you have to keep your eyes peeled because of how often they convert under-the-radar moves into quality arms. There are duds, but they’ve hit plenty of home runs as well, with Michael Tonkin and Luke Weaver providing big-time innings for the Yankees after being bullpen fodder and DFA candidates for years leading up to 2024.

Tim Hill can keep the ball on the ground, doesn’t walk a ton of batters, and has a myriad of weird and funky characteristics, and that kind of mold is always one adjustment away from clicking.

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