On this fine Christmas morning, I thought to myself, “what kind of gift keeps on giving?” Then it hit me: Watching Yankees bullpen arm, Ron Marinaccio, hurl baseballs. Though I have done many pieces on Ron Marinaccio over the past few months, this one will be considered my Mona Lisa, as I’ll deep-dive into just how important of a relief pitcher he is for this squad.
There’s no doubting the front office’s ability to put together a dominant bullpen in the Bronx, and this year looks to be no different. Something can be said about teams with dominant bullpens, as every successful starting rotation needs to have guys come in to shut the door and limit damage. Last season, the Yanks had one of the best in baseball, as their 2.97 reliever ERA was good for third-best in the majors, and their 6.0 fWAR slotted in at fifth. It has become abundantly clear over the past few years that starters don’t have the same leash they once did, and having guys that can keep the score where it is in the latter innings is key.
Enter Ron the Don… 2022 was the first year Marinaccio was given a chance to show what he had in his bag, and he didn’t squander that opportunity. He was absolutely dominant whenever he took the bump, and though he was a rookie, he came up huge time and time again.
Take away a rough first month of his big-league career, and it was nothing but solid performances night in and night out. His ability to make batters look befuddled and bewildered thanks to his wicked stuff — excuse the Bostonian terminology — was put on display for all to see. Ron was able to pick up the slack whenever needed, though the same certainly couldn’t be said for one Aroldis Chapman. When Marinaccio went down in July with a shoulder injury, it seemed like an uphill battle for him to climb at the time. However, once he returned from injury, he picked up right where he left off.
Marinaccio’s stuff is disgusting, and with better location, he’ll be a force not to be reckon with:
Now, as mentioned, Marinaccio has absolutely lethal stuff. His pitch makeup of a 4-seam fastball, a screwball-esque change-up, and a bending slider allow for him to pick his pitches accordingly. Now, Marinaccio certainly isn’t a perfect pitcher and had his moments where he struggled to get through innings in an efficient manner. However, for the most part, he came in and did his job and what was asked of him. Though his best pitch is undoubtedly his changeup, the fastball was also one of the more dominant pitches he was able to hurl. Despite only having thrown 335 fastballs, his -7 Run Value on that pitch was just behind Gerrit Cole’s -8, which he collected over 1698 pitches thrown.
Following his injury, where he was shut down with shoulder fatigue, he came back firing on all cylinders. Before the IL stint, his fastball sat in the low 90’s, roughly around 92-93 MPH. When he returned, it was clear that the life on that pitch had been revitalized, as he was sitting more in the mid-90s and touching 96 with ease. His fastball plays beautifully off his changeup, and that was evident by his pitch usage % and put away % for both pitches. He tossed the 4-seam 44.3% of the time whilst throwing the change 37.9%. Sadly, Marinaccio’s slider isn’t anything special, though he threw it 17.8% of the time, but if that pitch can take a step forward next season, he will most definitely be one of the best relievers in baseball.
Another potential option for the Don is to more-or-less abandon his slider and work off the fastball and change-up almost entirely. Take Tommy Kahnle, his new teammate, for example. Back in 2017, Kahnle had a steady three-pitch mix working for him, where he would sprinkle in his slider to give the hitter something else to think about. However, when that pitch isn’t anything special, hitters will completely ignore it, or sit on it, and thus make it a moot pitch. He tossed his slider 11.6% of the time that season, and the next three seasons following, he would slowly begin to phase that pitch out of his arsenal. Now, he doesn’t even throw the slider anymore, and his fastball-changeup combination is as good as it gets. Perhaps he could pick Tommy tightpants’ brain a bit to see how he managed to go entirely to a two-pitch mix, and maybe how he can take his changeup to an even greater level.
Marinaccio’s changeup is iconic, as Larry David would say, “it’s pretty, pretty, prettyyyyy good.”
Now, for the moment you’ve been waiting for. Marinaccio’s changeup truly does float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, right before it knocks you out and sends you walking back to the dugout. As mentioned previously, he tossed his screwb-I mean change-up, at a near 40% clip, and I expect that percentage to climb come 2023. Opposing hitters trembled and struggled mightily, as they bat .141 and slugged just .211 off of his change-up. His -8 Run-Value on it was tied for 7th best for that individual pitch in baseball, despite only having thrown it 287 times.
It comes with 37.4 inches of vertical drop on it, meaning that it drops about one Jose Altuve’s worth. Pair that with 17.1 inches of horizontal break, and that pitch looks like a Blitzball coming over the plate. Its movement is greater than that of his slider, by a significant margin, and the way it dances leaves batters baffled. He saw hitters flounder at trying to make contact with the pitch, as seen by his 40.9% Whiff %, and 33.0% Put Away %. Regardless of how he chose to pitch to the guy in the box, hitters knew that his changeup was going to factor in heavily during the AB, yet still couldn’t do much with it. I am convinced that Marinaccio could tip whenever he was throwing a changeup, and they still wouldn’t be able to barrel it up.
Though it isn’t just his changeup in account when it comes to total barrels given up, to only surrender a measly five barrels out of 757 pitches has to be enough to warrant some sort of award. His changeup was truly a dominant pitch, and it should get even better with more games under his belt. Again, Marinaccio got his break last season for the first time, and with more experience comes more wisdom. I am extremely confident in saying that it will be one of the main contributors for Ron’s huge ’23 season, and I believe that there is still plenty of room for growth.
Marinaccio is undeterred and always up for whoever steps in the batter’s box:
Ron the Don will be 27 next year, yet you’d think he’s a grizzled vet by the way he presents himself on the mound. Never fazed, he takes the mound and gets the job done by any means necessary. You can tell by watching him that he is simply there to take care of business, and help his team win the game any way he can. The way he pitches, and the results that came from such, speak for themselves. Sadly, one cannot put a statistical number behind “dog in him” and “grit”, but I have no doubts that Marinaccio would rank in the upper echelon of both, if there were such thing. Many players have come to the Bronx and struggled mightily with the pressure of what it means to be a Yankee, but not Ron. To don the Pinstripes means more to some players than others, and for the local Toms River kid (sorry, had to fit it in there), there is nothing quite like it.
For relievers to be considered dominant, it doesn’t just mean that they strike out batters left and right, or that they induce soft contact almost at will. Instead, it means they don’t surrender and turn over leads, nor do they get beaten by mistakes in location. Marinaccio was one of the most efficient guys for this team last season, and he didn’t get smitten by the long-ball like many relievers did. He only gave up two homers all year, and one was courtesy of a Michael Kay jinx for the ages against the Athletics. Additionally, he was able to cut down on the issuing of free passes as the season progressed — except for a drastic uptick in some sporadic pitching on his part in the latter half of September, giving me hope that his 4.91 BB/9 will improve drastically year-over-year.
Marinaccio is not fazed by the moment, nor is he ever going to look like he’s not up to the task. Some pitchers wear their emotions on their sleeve, with facial expressions that tell the whole story. Not Ron, though, instead, it’s nothing more than a blank stare as he’s locked in and knows what’s at stake. Few pitchers have that mentality, and the ones that do are considered the greats in this sport. It’s obvious he pitches with a chip on his shoulder, and in 2023 I have a feeling he will come out ready to prove a point and show the Yankees that he should be getting more opportunities and chances to pitch in close games. Not to mention, with men on base, Marinaccio was even better than with nobody to worry about. With men on, he struck out 34% of batters and walked just 11.7% — compared to 26.9% and 15.4% with bases empty. On top of that, he gave up less flyballs and more groundballs with runners on and posted a 2.67 FIP with guys on (4.05 with the bags cleared).
Ron wasn’t used enough down the stretch, and that should change next season:
When the Yankees elected not to activate Marinaccio so he could join the bullpen for the ALCS, I was puzzled. After he was pulled during the game against the O’s on October 2nd, Aaron Boone revealed after the game that Marinaccio was managing some soreness in his right shin, which was something he’d been dealing with off and on all season long. He was shut down briefly and then was cleared to pitch and was throwing bullpen sessions, whilst also stating that he was ready to go if the team needed him.
The Yanks decided not to bring him along, and some of the replacement ALCS bullpen arms certainly didn’t do anything to further back that decision. Schmidt and Montas struggled, and if not for Wandy Peralta’s amazing demigod stretch of performances, I believe the bullpen would’ve been discussed in the same breath as the offense for why the series went the way it did. However, adding Marinaccio should’ve been a no-brainer, and next season, there will be no need to supplement his innings — that is, of course, assuming no injuries pop up at the end of the year. Marinaccio will be healthy and ready to rock, and I expect the Yanks to give him every possible chance to show what he’s got.
He threw 44.0 innings in total last season, and with the Yanks not retaining a multitude of guys in the bullpen, plus not having to watch Aroldis Chapman ruin fans’ nights, Marinaccio should be in for a bump up in production and usage. Had he not gotten hurt, I truly believe he would’ve easily eclipsed 55.0 innings, and this year I can see him tossing 60.0+ innings for the Bronx Bombers. The bullpen is looking like it’ll be more comprised of internal options than it has been in recent years, and Marinaccio is one guy that has earned his keep.
They need him to be the Don, and fortunately for the Yanks, Fredo’lis’ is no longer on the team, so there’s no one to break his heart.