Yankees’ $162 million investment has to commit to pitch usage change

MLB: New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays
Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Carlos Rodon has had a nightmare summer after getting off to a great start, making the Yankees look like geniuses for signing him. Most understood that his 2023 season was a lost year that was mired in injuries and inconsistency that affected him on the mound, but this would be a put-up or shut-up season. While the strikeout numbers weren’t great, the run prevention was, and that’s important for confidence (and winning) purposes. After a start in Boston where Rodon got roughed up, the issue was clear; he threw way too many fastballs considering how well teams hit them.

Instead of adjusting, Carlos Rodon has tried to force the issue by throwing a lot of fastballs early and often, and that’s resulted in massive blow-up innings where he takes the Yankees out of games. The time to try and make the fastball work has passed, and in a stretch where pitchers need to step up, Rodon needs to wake up.

Carlos Rodon and the Yankees Need to Recognize His Fastball Issues

MLB: New York Yankees at Los Angeles Angels
Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The key to being a good pitcher is missing barrels, whether that means a harmless ball in play or a whiff, it’s important to have an arsenal of weapons that change movement profiles and keep hitters off guard. When a pitch can’t do either, that’s a massive problem, and Carlos Rodon’s issue is his reliance on a pitch that cannot pick up whiffs and cannot limit damage contact. His four-seam fastball is used 50.2% of the time with batters absolutely destroying the pitch while not whiffing often on it.

His four-seamer has excellent Stuff+ numbers, but his results are absolutely abysmal, which is a result of both poor command and the way hitters have adjusted to high IVB heaters. Pitchers are throwing fewer four-seamers and sinkers than they ever have before, as it’s gone down every year from 2021 to 2024. If you look at the numbers, Rodon has decreased his fastball usage dramatically, but the overall usage rates are not reflective of what his strategy in-game has been.

Carlos Rodon will throw a lot of fastballs until they tear him apart, when he’ll finally adjust and then cruise through his start. In Toronto he would randomly throw his fastball more in middle innings and get crushed, and Atlanta just had his number from first pitch to last. Against Cincinatti and Tampa Bay however, you can see the exact points in which he stayed away the four-seamer, and the results are phenomenal. What people overlook about Rodon is that his slider and changeup are two excellent secondaries, generating both soft contact and whiffs.

READ MORE: Yankees’ Brian Cashman finally speaks out on team’s recent collapse

The worst pitch by every notable metric is his four-seamer, and while some will point to the poor performance of his cutter, he rarely uses it anymore. Even Rodon himself admits that mixing things up earlier in games would be a good idea because of how hitters have done against the four-seamer. What I also think would come from a more varied look in terms of pitch usage is hitters will have a harder time gearing up for the fastball since his secondary pitches can play up the pitch.

When you see a great changeup and then get sped up to try and handle 97 up in the zone with ride, you’re making a quick adjustment that usually results in harmless contact or a whiff. Sure, establishing your fastball was important two decades ago, but the entire league has moved away from the need to make it your primary pitch because of how much better no-fastballs perform. Carlos Rodon is operating in a manner where he feels as if he can overpower hitters with his fastball, but he simply cannot anymore.

We are past the point of looking at Carlos Rodon’s fastball as a 50% usage rate pitch, that doesn’t mean he should never throw it, but the pitch clearly doesn’t have the effectiveness to be thrown as often as Luis Gil’s. The goal for Rodon moving forward should be to try and get his usage rate to around 40-45%, mixing in more changeups because of how effective it is (especially against right-handed batters), as it will keep hitters off of his fastball.

Adjustments are part of the game, and if Carlos Rodon wants to avoid being viewed as one of the worst free agents in Yankees’ history.

Mentioned in this article:

More about: