Yankees’ 2nd-year starter is showing signs of major growth

MLB: Oakland Athletics at New York Yankees, clarke schmidt
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The New York Yankees faced a significant challenge at the start of the season when ace Gerrit Cole sustained a nerve injury in his throwing elbow. His absence could have destabilized the team’s pitching staff, but thanks to strong performances from other starters, particularly Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes, the rotation has held steady.

Yankees Are Seeing Major Growth From Clarke Schmidt

Among those stepping up is second-year starter Clarke Schmidt, who is showing promising improvements this season. At 28 years old, Schmidt has reduced his ERA from 4.64 last season to 3.19 this year, indicating a significant stabilization in his performance. Last season, he pitched 159 innings with an 8.43 strikeouts per nine rate, a 70.2% left-on base rate, and a 43.8% ground ball rate.

MLB: New York Yankees at Kansas City Royals
Sep 30, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Clarke Schmidt (36) leaves the field during the third inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

This season, over 31 innings, Schmidt’s performance includes nearly 10 strikeouts per nine innings, an 83.8% left-on base rate, and a 38.3% ground ball rate. His most recent outing saw him pitch 5.2 innings against a formidable Baltimore Orioles lineup, allowing just one earned run.

Schmidt’s Pitching Arsenal and Outlook

Schmidt has refined his pitching arsenal, which includes a cutter, sinker, sweeper, and knuckle curve. He has increased the use of his cutter from 27.9% last year to 33.3% this year, with a near 1 mph increase in velocity. Although his fastballs have shown some inconsistency, his knuckle curve remains a standout, achieving a 39.3% whiff rate and 16.7% put-away rate, with batters hitting just .167 against it.

On Monday, Schmidt’s sinker was particularly effective, thrown at a 25% rate with an average speed of 94.1 mph, which the Orioles struggled to hit. This performance underscores the improvements Schmidt has made, filling a crucial role in the rotation in Cole’s absence.

With a strikeout rate of 26.2%, Schmidt’s progress is a positive development for the Yankees, especially considering he won’t be a free agent until 2028. This gives the Yankees several years to benefit from his talent, hopefully maintaining and even enhancing the value he provides to the rotation.

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