Yankees’ Aaron Boone details new strategy at closer after Chapman’s return

yankees, Clay Holmes

The New York Yankees have a big decision to make upon Aroldis Chapman’s return. Chapman has been dealing with Achilles tendinitis but has been working on the mound to rehabilitate and get back into playing shape.

Prior to suffering the injury, Chapman had struggled in the month of May, posting a 9.53 ERA, giving up 11 hits, six earned runs, and two homers. In the month of April, Chapman didn’t give up a single run and earned a 0.00 ERA, indicating that the injury impacted his control substantially.

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The Yankees are preparing for a strategy shift:

However, the Bombers are expected to make a change at the closer position, at least in high leverage situations, according to manager Aaron Boone.

“He’ll be closing some games too,” Boone said. “Basically he’s going to find himself in a lot of the toughest parts of the lineup. Whether that’s the eighth inning, the ninth inning, we’ll try to match him up as best we can.”

Boone is speaking about Clay Holmes, who has filled the closer role admirably in the absence of Chapman. After being acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates last season, Holmes is arguably the best relief pitcher in baseball, with Josh Hader likely stealing the top spot.

This season, Holmes has earned a 0.29 ERA over 30.2 innings pitched. His 9.39 strikeouts per nine and 0.00 home runs per nine rate are great numbers. However, his most impressive statistic is his 95.8% left on base rate, the best number of any pitcher on the Yankees’ roster. He’s also generating ground balls at an 82.7% clip, up about 15% from last year.

Look at how lethal Holmes’s sinker is:

Holmes features a lethal sinker that dips out of the zone and is almost unhittable. Opposing batters are hitting just .169 against his sinker with 24 strikeouts and 14 hits over 83 at-bats. He’s utilizing that pitch 81.4% of the time, and first baseman Anthony Rizzo indicated how dangerous it looks.

“It looks scary to hit, that’s for sure,” Rizzo said. “And just the feedback you get from the guys that get on that talk to you about him — that’s all I need to know, how good he is. … In general, guys just saying his ball is moving like crazy. You can see, their swings tell you it all. It’s been a lot of fun to watch him do what he’s doing because it really is just pure dominance.”

Holmes is generating a 27.5% WHIFF rate and 2236 RPMs with his sinker. It would be malpractice for the Yankees to pull Holmes from his current role as the primary closer. They will need to find ways to get Chapman back into the mix. Luckily, they have a good excuse to decompose his playing time given the Achilles issue. It seems as if Boone is keen on utilizing Chapman in low-leverage situations and Holmes in more prominent spots.