Yankees could demote struggling bullpen arm

ron marcinaccio, yankees
May 11, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Ron Marinaccio (97) pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the sixth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Despite boasting the best bullpen ERA in baseball at a stellar 3.21, outperforming even the second-place Atlanta Braves at 3.50, the New York Yankees have one bullpen member whose performance has been disappointing this season. The slump comes after an impressive 2022 campaign.

A Closer Look at Ron Marinaccio’s Performance

28-year-old relief pitcher Ron Marinaccio completed his rookie campaign with commendable statistics: a 2.05 ERA, 11.45 strikeouts per nine, an 81.3% left-on-base rate, and a 41.5% ground ball rate.

Fast forward to the current season, and he has nearly doubled his ERA to 3.95 across 43.1 innings. Marinaccio’s strikeouts per nine have fallen to 10.38, his left-on-base rate has regressed to 74.6%, and his ground ball rate has marginally decreased to 40.8%.

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Understanding Marinaccio’s Regression With the Yankees

Marinaccio’s significant downfall is primarily due to an increase in the number of home runs he’s conceded: from 0.41 last year to 1.25 per nine innings this season. His HR/FB (Home Run to Fly Ball) ratio has surged from 4.7% in 2022 to 13% this year. Coupling this with more walks and fewer strikeouts, Marinaccio’s performance is not what he’d hoped for in his sophomore season.

A Potential Minor League Detour

With two minor-league options still available, the Yankees might consider demoting Marinaccio. This could give him the opportunity to regain his confidence and re-enter the MLB with positive momentum.

Marinaccio’s Recent Performance: A Cause for Concern

Marinaccio’s performance in July has been a cause for concern, with a high 7.88 ERA. Over 8.0 innings, he has given up 10 hits, seven earned runs, three homers, and eight walks. Despite a more efficient June, where he didn’t concede an ER across 8.1 innings, his May performance was disappointing. The lack of consistency has been more prevalent than productivity — something the Yankees must act on.

Marinaccio’s Pitching Strategy and Its Drawbacks

Marinaccio primarily utilizes a four-seam fastball (51.7% usage), a change-up (36.4%), and a sweeper (11.9%). His best-graded pitch is his change-up, which yields a .237 batting average against, with a 31% whiff rate and a 19.1% put-away rate.

However, his change-up, which had resulted in a .141 batting average against with a 40.9% whiff rate and a 33% put-away rate last season, is not delivering the same results this season. This drop in effectiveness is likely due to reduced horizontal movement. While Marinaccio’s change-up typically excels in horizontal movement, it has decreased from 17.1 inches last year to 16.3 inches this year. This significant difference may explain his less impressive results.

Looking Forward: Regaining Form and Confidence

Marinaccio’s priority should be to regain the effectiveness of his change-up, a pitch that usually stumps left-handed hitters. Similar to the Yankees’ approach to Oswaldo Cabrera’s struggles this season, Marinaccio might need to reset, perhaps through a stint in the minor leagues. Such a move could help him regain his confidence and return with a refreshed mindset, potentially leading to improved performance.