While most of the attention has revolved around the Yankees‘ starting rotation, their bullpen remains the strong point on the team through 16 games. Enjoying a day off after a series sweep against the Cleaveland Guardians, we were able to reflect on how well the starting rotation has played up to this point, despite a rocky start.
Ace Gerrit Cole finally got back on track against Cleveland, tossing 91 pitches and allowing one hit over six innings on Sunday. Of course, Cole will get the majority of headlines, but even youngsters Michael King and Clarke Schmidt have been at the top of the news pecking order after several quality outings.
However, one relief arm hasn’t gone enough attention, five-year veteran Clay Holmes. The Yankees acquired Holmes from the Pittsburgh Pirates last year, and most were a bit confused by the acquisition. Holmes featured a 4.93 ERA with Pittsburgh over 42 innings, but the Yankees completely changed his approach, lowering his ERA to 1.61 and increasing his strikeouts per 9 to 10.93.
So far this season, Holmes features a 1.17 ERA over 7.2 innings, curating an 85% ground ball rate and 85.7% left on base rate. It is quite clear that Holmes is one of the Yankees’ top relief arms and might be one of the more underrated players in the league.
Hosting a lethal sinker, Holmes threw it 73.2% of the time last year with the Bombers compared to 51.2% with Pittsburgh during the first half of the season. So far in 2022, Holmes is throwing it 85.6% at 96.3 mph, even taking away some of his slider, lowering its usage to 14.4% compared to a combined 27.6% last year.
Even though opposing batters know Holmes is going to throw his sinker nearly every pitch, its incredible movement and velocity continue to force an impressive 45.3% O-Swing% (Percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone). In fact, Holmes currently features the second-highest SwStr% of his entire career at 17.5% (Percentage of strikes a batter swung at and missed).
Another fantastic metric is his barrel percentage which sits at 0.0% and a -10 launch angle. Altogether, it is clear that Clay is playing the best ball his entire career wearing pinstripes, and he should be getting far more attention given how reliable and dominant he’s been to open the year in the bullpen.