The New York Yankees featured one of the league’s best bullpens last year, despite the fact they were forced to pitch significant innings due to injury concerns with the starting rotation.
A bevy of injuries and Zack Britton missing virtually the entire season put the team in a tough spot, but they managed to get by with a few additions at the trade deadline, including former Pittsburgh Pirates relief arm Clay Holmes.
Holmes had spent the previous three seasons with Pittsburgh before making his way to New York, where he posted some of his best numbers as a professional.
The Pirates simply weren’t using Holmes correctly, utilizing him against both righty and lefty hitters, leaning on his curveball far too much. Holmes threw his curveball 19.8% of the time with Pittsburgh during the first half of the season, logging a 4.93 ERA.
However, the Yankees completely revitalized his style, pitching him against righty batters only, where he saw tremendous success, reallocating his curveball to sinkers.
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The Yankees gave Holmes an easy task, throw his sinker at the same spot over and over again. Essentially, they knew Holmes would miss on occasion, but those slight changes in location would be enough to keep batters on their toes and guessing where it would land.
Luckily for the Bombers, Holmes ended up recording a 1.61 ERA over 28 innings, giving up 18 hits and striking out 34 batters. Interestingly, Holmes saw a near 1 mph increase in sinker velocity, reallocating that energy away from his curveball.
Seeing the Yankees extrapolate on his strengths and maximize them was a fantastic display of coaching, and we can expect Holmes to continue performing at a high level against right-handed batters moving forward. However, the limitation is that he is a situational pitcher, but every team needs relief arms who can close out innings at the right moment.