At the start of the 2022 season, nobody thought Yankees closer Clay Holmes would find himself in the same conversation as Mariano Rivera. Rivera, who ended his career in 2013, hosted a career 2.21 ERA and 2.99 xFIP. His 80.4% left on base rate and 52.4% ground ball rate were impeccable numbers that showcased his dominance over the years.
However, the Yankees might have stumbled upon another elite closer in Holmes, who they acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates last year for next to nothing in comparison with his qualities. This season, Holmes features a 0.28 ERA, his best metric by far since joining the MLB in 2018.
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The Yankees are experiencing something truly special with Clay Holmes:
Holmes broke one of Rivera’s elite streaks of 29 scoreless appearances. In Saturday’s win over the Blue Jays, Holmes broke a record that has stood since 1999, throwing 31 1/3 scoreless innings.
“Just for the fact that it’s Mariano Rivera makes it pretty special,” Holmes said after Saturday’s game. “He’s a guy I grew up watching. What he’s done in this game, it’s pretty amazing. So just to be in the same category of just one little thing he’s done, it’s pretty cool. The defense has been great. It’s been fun to pitch for this team and catchers. It’s been a fun little run. I think all of us hope to keep it up.”
Holmes has been elite in nearly every category this season, relying on a sinker that moves like a frisbee. Holmes generates 18.1 inches of movement with his sinker, which averages out at 96.7 mph. Opposing batters are hitting .159 against that specific pitch with a 27.8% WHIFF rate. He is throwing that pitch 18.1% of the time this season, with his slider incorporated at 18.6%. He has completely left his curveball by the wayside, focusing on those two pitches which have been elite.
“It’s been awesome,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We acknowledged that today in the postgame. He got the belt today because of that. You think about this storied franchise and you bring up the name Mariano, what more can you say? He’s been absolutely dominant and was again today.”
With Aroldis Chapman on the way back, Boone has a big decision to make at the closer spot. Holmes is capable of shutting down an opposing team over multiple innings, but in high leverage situations, he needs to be the first man called on.
Considering Pittsburgh was sitting on a gold mine with Clay, who hosted a 4.93 ERA last season before coming over to the Bronx, the Yankees are once again flashing their strength in the scouting department.