The New York Yankees are finally getting healthier after a few weeks of facing adversity. Having lost Chad Green to Tommy John surgery, manager Aaron Boone has had to rely on a few younger options to supplement the loss.
However, the bullpen was also hit with a few more issues. Jonathan Loáisiga was placed on the injured list with shoulder inflammation, and Aroldis Chapman was also sent to the 10-day IL with Achilles tendinitis.
Chapman is working his way back, according to Boone, who stated his Achilles is nearly asymptomatic, meaning he could make a return in the coming days.
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The question is, will Chapman retain his old job as a team’s primary closer?
Aaron Boone stated that Aroldis Chapman would be “a big-time, back-end reliever” upon his return. Randy Miller of NJ.com pointed out that Boone didn’t mention him being their primary closer, which could hint at a big strategy shift.
Prior to being placed on the injured list, Chapman had recorded a 3.86 ERA over 14 innings this season. His strikeouts per nine are down significantly to 9.64 from 15.5 last year. He’s walking 6.43 batters per nine and generating just a 34.1% ground-ball rate, which is 9% less than last year.
Altogether, the Yankees decided they couldn’t rely on Chapman any longer to close games. Chapman earned a combined 9.53 ERA in his last seven outings, giving up six runs, two homers, and four walks over 5.2 innings. What those statistics, Boone had to make a change, and he looked in the direction of Clay Holmes.
Holmes has been elite this season with a 0.34 ERA over 26.2 innings pitched. He’s taking his game to an entirely different level after posting a 3.60 ERA last season with Pittsburgh and New York. His 82.8% ground-ball rate is the best in his career, and he’s leaving 95.2% of runners on base.
These numbers seem too good to be true. All it took was a phenomenal coach to change his approach. Pitching coach Matt Blake has shifted his strategy entirely, throwing his sinker more than ever before at 80.2%. With a 97 mph sinker and mixing in a slider, Holmes has become one of the league’s best bullpen arms.
Given his success, the Yankees should retain Holmes as their closer and utilize Chapman as a back-end reliever who can get them into the ninth inning.