Yankees’ struggling bullpen arm is using a new pitch to find success

MLB: Oakland Athletics at New York Yankees
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees acquired Caleb Ferguson in a deal that hasn’t worked out how they wanted. For most of the season, Ferguson has been completely ineffective as he’s struggled to get whiffs, hasn’t been able to locate consistently, and batters have crushed whatever he could land in the strike zone. It looked like the Yankees would be looking at a lost cause, and I even lost hope in mid-May. Then, Ferguson began throwing a new pitch, with a slurve quietly being added to his arsenal to help him generate some more swings and misses.

A sharper breaking pitch than his old sweeper, he’s been far more effective as of late, and considering the struggles the Yankees have had getting whiffs from their bullpen, this could be a massive development for this team.

New Slurve is Helping Caleb Ferguson Get Back On Track With Yankees

MLB: New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox
Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Through his first 17 games, Caleb Ferguson boasted a hideous 6.00 ERA, striking out 25.8% of batters faced with a 12.1% walk rate. The most damning metric here was a 1.93 HR/9, as batters were able to do damage on contact consistently against the left-hander, and a big reason he struggled was because of a declining four-seamer. Ferguson isn’t throwing as hard as he did last season, and that’s created a much smaller margin for error in terms of location.

When you’re getting crushed in-zone, it forces you to nibble and try to work the corners to avoid allowing damage contact and causing a game to get out of hand. This can snowball to walking batters, creating traffic on the basepaths, and eventually, having to attack batters over the heart of the plate and giving up runs. Matt Blake is one of the best pitching coaches in the game, and when you have a pitcher on the roster struggling, you know he’s going to see what tweaks he can make.

Throwing a new pitch in the middle of a season can be difficult, but after surrendering a grand slam on Mother’s Day against the Tampa Bay Rays, Caleb Ferguson would deploy a brand-new breaking ball. His slurve is a little bit firmer than his sweeper, but it has a sharper dropping action with less horizontal movement, making it a much better pitch against right-handed batters. He’s throwing his slurve 14.6% of the time over his last 11 outings, and the results are impressive.

READ MORE: Yankees’ outfield prospect set to undergo season-ending elbow surgery

Having a slurve gives him a far less predictable profile, throwing fewer four-seamers and finding more success when it comes to limiting damage contact. We’ll need a larger sample size to figure out if this is a stable change or not, but this new pitch is certainly something to keep an eye on. He’s still got plenty to prove in the Bronx after such an ugly start, but if the Yankees can get a turnaround from Caleb Ferguson, that would change the complexion of their bullpen.

Left-handed relievers on the Yankees have a 3.74 ERA, but they also have a -0.4 fWAR and -0.30 Win Probability Added, showing that the run prevention is mostly smoke and mirrors. Brian Cashman will most certainly add some bullpen help, but this bullpen could be even scarier if the Yankees see some of their initial bullpen options heat up in addition to some new arms.

MLB: General Manager's Meetings
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday was the best performance Caleb Ferguson has had in his entire tenure with the Yankees, eviscerating the Red Sox lineup with ease. The slurve he’s throwing now seems to have the ability to set up the high fastball upstairs, and if he can continue to use his fastball-cutter-slurve combination well, then we could see him become one of the better options in this bullpen.

After spending most of the season drawing criticism from myself and other fans, Caleb Ferguson is starting to look like the pitcher we saw in Los Angeles last season, and he could be a huge help for the Yankees as they continue what’s shaping up to be a brutal two-team race in the American League East.

Mentioned in this article:

More about: