Yankees’ veteran right-hander is showing signs of excellence in the bullpen

MLB: New York Yankees at Kansas City Royals
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One of the biggest problems for the New York Yankees this season has been their bullpen, a group that has struggled to miss bats and get the team out of big jams. While injuries have certainly taken their toll on them, most notably losing Jonathan Loaisiga just a week into the season, they’ve ultimately failed to be adequate for a World Series contender. It seemed as if Tommy Kahnle, a returning arm from last year’s dominant bullpen, was going to be another name on the laundry list of relievers the Yankees would need to replace after a concerning start to his season.

The velocity was down, the walks were higher, and teams were crushing him with ease. It seems those concerns have gone to the wayside, as Kahnle has upped the velocity, induced more soft contact, and punched batters out at a high rate again. More than ever before, Tommy Kahnle’s performance on the mound is crucial for the Yankees getting to where they want to go this October.

Tommy Kahnle Could Play a Very Important Part in Yankees’ Bullpen

MLB: New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays
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A late arrival to the scene in 2024, Tommy Kahnle got off to a rough start, looking nothing like the pitcher we saw in 2023. His fastball sat at just 93.7 MPH through his first 9 appearances, pitching to a 5.14 ERA while allowing a 17.6% Barrel Rate. The league average for that metric hovers around 8%, showing that batters were hammering whatever Kahnle was throwing their way.

With less zip on his four-seamer, he couldn’t use it to set up the changeup, which batters were laying off as they knew he didn’t have the command or trust any of his pitches to throw them in-zone. The league-average zone rate sits around 50%, but he was throwing just 38% of his pitches in-zone and batters only chased 24.5% of the time. This led to an unplayable 21.2% walk rate, and when you’re allowing damage contact and free passes, you’re begging for trouble.

‘Over his last five appearances, he’s not only throwing harder (94.6 MPH) but over his last five appearances, he’s not only throwing harder (94.6 MPH), but we also see an increase in command (48.2% Zone Rate) and tons of whiffs. Opposing batters have a negative launch angle and an 85.7 Exit Velocity on average over that stretch as well, and his ERA has lowered to a strong 2.92 on the season.

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MLB: Atlanta Braves at New York Yankees
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The bullpen needs someone like Tommy Kahnle, who has a 30% strikeout rate, because of how much those arms have struggled to miss bats. As they approach the trade deadline, trading for relievers will be a focal point of their plans, but it’s also important for their internal options to step up. There’s still a month until the deadline, and trades don’t happen until after the MLB Draft, so I’d be shocked if a serious addition was made in the coming days.

While the Yankees have usually excelled in the bullpen, this year has been completely different, but if Tommy Kahnle can keep his velocity up and remain consistent, it’ll help them survive the next few weeks. He’s a big weapon for them as the changeup makes him devastating against lefties, and the Yankees haven’t gotten much production from their southpaws out of the bullpen this season.

2024 is a win-now season, and Tommy Kahnle has a chance to give the Yankees a little more ammo from a bullpen that hasn’t gotten the job done reliably all season.

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