Yankees: Most Important​ Metric For Each Pitcher

Advanced statistics are taking over the Yankees strategy. Let’s take a look at which stat is most important for each pitcher.

This is a follow up to the the previous article on the most important metrics for each Yankees hitter, found here. On Monday, March 11, James Wagner of the New York Times, published an article in which he asked several different Yankees what stats they liked to measure. In an age of analytics and advanced metrics, it’s an interesting look into the psyche of the players. Some of the players are into new age stats, for instance, Stanton told Wagner that he checks his “chase rate.” Others are less into new stats. 

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The Rotation

  1. Luis Severino
    IP – Innings Pitched
    2018 was a tale of two halves for Severino. In the first half, Sevy was dominant and looked to be the frontrunner for A.L. Cy Young. In the second half, Severino looked like he shouldn’t even be pitching in the majors. Strangely, the numbers evened out and Severino put up substantially the same numbers overall as he did in 2017. 2019 is off to a terrible start. After signing a nice contract extension, Severino experienced shoulder pain and is currently not expected to be ready until May. With back to back seasons of 190+ innings pitched not including the playoffs, Severino may still be fatigued, or worse. If he’s able to log over 180 innings this year, it’ll be because he’s fully recovered and healthy once again.
  2. Masahiro Tanaka
    HR/9 – Home Runs Allowed per 9 Innings
    Tanaka has been extremely steady for the Yankees, despite having a partial tear in his UCL. The one thing holding him back from being a perennial Cy Young candidate, however, has been the long ball.
    In his 5 major league seasons since debuting in 2014, Tanaka has had ERAs of 2.77, 3.51, 3.07, 4.74, and 3.75. Not coincidentally, his HR/9 has fluctuated as well. He’s posted rates of .99, 1.46, .99, 1.77, and 1.44. His K%, BB%, GB%, and most other statistics have stayed steady throughout the years. Tanaka needs to find a way to limit the home runs as he did in 2014 and 2016.
  3. James Paxton
    FB% – Fly Ball Percentage
    In 2018, Paxton posted a career-best 11.68 K/9 and career-best 2.36 BB/9, which led to career-bests in SIERA and xFIP, but didn’t actually translate into reality, as he posted a 3.76 ERA. The culprit could be his fly ball percentage, which jumped from 32.7% in 2017 to 41.1% in 2018. To further the problem, his HR/FB% went from 7.8% to 14.4%. So, even though batters weren’t making as much contact, when they did, they hit the ball harder and in the air. Paxton needs to get back to his roots and keep the ball on the ground — especially if he’s going to be successful pitching in Yankee Stadium.
  4. J.A. Happ
    GB/FB – Ground Ball per Fly Ball Ratio
    In 2018, at home, J.A. Happ was a fly ball pitcher. On the road, he was a ground ball pitcher. In the first half, he was a ground ball pitcher. In the second half, a fly ball pitcher. While Happ was very successful during his stint with the Yankees after being traded at the deadline, his propensity for giving up fly balls at home certainly raises some red flags. Happ needs to more consistently put the ball on the ground. That will lead to a reduction in the number of home runs he gives up.
  5. CC Sabathia
    wSL – Slider Runs Above Average
    CC has gone through a transformation from a power pitcher to more of a pitch to contact/crafty lefty over the past couple of seasons. While he barely throws more than 150 innings or lasts more than two turns through the lineup, those innings are effective. What wasn’t effective last season was his slider. In 2016, CC’s slider was worth 11.7 Runs Above Average and in 2017 it was worth 6.7, two well above average numbers.
    Then, in 2018, CC’s slider plummeted in value and was worth -7.0 Runs Above Average. There have been a few other times in CC’s career when his slider was below average, including 2009, 2014, and 2015. 2009 was a fine season, but 2014 and 2015 were CC’s two worst seasons. In 2009, CC had two other extremely effective pitches in his fastball and changeup. Last season CC’s cutter and changeup were above average pitches, but by no means were they well above average. For CC to have an effective final season, his slider must come back to form.
  6. Jonathan Loaisiga
    BB% – Walk Rate
    With the injury to Luis Severino and the delayed start to the season for CC Sabathia, Loaisiga will most likely get some early season starts. In 2018, Loaisiga had an outstanding 30.6 K% albeit in only 24 innings pitched. His walk rate, however, stood at 11.1%, which is almost double his rate in the minors. The rookie right hander has to improve upon that number if he’s going to be a competent fill in for the Yankees this year.

The Pen

  1. Aroldis Chapman
    Three Days Off
    The Cuban Missile had an interesting 2018. His K/9 was the second highest of his career, but his BB/9 was also the second highest of his career. This led to a 2.45 ERA, which, while still great, was actually the 6th best of his career. That being said, in the 55 games Chapman pitched, he only gave up runs in 9 games total. Of those 9 games, Chapman was on 3 days rest or more in 5 of them (including the game he returned from the DL). For Chapman to be effective, he needs to pitch 2-3 times a week. To do that, though, his knee needs to hold up to the rigors of throwing over 100mph consistently.
  2. Dellin Betances
    wFB/C – Fastball Runs Above Average per 100 Pitches
    Betances has been one of the best relief pitchers in baseball the past 5 years. In fact, he’s the first relief pitcher in history to record five consecutive 100 strikeout seasons. That being said, his fastball effectiveness has been declining even though its velocity has not. In 2018, Betances’ wFB/C was only .26, which ranked 130th among pitchers with more than 50 innings pitched. By comparison, in 2014 Betances ranked 19th overall in the same metric. Now, Betances has gotten away with a decline in fastball effectiveness because his curveball is so dominant. However, batters took Dellin deep 7 times last season and they will continue to if he does not spot his fastball better.
  3. Zack Britton
    K-BB% – Strikeout Rate minus Walk Rate
    Britton needs to strike out more batters and walk fewer batters. Seems simple. Seriously though, in 2015 and 2016, when Britton was at his peak, his K-BB%s were 25.7% and 22.0% respectively. In 2017 and 2018, it fell to 6.8% and 7.7% respectively. That number did increase to 13.7% in September/October of 2018, so the Yankees must have seen something in that trend since they gave Britton a multi-year deal. Hopefully, he can keep improving and regain his former dominance.
  4. Adam Ottavino
    GB% – Ground Ball Percentage
    In the first half of 2018, 52.5% of balls hit against Ottavino were hit on the ground. In the second half, that number dropped to 32.4%. At the same time, his ERA went from 1.62 in the first half, to 3.51 in the second half. Obviously, Coors Field is a difficult place to pitch in, but Yankee Stadium is a high scoring run environment as well. Ottavino needs to keep the ball on the ground to repeat his career-best 2018.

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