Zack Britton has been one of the most effective relief pitchers for the Yankees throughout this season, but what has made him so good?
The Yankees traded for Zack Britton at the 2018 trade deadline. He was very good for the Yankees down the stretch, pitching to an ERA of 2.88. Britton was still trying to return to his almost Cy Young form before his injury that year. The Yankees were so impressed with his ability to keep the ball in the park. In 2018, Britton had HR/9 of 0.7 with the Yankees. In the offseason, the Yankees brought him back as they signed him to a 3-year, $39mil contract. In 2019 so far, Britton has been even better for the Yankees than in 2018 and its because of one specific thing he has done. He is a breakdown of why Britton has been so good this year.
Before we go into what has made him so good, let’s take a look at Britton’s stats so far this season. Britton is 3-1 with a 2.11 ERA. In 55.1 innings Britton has struck out 45 batters. Britton has been pretty much lights out for the Yankees this year. He has filled in the role of setup man, in the absence of Betances, beautifully. He even went around a month where he had no control of his sinker and still was able to get outs. But his great season and almost return to form is all in thanks to one big thing. Increased use of his breaking ball.
For all of his closer career, Zack Britton has mainly relied on one pitch, his amazing sinker. Now it really works just throwing that but since his injury, there are times where he has no control of his sinker and needs a backup pitch. What a lot of people don’t know is that he has an amazing slider/curve. Last year Britton only threw it about 6% of the time. But this year he has doubled the usage of it and it is showing. He is now throwing it about 12% of the time and hitters are hitting just .043 when he throws it.
According to Baseball Savant, he has thrown it in 23 at-bats and has struck out 20 of those hitters. While he isn’t using it a lot, the fact that he isn’t afraid to throw it now is great because it puts it in the back of the hitter’s mind. This new mental game is giving Britton another edge and making him that more deadly.