During the Yankees slow start to the 2021 season there has been one constant, and that is the bullpen.
Their bullpen ERA of 2.28 ranks second in the league behind the Toronto Blue Jays. During the offseason there were a good amount of fans that were worried about the bullpen. With the eventual trade of Adam Ottavino and signings of Justin Wilson and Darren O’Day many of those concerns were quieted.
These concerns were brought back up when Zack Britton went on the IL during spring training. I was one who was concerned with the amount of unknowns in the bullpen, but it turns out that they have been the most exciting aspect of this team to me so far in this season.
One of the biggest parts of the bullpen’s emergence has been Jonathan Loaisiga. He has always had good movement on his pitches, he had just not put it all together. Knowing that Loaisiga skipped AAA in 2018 and initially started for the Yankees, this should not be too much of a surprise that he took some time to find a role and perform well.
Loaisiga is now doing well thanks to adding and upping the use of a sinker in 2021. He introduced it in 2019 but used it very sparingly at 8.6%. In 2020 he used it 24.6% of the time. Now so far in 2021 he has used the sinker 45.6% of the time. He has also made his four-seam fastball from his most used pitch in 2020 at 42.6% to his least used pitch in 2021 at 14.3%.
I would bet that this development could be credited to pitching coach Matt Blake as well as the time each of the Yankees pitchers spent in the facility the pitchers called that “Gas Station” during spring training.
Knowing that Matt Blake can get the most out of the bullpen pieces he has despite the group as a whole not being at full strength without Zack Britton is a confidence boost to me. It gives me hope that Wandy Peralta, a relief pitcher the Yankees got in return for sending Mike Tauchman to the San Francisco Giants, can hope to perform well under Matt Blake’s direction at pitching coach.
Loaisiga currently has a 1.26 ERA in 14.1 innings in 10 games appeared in so far this season. It is not only the old school statistics that Loaisiga has going for him as well. On baseball savant’s 12 prominent percentile categories Loaisiga is in the red for 11 of them, which is good. The only category he is in the blue for is maximum exit velocity.
(Via Baseball Savant)
Loaisiga has been the biggest emergence in the bullpen without question, but the performance of players like Lucas Luetge, Darren O’Day and Michael King have been very helpful for the Yankees.This goes without acknowledging the known quantities the Yankees have in the bullpen as well. Aroldis Chapman has looked the best he has ever looked as a Yankee after adding a splitter. Zack Britton is an elite reliever that the Yankees are looking to get back at the end of May. Chad Green is a lockdown reliever as well.
The Yankees are loaded in the bullpen like they have in many years past, but after observing what has happened so far in 2021 they have many more weapons than most people anticipated.
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