Yankees Win: Unleash new pitching strategy on baseball

Tommy Kahnle of the New York Yankees (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Tommy Kahnle of the New York Yankees (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

Suddenly, the Yankees don’t need quality starts of six or more innings from their staff. All they need is four or five solid innings before they unleash their bullpen of one-inning heroes and, like last night, it’s game over.

The Yankees may have figured out there’s no need to wait until October to play the brand of baseball we see in the Playoffs. The kind where managers don’t wait for their starter to find his way on a day when he’s a little “off.”

Instead, the phone rings in the bullpen and it never stops until a trail of relievers has come in to finish the job of bringing the team a win. The four or five guys in the pen may not know ahead of time the order in which they’ll pitch that night, but they all know it’s likely they will be called on at some point in the game.

Such was the case last night when CC Sabathia was lifted after he threw 98 pitches over five solid innings, holding a 5-1 lead over the Seattle Mariners, courtesy of a massive three-run 437-foot bomb off the bat of Aaron Judge, his first home run since the All-Star break.

Joe Girardi who, thanks again to the wisdom of Brian Cashman, must feel like a kid in a candy store playing eeny-meeny-miney-mo, selected the order of the night. Tommy Kahnle took the sixth, followed by David Robertson, who blew away all three batters he faced, striking them out on thirteen pitches.

Then, it was on more familiar names with Dellin Betances saving himself with two strikeouts following two hits and another shaky, but at the end effective, night’s work.

And where we would expect to see Aroldis Chapman closing it out in the ninth, Girardi went instead with one of his former middle relievers, Adam Warren, who nailed down the victory for the Yankees.

Think about the possibilities now

Whether or not Cashman went to his manager saying something like, “Look Joe, the price for starts is way up there. But what I can do for you is load up your bullpen with quality”, is inconsequential. What does matter, though, is that Girardi immediately recognized the opportunity he had, once the deal with the White Sox was consummated.

And the new pitching strategy of the Yankees is not for game-by-game use. It’s an overall strategy with far reaching implications.

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The Yankees only need to look back two years ago when the New York Mets decided to go all-in with their young pitching staff, reaching the World Series but also starting a long trail of arm surgeries, to the point where guys like Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard still have lasting fallout and are unable to pitch.

Jordan Montgomery and Luis Severino, sooner or later need to put on an innings count, even if the Yankees don’t already have an unannounced one. CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka are both aging stars, and they need to be monitored as well. Girardi now has the leeway to do that now.

Make no mistake, though. It’s not like he’s going to tell his starter, “Give me four or five good innings, and I’ll take care of the rest.” Hardly.

If any one one of them is breezing through non-stressed (pitching with runners on base) innings and his pitch count is acceptable, he stays in the game, giving the bullpen a rest.

The Yankees may be on to something here

The rest of baseball is bound to take notice of the new pitching strategy of the Yankees, even if it fell into their hands by accident.

More and more, teams are relying on their bullpens to carry them. Relievers are now being paid starter’s money, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the players either. And what was once baseball’s purgatory, or even hell, has now blossomed into a crucial part of the game.

But that’s not the end of the Yankees trailblazing ways of late. There’s an interesting story in Business Insider that unleashes another novel idea, prompted mainly by Yankees pitching coach, Larry Rothschild.

Fewer fastballs, more breaking balls, and especially more sliders. Rothschild explains:

"“Fastballs get hit,” he said, according to Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated. “It’s amazing to me to see guys throwing in the upper 90s and they get hit. I don’t know how these guys do it. That’s how good major league hitters are. They have adjusted to velocity. To hit upper 90s you have to gear up for upper 90s. So hitters are going up there to gear up for velocity. And when they do that, they can hit it no matter how hard you throw.”"

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To cement the case, according to Statcast, the league has hit just .218 on sliders this year, compared to .274 on fastballs.

Food for thought, huh? Meanwhile, the Yankees go for their third straight win tonight at Safeco Field with Masahiro Tanaka making the start.