Adam Ottavino is a Brooklyn boy. He grew up next to Prospect Park, around the same time that my dad owned Manny’s Pizza on 5th Avenue and 5th Street in Park Slope. I remember that Prospect was alive with kids playing baseball during the summer. Some were like me, relegated to the bench during pickup games because, well, I couldn’t field a ball for the life of me. (Writing has been literally the only way I’ve come close to this game.) I just imagine that while I struggled on some afternoon to swing a bat like a human being, Ottavino was out there conjuring wicked spells on the mound after the Sorting Hat put him in Hufflepuff.
This is why when Adam Ottavino had one of his weaker appearances of the year against the Mets on July 2nd, it probably sucked extra for him. (Even if it was only a smidge extra.) He grew up a Yankee fan, and games like those were surely important to him as a kid. There he was though, performing like the kind of player who would’ve depressed him when he was a younger Otto – putting men on only to have some guy in orange and blue (who everyone thought was better than Aaron Judge) ensure those men came home.
Good pitchers figure it out though. In the case of Ottavino, I would say he’s a class above good. Since July 2nd, he has absolutely shut down everyone and everything with a pulse. Some would say he’s gotten a great grip on those dark arts. Here’s how he has done in a post-July 2nd world:
After that Flushing blowup, he for sure went down to his bat cave on St. Nicholas Ave in Harlem and worked on his mechanics. He probably fired up his laptop – Mac, of course, because he’s a pro – set up the tripod, and filmed himself on his small blue 3,350-frame-per-second camera. He did not allow himself to be defined by his FIP (currently 3.37 FIP to his 1.41 ERA), and it has shown.
Otto is damn good
Despite Ottavino’s 14.5% walk rate, which is in the bottom 2% of the league, he has been elite in every sense of the word.
I think SIERA (Otto’s is 3.96) and FIP are excellent ways to measure how a pitcher is actually doing, but at the end of the day, baseball is played on the field and results still matter. Otto has the results.
If the Yankees signed Ottavino to get outs in the late innings and to hold runners on base in key situations, he has done just that. Hitters have only mustered a .190 AVG and .600 OPS. According to Statcast, those numbers are the truth, as Otto currently owns an expected batting average of .174.
His 27% hard hitrate is in the top 3% of the league. His 32.7% K rate is in the top 8%, and his 84.7 average exit velocity is in the top 2%. This is the average exit velocity in each part of his plate:
Basically, everyone becomes Billy Hamilton at the plate when Otto is on the mound:
A slider forged in the flames of hell
Ottavino’s two main pitches this year have been the slider that was created in Satan’s laboratory and a sinker. Otto uses the slider 43% of the time, and it has held opponents to a .136 average. The expected batting average on it is .135. So yeah, it’s as lethal as they said it was in Colorado, and it’s only here to claim souls.
Ottavino’s sinker, despite flying under the radar, has also been effective. He’s used it 39% of the time. Hitters have hit .224 against the slider, and it has an expected batting average of .197.
That slider has been so destructive in his career that the sinker has sort of become underrated. It’s there, though. It will also claim souls.
On any other team, Adam Ottavino is a closer. He’d be in a more prominent role. Instead, he chose to be with us and we should be grateful for that.
If Aroldis Chapman decides to opt out, the Yankees at least know they have Ottavino or Zack Britton in the bag. That’s still a hell of a duo, and if one of those guys step into the 9th inning role, we can hope a kid like Johnny Lasagna can step into theirs with the same effectiveness.